Piet van Leeuwaarde was an artist, a mystic, a lover, a father, a friend. Although his art work was highly appreciated by people all over the world, he was not really as well known in Suriname as he should have been. He was born January 28, 1925, in Paramaribo. He died just a few weeks ago, on January 3, 2013, also in Paramaribo.
I met him once, when I wrote the book Talent; Uit de kunstcollectie van de Centrale Bank van Suriname (Paramaribo, 2007), about the art collection from the Centrale Bank van Suriname. I was impressed by the huge sculpture in the CBvS-collection, and intrigued, and a little bit intimidated, by its creator. The encounter made a deep and lasting impression on me. Speaking like an oracle, fierce eyes, telling stories which were fascinating yet fleeting, like a river stream. And yes, it was like being in the presence of a wizard, one of a kind.
When I asked Van Leeuwaarde about this title he explained: “Nyan prey means eat play. Enjoy life! It’s a game, but is also about eat and/or get eaten. That’s what the planet Earth is about. The kamrawenke (small lizard) eats the fly, we humans eat the sheep.”
From Talent; Uit de kunstcollectie van de Centrale Bank van Suriname, by Marieke Visser, translated by Anne-Marie Reeder:
‘There is so much to tell, and at the same time I have nothing to tell.’ Piet van Leeuwaarde’s stories revive memories of days gone by. You can almost see them playing and chasing each other in the sandy streets: the boys who used to live around Grote Dwarsstraat, boys such as Aloysius Zichem, Erwin de Vries and Piet van Leeuwaarde. Sometimes they take a break and rest a while in the shade of the big Sea Grape tree. ‘When the authorities decided to cut down that tree I took it home with me and now I am using the last bits of wood of that tree. I have often used Sea Grape wood to make my sculptures. Mahogany, which many people use, is much harder to work.’
Piet van Leeuwaarde was raised by women: his grandmother, his ‘mummy’ and his aunt. He has traveled a lot, and he has been through a lot. ‘But it’s all in the past. That is why I concentrate now on Inventive Mystical Art, IMA. I grew up with mysticism. I ate, drank and slept with people from many different cultures, I have tried all religions, I have sailed all rivers and seas. People are talking about “becoming a unity”, well, I don’t feel that way. I personify unity. I am a wizard. I embody what they want to create. Real coexistence, existing together, it’s the most beautiful experience.’
‘Fully automatic, without a thought’, is Piet van Leeuwaarde’s explanation for the miraculous whims of fate, coincidences in people’s lives, shared momentum, unexpected connections. ‘We are living in an age when human consciousness is becoming more sensitive.
Piet van Leeuwaarde’s work is also in the Collection of De Surinaamsche Bank N.V. Two works have been selected for the book Zichtbaar; Uit de kunstcollectie van De Surinaamsche Bank N.V. (Paramaribo, 2005) by Chandra van Binnendijk.
In the near future SAX hopes to post a more in-depth look at Piet van Leeuwaarde’s life and work.
In the meantime, the monthly magazine Parbode has also written about Piet van Leeuwaarde in the March 2013 edition.
TEXT Marieke Visser
Marieke Visser (Bennekom, the Netherlands, 1962) studied journalism and language and literature in the Netherlands. As publicist she writes a lot about art, culture, history and tourism from her own news agency Swamp Fish Press. Three large art projects to which she has recently contributed are: Wakaman Drawing lines, connecting dots, Paramaribo SPAN and Kibii Wi Koni Marcel Pinas The Event. She is currently editor in chief of Sranan Art Xposed.