Remarkable activities during the National Art Fair 2012 (October 26-November 3, 2012, Paramaribo) were Art in Process (the art loving visitors could follow the coming about of works of art) and the series of Artist Talks with powerpoint presentations of art topics and additional dialogue. Marcel Pinas held a presentation entitled ‘Moengo Art district’. The activities were coordinated by the FVAS (also to be found on Facebook. Vanda Koorndijk-Kernizan visited Pinas’ presentation.
The National Art Fair 2012 Tuesday October 30th at 19:30 hours: artist Marcel Pinas starts his PowerPoint presentation with a slide showing the text ‘Kibri a kulturu’. This is the start of an inspiring story about the development of Moengo as an art district. In chronological order the visual artist takes us on his journey as an artist and unveils how his view on art has developed. Indignant and even still shocked he tells about how he arrived in Paramaribo from the district Marowijne as a 15 year old boy and was confronted with expressions like “You are as dumb as a Ndyuka”. Maroon people were looked down upon. Along the years Pinas is more and more convinced that this mentality is disastrous for whole generations of young people originating from the hinterland. He knows the power of thoughts and words: if it is the general tendency to talk negatively about the Ndyuka culture, then more and more Ndyuka’s will develop low self-esteem or show undesired behavior as is ‘expected’ from them. “And that does not do justice to our brave and strong ancestors”, says Pinas. This is why elements from the Ndyuka culture have increasingly become part of his work; his culture is something to be proud of.
The use of Afaka signs (a script developed by the maroon Afaka) is a very characteristic aspect of Pinas’ objects of art and also his installations with shiny pots and spoons from the maroon kitchen are very famous. The message that one should be proud of its own culture and particularly should preserve it, is what Pinas wants to pass on to as many people as possible. He wants to reach the whole community. As he says himself: “ I don’t reach the people from Pontbuiten (working-class area, SAX) through a painting at Readytex Art Gallery (upscale art gallery, SAX ).” This is how the art installations came about such as the well-known kokolampu’s in front of Fort Zeelandia and the totem pole monument Kibi Wi Totem. Enthusiastically Marcel shows pictures of the totem pole project where he worked together with deaf and hard of hearing children from the Kennedyschool. He emphasizes how special it is when children see ‘their work of art’ in the newspaper. They have done something that is being remarked and receives positive attention. This positive experience is what he wants to pass on to all youngsters in Suriname, but especially in Moengo and surroundings.
That he takes this very seriously is supported by the following slides that accompany his story about art and education projects in Moengo and surrounding villages. Together with colleague artist Ken Doorson he developed initiatives in Moengo which resulted in among others the Tembe Art Studio, where art, dance and music lessons for the youth are given, art installations from various (international) artists which can be found throughout the whole village, training centers for the youth in surrounding villages, a museum for contemporary art and a restaurant. That the latter is a very important aspect becomes clear when listening to the personal stories of Marcel and Ken’s ‘hardships’ in the preparation phase of this developing project. The artists visited Moengo weekly to prepare matters and start things up, but it was not easy to get a meal in the village or to spend the night. And if you have in mind to eventually invite other artists to the region, the least you will have to offer them is a decent meal! Now there is a nice restaurant that has been built with the assistance of local inhabitant and where about eight ladies are responsible for the preparation of tasty dishes: Masanga.
Marcel shares his view on involving other people in his work with the audience. To really turn Moengo into an art district, it is important to let people have their own input and let them profit from the development. When you are invited to brainstorm about and work on something, it becomes your own and turns into something you can be proud of. Marcel seeks to enable adults and children to say: “ Hey, I can do this!”. And these talents can be very diverse: dancing, making music, painting, woodcarving, showing hospitality towards others, navigating a boat, being a good story teller or a good cook. Stimulate others to discover their talents and to develop them, that is the goal. “This is exactly how I see art and how I want to use art”, says Pinas. “Art for development, art in the quest of one’s own identity.”
The artist tells his story with a lot of passion and vision and receives ample appreciation for this at the end of his presentation. The artist is sounded out about holding this presentation for students of the art academies, so that also they can be fed with his positive vibe. Another listener goes even a bit further and proposes to organize the National Art Fair in Moengo in the future and in this way ‘map’ this town on the art list. An artist who is very occupied with the painting of a wooden doll next to the presentation adds: “Yes, and then we’ll first have the Art Fair in Moengo and only then in Paramaribo!”
It seems the audience is open to developing Moengo into an art district. To be continued!
TEXT/PHOTO’S Vanda Koorndijk-Kernizan
Vanda Koorndijk-Kernizan is a social marketeer and member of the editorial staff of the Surinamese parenting magazine KidzTori. As a freelance writer for Sranan Art Xposed she combines her recently discovered passion for writing with her interest in art and culture. She lives and works in Suriname since end 2003.