Ni Pena Ni Miedo (No Shame Nor Fear)
Monday, 19th January 2009 by Alex Turnbull
Written in the sands of the Atacama Desert, Chile, are the words “ni pena ni miedo” which translate more or less as “No shame nor fear”, and together they form what must surely be the world’s largest poem.
While we’ve seen large type in every corner of the world, in this particular case the absolute enormity of the words is jaw dropping. The four words are in excess of 3.15 kilometres long!1
The poem is the work of Chilean poet Raúl Zurita, a man who suffered directly at the hands of the military dictatorship that ruled Chile during the 70s and 80s. Zurita said that during Augusto Pinochet’s regime he “began to imagine writing poems in the sky, on the faces of cliffs, in the desert”.
In 1982 Zurita published part two of his “Anteparaiso” poetic trilogy, which he then had written in the skies above New York by five aeroplanes in 8 kilometre high letters. In the 90s, Zurita turned his attention to this bit of desert, where he had the sand bulldozed into these magnificent words.
Perhaps the most impressive thing about this exceptional land art is the attention to detail that has been lavished upon it. It’s obvious that the shapes of the letters themselves are exquisitely crafted – but zooming in closer reveals the huge effort that must have gone into the process.
Due to the nature of deserts, these words should have been swept away by the wind many years ago. However, it seems that the local village has taken stewardship of the poem, and sends the local children out every Sunday to maintain the shifting sands.