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  • Writer's picturematilde tomat

memento mori

Updated: Sep 26, 2020

Working on a piece which is all about legacy and memory, I explored some other remembrance pieces, such as The National September 11 Memorial, the Tsunami Memorial Park in Ban Namkem and the Sacrario di Redipuglia.

The National September 11 Memorial

BL 01 twin towers

This memorial commemorates the September 2011 attacks when 2977 people lost their lives. It was designed by Israeli architect Michael Arad who created a forest of swamp white oak trees with two square reflecting pools in the centre, marking where the Twin Towers stood. The names of the victims are inscribed on 152 bronze parapets on the memorial pools: 2,977 killed in the September 11 attacks and six killed in the 1993 World Trade Center bombing. The names are arranged according to an algorithm, creating “meaningful adjacencies” based on relationships — proximity at the time of the attacks, company or organization affiliations.

Tsunami Memorial Park in Ban Namkem

BL 01 Phang Nga tsunami memorial

This is one of the various memorials, statues and plaques which commemorate the 2004 Tsunami which killed 184,167 (confirmed) or 227,898 (estimated) people. There are plaques with names of some of the deceased. There is a good museum that shows some photos of the area before and after the disaster. Everyone describes the place as being very quiet and peaceful there, not many tourists at all. All very different than that day.  There is no fee to visit. There are also a Buddha statue and a memorial for the son of previous Thai king’s oldest daughter Princess Ubolratana Rajakanya. The boy, Khun Poom Jensen (also the nephew of Vajiralongkorn, the current King of Thailand) was on a jet ski off the coast of Khao Lak when the tsunami hit. He didn’t survive.

Sacrario di Redipuglia.

BL 01 Redipuglia

The Redipuglia War Memorial (Italian: Sacrario Militare di Redipuglia) is a World War I memorial located on the Karst Plateau near the village of Fogliano Redipuglia, in the Friuli region of northeastern Italy – my area. That same area of the earthquake. It is the largest war memorial in Italy and one of the largest in the world, housing the remains of 100,187 Italian soldiers killed between 1915 and 1917 in the eleven battles fought on the Karst and Isonzo front.  The memorial was built between 1935 and 1938 on Mount Sei Busi and it consists of 22 steps of stone, hosting the remains of 39,857 identified soldiers, arranged in alphabetic order. Above the last step, a votive chapel is lined by two large mass burials that contain the remains of 60,330 unknown soldiers. These also contain personal items that belonged to Italian and Austro-Hungarian soldiers. At the base of the memorial, seven sepulchres contain the remains of Prince Emanuele Filiberto, Duke of Aosta (the commander of the Third Army, who died in 1931 and asked to be buried among his men) and six generals killed in action. In front of the monument, the Via Eroica (“Heroic Path”) is flanked by 38 bronze sheets that carry the names of 38 locations of the Karst plateau where the fighting was bloodiest.  Among the buried, and one single woman: Margherita Kaiser Parodi Orlando, a volunteer nurse that died in 1918 while assisting soldiers sick with Spanish flu. 


Looking at these as examples, I am struck by the differences and at the same time similitudes between them and mine: the desire not to forget, we have to remember them, lest we forget. We have to remember. And it doesn’t matter if death is due to another man’s anger or the earth shaking.

I think about the difference in victim numbers (mine are only 1073), but I am also intrigued by the numbering of some (as I would do with my pieces), and the “single woman” buried in Redipuglia (resonating with the corpse of the non-identified woman in my list of victims).

BL 01 friuli x3 arrigo poz

Don’t get me wrong, there are also pieces, plaques, monuments which I find difficult to describe:

one for all, the one created in 1979: 60 square meters of a painting by Arrigo Poz, to commemorate the 1976 earthquake and which can be seen at the Basilica Di Santa Maria delle Grazie, in Udine.

Not a favourite of mine.

But what I find striking instead, is the similitude in emotions and events and pain and need for memory that unites me to the Aberfan disaster of 1966. This catastrophic collapse of a colliery spoil tip at around 9:15 am on 21 October 1966 killed 116 children and 28 adults as it engulfed the local junior school and other buildings.

If we look at those pictures, and at the ones which follow, we notice the same faces, the same helpers, the same desperation.

This morning, talking to J, I was saying that I could and would understand anyone not liking my exhibition. Not liking 111 pieces in plaster is not my issue. But if someone came up to me and told that they don’t understand my need to remember, they don’t understand the pain, the desire to express this universal clenching cramp, that I would find unbearable. That I could not understand.

That I might not accept.

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