At Sidi Bouzid, agricultural capital in the heart of Tunisia, a seller of fruits and vegetables, Mohamed Bouazizi, 26, set him self on fire on December 17, 2010, before dying on January 4, 2011. His gesture of despair caused a wave of protests and demonstrations against unemployment and the high cost of living, unprecedented twenty years throughout the country.
Today it is thought that Mohamed Bouazizi’s death marks the beginning of a change in the Middle East: people in Tunisia, Egypt, Bahrain, Libya and other countries raising their voices to demand peace.
The artist peacekeeper Effer Lecébé decided to honor this man who has become worldwide and particularly in the Maghreb, the symbol of freedom and human rights.
In Paris, France, Lecébé’s work is exhibited in the Center of Contemporary Art. His work is a reaction to these very recent developments. What impressed me that this young artist needed less time to come up with a very strong confronting visual statement on the recent events in the Middle East than many governments and the United Nations.
Where: Center of Contemporary Art, Salle Louis Geoffroy, Paris, France
Note of Sranan Art Xposed, Marieke Visser: This work reminds me of visual artist Kurt Nahar’s work in Suriname, which also reflects on recent history. Nahar, like Lécébe, makes thought provoking art. Art which confronts the viewer with reality and the fact that one has to take a stand.
PHILIPSBURG, St. Maarten–Painter Ronald Heilbron is not thinking of taking it easier. At an age others would consider the twilight of their lives, Ro is instead of dreaming of dashing off to Peru, Chili or maybe San Salvador to live amongst the descendants of Amerindians; or to Ghana, to spend time with the people that Black people in Suriname hail from. He says visiting these places may well help his restless nature find the missing link that he needs, to be able to put on canvas what the artist in him feels broiling inside. “I know I am not that young in years anymore, but I have always had a restless nature. I am back at the root now, and these are places that I would want to visit to unravel the hidden linkages between where we came from and who we are. There is a gap there. I want to find it and portray it for future generations to see,” he says.No Tensions
One remarkable trait of Heilbron’s is indeed his youthfulness. At 72, he radiates like someone 20 years his minor. His gait is still fierce, yet thoughtful; it’s his eyes that give him away though, filled with the kind of wisdom that’s achieved through the years. “I always tell people I am 27,” he grins, unable to give a straight answer on how he is able to still look young. “I guess it also has to do partially, with what I eat; a lot of fruits.” “And” he ponders, “probably also because I do exactly what I enjoy doing and my wife is very supportive of that, so we have no tense situations regarding the direction that we’re going. Tension tends to make you tired. Yes, that could be it…”
Heilbron may consider himself among the top painters from Suriname. He started experimenting with painting back in the sixties, when he worked as graphics editor for print shops in Paramaribo; when some of his work got sold even before he actually opened his first expo in Hotel Torarica in 1963, the experiment quickly turned into profession. “Before I even hung the paintings, half of them were sold. That gave me a lot of confidence,” he recalls.
He moved to The Netherlands seven years and several exhibitions later, where he found a job in the lay-out department of a newspaper. A career in art tugged at him though. His works from back then are splashes of anger and resentment, yelling at the establishment over unfairness in the world. “That was the trend back then. You had the war in Vietnam and worldwide discrimination and many painters used their art to rebel,” he says.
“In the beginning I portrayed my dismay at the undeserved treatment Suriname at a whole and its people in particular were receiving,” he says, recalling a dual canvas painting he did that narrated the story of workers from aluminum companies Billiton and Suralco, who got no more than a handshake when they retired. “I also did one about Suriname’s Independence from The Netherlands. It’s that’s called “Golgotha of the Dutch Overseas Territories,” he laughs; The title of that painting with the debris, skeletons and the man hanging from a cross, are enough of an indication of the irony of the situation that he set out to portray. “Through my work, I was trying to get back at the colonizer who left us with nothing.”
His work sparked the interest of the Royal Art Commission, who found it resembling works that appeared in the 1940’s when Holland was under siege of the Germans. “That was my luck. Back then, if you were registered with the artist collective, you could present your work to the Commission, and if they considered it original, they bought,” he says. His work seemed to spark discussion about whether it was truly art or just an artist’s rebellion against unjust. Fact remains that Heilbron was able to take up painting fulltime and over the years he exhibited and sold works all over.
It also allowed him to grow comfortably and his development from abstract to realism and figurative is noticeable. The switch to realism came when his daughter moved to Saba and he visited to fall in love with the Windward Islands of the then Netherlands Antilles. “I had other inspirations driving me then. And it awarded me the opportunity to experiment with bringing movement to the paintings I was making,” he says. Colorful works of Carnival and other Caribbean and Suriname festivities emerged. The subjects are that much alive that they almost leaped out of the vibrant paintings. And that too found a market. “The first time I exhibited those new works in Saba, an Irish guy bought six paintings right away. And he remarked that if he had had more money on him, he would have bought more,” says Heilbron.
These days he travels between his home in Rotterdam and his adopted homes in the islands, exhibiting simultaneously in different locations, while he slowly but surely makes his way back to his native Suriname. “Jeanet, my wife wants to return home, but truthfully, I do not know if I will be able to stay. If I spend too much time in one place, I get restless and I have to go again,” he says.
His agenda for this year is packed. He is taking part in an open air expo of sculptures in a botanical garden in Suriname in September, the end station of a tour that took him from an exhibition of murals in Rotterdam last November, to an exhibition in Aruba and workshops in Suriname earlier.
It’s interesting to hear him talk about how a painting came to life and what he meant to portray with it. Like when he selected one from a portfolio of his work, that at first glance shows the silhouette of a woman’s face, a rose and a snake, but in truth relates the relationship between infertility, the role “our ancestors” give snakes in fertility-matters and the flower that is a child. An unexpected and unique glance into an artist mind can really be enlightening sometimes.
Heilbron obviously spends a lot of time thinking and reading about linkages. His prowess of sensitive matters and how he is able to spin them shows, when he talks about how the dominating Incas in ancient pre-Columbus times enslaved South America’s original inhabitants –the Caraibes and Arawak Indians-. “The Inca’s always used the “weaker” tribes as slaves; they were caught to appease the Gods and to build the temples. Those are the matters that interest me today. Or how the Black people from Suriname really ended up being here,” he says. “Now what really matters to me is how we came to be who we are today,” he says, himself far descendant of Africans, mixed with German and Indians from California.
“The paintings I make today are figuratively realistic; I have done the landscapes and the angry rebellious stuff already. These days I operate on a much broader platform. I want to know more about our ancestors and what drives me now is that indescribable urge to tell that story. Some would say I want too much because I have had all the big achievements one could expect in an artist career already. But, I am not doing it for that anymore, am I?
Text: Marvin A. Hokstam, previously published on www.devsur.com, the website which has one primary objective; allowing a peek beyond the news from Suriname. on this website you can subscribe for free Suriname daily news updates.
A PDF file about the artist and his work: Brosure_heilbron (1)
In a time when there is much talk about globalization and glocal art, roots as well as routes, about meanings getting lost but also found in translation, it is inspiring to see how the encounter of two female artists results in a close relationship with a lot of effects on both their work. Ellen Ligteringen from Suriname and Rehab el Sadek from Egypt share their stories with the readers of this blog.
Rehab and me
On January 13 2001, two new participants showed up at the first VASL¹ International Artists Workshop, at Gadani in Pakistan, in the desert near the Arabic Sea. The midday sun blazed overhead as their silhouettes appeared against the backdrop of a blue watery sky. The participants were checked over by armed guards as they arrived. One of them was Rehab El Sadek.
Rehab was cranky. We shook hands.
Twenty mid-career artists had been brought together for three weeks to create new work, talk about their work, and exchange ideas about contemporary art practice. Rehab was preparing herself to make a strong artistic statement and I was fighting with the need of an object to carry the concept.
During the first two weeks Rehab made portraits of the other participants. She also made drawings with coins and mumbled that she was not convinced about the work she was doing, or that of the other participants. We had that in common—being honest about the work we were making and what we wanted to say, and not wanting to leave ourselves out of the work.
For two days Rehab left Gadani and went to Karachi, where she bought supplies. Happily, she came back and made her “trouser” piece, a statement about the position and rights of women in societies like Egypt and Pakistan, as well as her anger over being “locked up” in the residency.
From then we became not just friends, but soul sisters. I discovered that her crankiness was merely a thin layer atop a great sense of humour.
In September of that year I went to Cairo to visit Rehab and her family. Then in 2004 Rehab came to Amsterdam for an artist-in-residency programme. That year we both stepped away from the masculine art industry. At the time the Egyptian art scene was ruled by a Eurocentric view of how contemporary art had to be. Despite the efforts of foundations like the Prince Claus Fund to stimulate young artists outside of Europe to be independent-minded, things worked out the opposite way. The artists began shaping themselves in a European mould. They became artists-on-demand. Rehab did not want to be forced to make that kind of contemporary art. And I left my over-subsidized, controlled life in the Netherlands for Suriname, to practice art without a strait-jacket.
In 2005 Rehab moved to the USA with her husband and son. Our friendship evolved through the possibilities of the internet. Our lives and work are much more interwoven. Women’s rights and telling women’s stories are still the backbone of Rehab’s work, but now the work speaks more about how she deals with domestic life and living in a foreign country. My work became a tool to understand an environment that was both mentally familiar and strange to me at the same time; a way of starting an ongoing dialogue.
Rehab and I are not “hardcore” artists anymore. That gives me the freedom to create anything, outside of conventions; most of the time the work has no evidence at all.
Rehab and I meet in the digital world to reflect on our work. It is amazing how we understand and are able to read each other’s work. Having direct, daily contact via Skype as well as broadcasting our thoughts via Facebook for an audience of friends is very inspiring. It is helping us to elicit more ideas about practicing art in a domestic environment, and the meaning and nature of locality.
Ellen and me
I met Ellen in Pakistan in 2001. I noticed how emotional and childlike she was from far away. We talked a lot during our time at Gadani and we slowly grew to enjoy spending most of the time together. Of the twenty artists locked in one place, Ellen was pretty much the only real one. We were laughing, eating like pigs and chasing ants. I listened to her stories and she listened to mine.
So many things made us close. I remember how when I borrowed her camera and it was stolen, Ellen refused to take the money I offered her to buy a new one. (We were definitely friends from then on!) Later, when we went to Karachi, Ellen wanted to change her ticket to an earlier date. On our way downtown we shared the most terrifying expedience—beggars carrying handicapped babies around our car. We both were choked up about the whole thing and held each other to feel secure. We’ve kept holding on to each other ever since.
I trust Ellen more than anyone. I feel like she is my daughter and my mom. When we were in Pakistan I came down with a horrible case of food poisoning. The other artists couldn’t care less and went shopping; Ellen was the only one who was there for me. I remember waking up in the hospital and there she was, sitting at the end of my bed. Since then I have felt that Ellen is part of me.
In September Ellen came to Egypt to visit me and we had wonderful time and all my family loved her as much as I do … Later when I traveled to Holland she was preparing to move to Suriname. I saw that she was miserable in Holland, out of place. Around this time I got married and less than a year later I had my son. We moved to the United States. I was so miserable and I knew then how Ellen had felt in Holland. I fell into a deep depression and was also suffering from serious physical problems. I was in pain 24/7. Ellen could not help as she was battling with her own demons. I blamed her for not being there. But I never thought that she did not care.
Years went by. I made a big decision to move back to Alexandria with my son try to find my lost self. One day I was riding home in the bus when my cell phone rang. It was Ellen! I cannot describe how I felt that day. I was lost, and she helped me find myself. We talked about life and I started to see things differently. I cannot imagine life without us laughing and making dirty jokes. We talk about everything. We Skype all the time. Now I am back in the States, struggling with life and loving my little family—and Ellen is a big part of it!
¹ VASL (which means “to come together” or “a meeting point”) is an artists’-led collective that has been running workshops and residencies in Karachi, Pakistan.
This is an additional website mentioning Rehab el Sadek.
On Saturday the 12th of February, 16.00 hrs the opening of the exhibition De Verleiding van Coronie (The seduction of Coronie)/2, will take place in de Haagse Kunstkring, Denneweg 64, The Hague. The opening includes the presentation of the book Dromers, doemdenkers en doorzetters; verhalen van mensen en gebouwen in Coronie (Dreamers, doom-mongers and go-getters, stories about the people and buildings of Coronie). Coronie is the smallest district of Suriname, with less than 3.000 inhabitants.
One segment of the exhibition, put together by Dick ter Steege and Fineke van der Veen, is connected to the book and shows the reality of Coronie. Panels with historical building information show the results of an investigation into the most characteristic buildings of Coronie. Photographs of Coronians and phenomenon’s such as the open air museum of uncle Tjon and the ruins of the coconut factory – once upon a time the pride of Coronie. A connection between art and reality is achieved by the installation: Mary’s Hope – Burnside – Mary’s Hope (l, ll, lll), ‘an attempt to pass on an experience’ (video, photo course and photo series).
Coronie is also a source of inspiration for artists. On the welcoming billboard which you see when you enter the district it says: Coronie: Vredig, Vrij en Vriendelijk (Coronie: Peaceful, Free and Friendly). But quickly you start to realize, that under the apparent sense of peace, the discontentment smolders. And free, what is free? Free to sit by the side of the road? Free, once every few years to vote, yet to never be heard? Friendliness, yes, that is precisely our weak spot, says someone, it is because we are friendly that everyone thinks that they can take us for fools and do with us as they please. But is Coronie really that friendly? No, several people say, there is a prevailing sense of mistrust and jealousy. Yes, others say, it is a wonderful, restful place to live. In the exhibition De verleiding van Coronie/2 eight Surinamese artists (and one from The Hague) display their perception of Coronie. Sunil Puljhun uses graphic black and white to show the endangered position of Coronie; Rinaldo Klas refers to the strength of the sea regarding ‘Land loss’; Kurt Nahar uses his characteristic style to utter a protest in his collage Stop trein 8B (Stop train 8B); from René Tosari we see his impression Coronie libi de (Coronie there is life) (lll); Roddney Tjon Poen Gie combines signs from his Afro-Chinese heritage with Coronian architecture in Balkon (Balcony), Close to the ocean refers to the geographic position of Coronie; The title of the large painting by George Struikelblok, is a call to join hands (in Coronie): Yepi makandra (Help each other). In paint and photo collage Fineke van der Veen shows her fascination for the slow demise of the houses; Soeki Irodikromo was inspired by the typical street scenes in Coronie and Sri Irodikromo indulges her sense of color on canvas in a dreamy atmospheric impression.
- Dromers, doemdenkers en doorzetters; verhalen van mensen en gebouwen in Coronie, was presented in November 2010 in Paramaribo and Coronie, Suriname. Simultaneously showing in the Surinaams Museum/Fort Zeelandia in Paramaribo, was the exhibition De Verleiding van Coronie/1 while fifteen Surinamese visual artists displayed their perception of Coronie in the art exhibition Vredig, Vrij en Vriendelijk in the exhibition venue De Hal (Readytex Art Gallery). Readytex Art Gallery also has a Facebook page.
- The project Coronie! has been made possible with financing from the Dutch Embassy in Paramaribo and Stichting De Zaaier in Utrecht.
- Photos of the Coronie inspired art exhibition in Suriname, November 2010 can be found here.
When: February 12 – March 1, 2011
Opening hours: Tuesday thru Saturday 12:00-17:00 hrs, Sun 13:00-17:00 hrs
Thursday February 10 thru Sunday February 13, 2011 the first edition of the Suriname Heritage Festival will take place in the Commewijne District. Visual art will be part of this festival too. In one of the former gun powder depots, the Kruithuis, on the terrain of Fort Nieuw Amsterdam, an exhibition will be held with many participants. The works on display will be for sale. So art lovers … don’t miss this. Note that the exhibition in the gun powder depot will go on for another week!
Also, on the spot on the banks of the confluence of the Suriname River and the Commewijne River called “Landing”, a collaborative work of art is being established right now: a “gapuro”. Gapuro is a Javanese word meaning: entrance, arch of honor. It also means: “Feel welcome”. A metal construction was made, and artists will hand in their works on metal plates to be attached to this construction.
The official program of the Suriname Heritage Festival starts on Thursday at 17:00 hrs till 19:00 hrs at the center of Nieuw Amsterdam. But early birds can already enjoy a nature trip to Matapica beach starting 09:00 hrs that same day. An elaborate program for Thursday thru Sunday can be found on this page and on the Sugenda website.
On the Facebook page of Readytex Art Gallery lots of nice images.
On behalf of Tembe Art Studio and the Cie KS and CO you are invited to the performing arts show: Kaïdara.
When: February,12, 2011, starting 17:00 hrs
Where: Recreation Room (Ric), Moengo, Marowijne, Suriname Information and reservations: Marcel Pinas, +597 (0)851 0804 / +597 (0)880 6533, e-mail: firstname.lastname@example.org
From Thursday February 10, 2011 thru Saturday February 12, 2011, artist Paul Chang will have a solo exhibition in De Hal: Inspired by Nature.
From his website the following statement about Paul Chang: “His work always has been inspired by flora and fauna and is dominated by color and brightness. Through his paintings he hopes to convey his respect and passion for the natural environment.
Venue: De Hal, Grote Combéweg 45, Paramaribo, Suriname
More information about the artist can also be found on the website of Readytex Art Gallery.
E-mail Paul Chang: email@example.com