If you know Ericeira, you are bound to know The Guardian. This is the sculpture above the renowned beach and surf spot Ribeira d’Ilhas.
The Guardian might well celebrate the World Surfing Reserve – the title that Ericeira has held since 2011, because of its world-class waves. But the truth about the sculpture goes further back in time, has deeper roots and heartwarming detail.
Is the Guardian a statue of an ordinary surfer or of an idealised one?
The artist who made the sculpture, José Queiroz, worked on this project for over 30 years. The result seems to be a flattering, strong yet sleek, silhouette of a surfer. Or, is this maybe an advanced creature whose features evolved in adaptation to underwater life?
Meanwhile, in the creative process, both artist and creation underwent metamorphosing changes, shaped by the experience of a lifetime. Today, Jose Queiroz admits that the Guardian may appear to have changed.
A Guardian of nature in each one of us
With his creation, José hopes to inspire a better version of each one of us. One that takes responsibility for preserving nature and individual health.
The Guardian’s features were inspired by a real person. This person was a role model for a healthy, sustainable, and intimate relationship with the sea; a man who truly loved nature, and whose qualities are those worthy of the title. But, more of this later.
Together with his wife Catarina, José Queiroz, 55, tells us all about his most important creation – the Guardian. The sculpture, since its inauguration in 2017, has become a local Icon.
Interview with José Queiroz, creator of The Guardian
I learnt that children in Ericeira have a special subject at school, in which they learn about the sea and, of course, the Guardian. So, to start with our best questions, I have brought here a few from our children. I hope you will be able to answer them.
The Children want to Know
1. “What is the sculpture made of? The sculpture is made of bronze, which is a great material. This is not harmful to nature and lasts a very long time, hundreds of years.
2. Is the Guardian looking at something in particular? “Yes, the Guardian is looking at the sea. Not to a particular point, just at the sea”.
3. Is there any meaning to the direction the Guardian is looking? The Guardian is looking at the ocean. The meaning is this: the Guardian is the link between the ocean and mankind. Besides, he looks a bit like a man-fish kind of creature. This makes me think of the Guardian as a bridge, connecting us to the sea.
4. Are you a surfer? Have you won any competitions? Yes and no. Although I do surf, I have never competed as a surfer. But I did compete as a swimmer, once upon a time”.
What is your relationship with Ericeira?
My grandparents used to spend their holidays here, just like my parents and us, after them. Although I have only been living permanently in Ericeira for the last 20 years, my relationship with the town is much older than that.
Where did you find the inspiration for the Guardian?
My father was my inspiration for the Guardian.
“My father’s love for the sea inspired me to create the Guardian”
I remember just how excited my father was every time we approached Ericeira and the smell of the sea. So much so, that he found in Camoens the right words for his experience: “this is the blessed homeland, my beloved”. And, he would repeat this every single time. His spirit would only rest after he jumped in the sea, especially if it was rough.
Although I was young and a strong swimmer at the time, I remember not being able to keep up with my father’s speed in the water. Even when he was well into his 60’s.
Together with his love for the sea, my father had the scientific knowledge and disciplined training that made him a terrific swimmer. He would glide in the water like a sea creature. A spectacle to watch.
“My father’s dedication to his personal health also inspired The Guardian”
Another of my father’s qualities, which I wanted to impress in the Guardian, was how much he valued keeping healthy. This is something that he carried for life. When he was only 5 years old, he used the money he had received for Christmas to buy something special. He bought the ultimate formula for health at the time – Cod Liver Oil.
Keeping himself and the environment healthy, was a priority for my father. For he understood that one thing could not exist without the other. This was his passion and his life. So much so that, after having trained as an engineer (largely to please my grandparents), he went on to train in Sports, and he taught this at university from then on.
How did the sculpture end up on the viewpoint above Ribeira d’Ilhas?
Once I had finished the sculpture, I tried to push the project forward by asking the city hall to give the Guardian a home by the sea. However, the government at the time was not interested. So, I waited for new elections and tried again. And this time, I would be successful.
On we went with the project, and the 90 centimeters-tall prototype became the full-sized Guardian you can see today. When the sculpture finally took its place, out of my studio and right by the sea, it looked majestic! This was when the Guardian took off. The response from the public was amazing, I must say, touching.”
The Guardian has become a brand
Judging by its success with the public, it was only a matter of time before The Guardian became a brand.
First came the clothing line (which our family has found to make great birthday presents) and then, more recently, the children’s book.
Catarina Queiroz, proudly tells us all about the brand and its products.
Interview with Catarina Queiroz
The Guardian T-shirts and hoodies
“Our clothing brand focuses on sustainability. The cotton is organic and the printing is done locally. We sell in fairs and events, as well in the historic shop in town, Casa Bernadino. Next to this shop, we have a temporary space to display the puppets and our products.
The book “The Guardian – The Message”
The children’s book ” O Guardião – a Mensagem” (The Guardian – The Message) came out in October 2019. The idea for the book came from Catarina, who is a preschool teacher. Whereas the story was written together with Mariana Crisóstomo, another teacher, whilst José took up the illustration. For this, the sculptor combined wood and papier mâché to create the characters (puppets) and the different backgrounds.
The book’s message is a pressing call to action, urging children to become guardians of the planet themselves. The idea of such a pedagogic tool sparked the interest of Mafra’s city hall, which has been supportive of the project.
How did The Guardian book come about?
The idea for the book came from my everyday work with the children. Firstly, because children have a strong awareness of nature and our role in it. Secondly, because it was urgent to give voice to the Guardian.
Who are the characters in the book story?
The characters in the book are our 3 children, who had never met their grandfather. And the book gives them the chance to get to know him through the figure of the Guardian. He inspires appreciation and a positive attitude towards nature and the sea.”