Free sailing! Monument for the trade union leader Edo Fimmen (1998) Ben Zegers

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About the artwork

In 1997, the Vervoersbond FNV conceived the plan to offer an image to Rotterdam as part of the centenary of the International Transport Workers Federation (ITF). This statue is a memorial to trade union leader and anti-racist Edo Fimmen (1881-1942), who was chairman of the ITF between the two world wars, founded after the boat workers strike in 1896 in Rotterdam. Fimmen achieved great fame as a fighter against racism, fascism and colonial oppression. He was a driven idealist and fought for an internationally organized working class to cope with excesses of capitalism. In the monument that the FNV had in mind, the image of Fimmen had to be recognizable. Moreover, it had to radiate its ideas without falling into personal glorification. Ben Zegers' design was chosen from three sketch proposals. It is based on the shape of a lying and an upright boxing glove. Zegers has styled these metaphors for steadfastness and the urge to act into two geometric-abstract images in which the portrait of Fimmen and profile is incorporated. The title Free sailing! is derived from a magazine for German railway workers: "Fahrt Frei". Zegers wanted to give the image many associations: tackling, wrapping, waving goodbye, lugging, fighting, rebellion and resistance, a safe, an oven, a chimney, a fender and a fighting machine. For the location of the monument, the Buizenpark on Katendrecht has been chosen: a place by the water, the harbor and the working class neighborhood. Free sailing! Monument for the trade union leader Edo Fimmen was unveiled in the European year against racism on 28 November 1998.

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About the artist

Ben Zegers (Utrecht, 1962) studied at the AKV St. Joost, after which he spent a working period at the Ateliers' 63. He won the Charlotte Köhler prize in 1984. He works and lives in Rotterdam and is Director of Education at the Gerrit Rietveld Academy.