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The bear is the symbol of Berlin, Germany, and has been associated with the city for over 700 years. Now, the heraldic animal has siblings—the “United Buddy Bears 2003.”

“United Buddy Bears 2003” with the German Reichstag and the Brandenburg Gate in the background.

A popular attraction since they arrived in July, the 123 fiberglass animals stand in a circle alongside the Brandenburg Gate where the Berlin Wall used to be and where the new American embassy is to be built.

The colorful structures are part of an international art project promoting tolerance and understanding among nations. Each bear represents a country with which Germany has diplomatic relations. The sculptures were decorated and painted by 123 artists from 123 countries.

Buddy bear of Panama designed by José del Carmen Pérez.

The Panama bear has the structure of the DNA double helix across its chest. “I designed Berlin's emblem, the bear, to [represent] a bear that protects life in its different forms and nature,” says the bear’s creator, José del Carmen Pérez. “A genetic link is growing like a link between the different forms of life and thus connects us,” he says.

Each bear is two meters tall and stands on a pedestal of concrete bearing a plaque that shows the country and its national flag.

The project, initiated by Buddy Bear GmbH in cooperation with the German Foreign Ministry and many others, dates back to 2002, when another circle of bears was set up for the first time. Response was so overwhelmingly positive that another “generation” of bears has been initiated this year.

The buddy bears will be around until November 2003. Similar to the “Cow Parades” in Zurich, Chicago or New York, the bears will then go on a world tour. At the end, the sculptures will be auctioned off for charity, with the proceeds going to UNICEF to aid children all over the world.

Bears from Panama, Peru, Philippines, Poland, and Portugal (from left to right).

The U.K. and U.S.A. bears stand next to each other. The American bear is a statue of liberty called “Libearty,” created by artist Bill C. Ray. The British bear was designed by Jonathan Petch.

Buddy bear of Israel, designed by Mona Oren.

To see more bears, visit United Buddy Bears 2003.

Birgit Reinert

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