More than thirty years ago a group of visual artists in Suriname met to exchange thoughts and ideas about the situation of the local visual arts scene. This meeting would signify the birth of the ABKS: Associatie Beeldende Kunstenaars Suriname [Association of Visual Artists in Suriname]. This 30th anniversary of the ABKS in 2014, is the perfect occasion for a festive exhibition: ‘Unleashed’.
The original membership criteria for the association were clear: one had to have been “continuously and seriously, engaged in the visual arts for many years”. The number of members was never to exceed ten. And there would be a group exhibition once every two years.
The first exhibition, ‘Identiteit’ [Identity], was held in 1984. Several days before the exhibition, Nola Hatterman, a key figure in the history of art education in Suriname, also an ABKS member and scheduled participant of the exhibition, passed away in an accident. Despite this tragic turn of events this first ABKS exhibition still turned out to be a success. The other participants at that exhibition in 1984 were Ron Flu, Rudi Getrouw (YouTube), Soeki Irodikromo, Ruben Karsters (Sranan Art blog post), Cliff San A Jong (YouTube)and Paul Woei.
The most recent exhibition was Crossroads of Life in De Hal, from April 14th-16th of 2011. Participating artists at that time: Anand Binda, Pierre Bong A Jan, Dani Djojoatmo, Ron Flu, Soeki Irodikromo, Sri Irodikromo, Ardie Setropawiro, Kim Sontosoemarto, Jhunry Udenhout and Leo Wong Loi Sing.
Planned for the upcoming anniversary, is the exhibition Unleashed, also in De Hal, which will be open to the public from February the 22nd until the 27th, from 10:00-13:00 hrs and from 18:00-21:00 hrs. All ABKS-members will participate including the original members Ron Flu and Soeki Irodikromo.
Even after thirty years, the right of existence of the Association remains undisputed. The membership criteria have however, been somewhat expanded. Younger artists now also have the opportunity to join, such as in 2009 Pierre Bong A Jan, Dani Djojoatmo, Sri Irodikromo and Kim Sontosoemarto.
In 1988 Rudi Getrouw writes in the preface to the brochure published to accompany the ABKS exhibition ‘Prospects’ : “In our view – and history gives us in the right to see it that way – the artists do have a role, even a very important one. Due to their sensitivity, mysteriously connected through countless invisible threads with the spiritual life of their time, artists also give direction, by their visual activity. An artist is extremely receptive to the expressive character of the visual reality . In combination with the artist’s abilities as a designer, he helps determine the ‘face’ of his people; he opens our eyes to the visual, he teaches us. A nation without art has no face.”
26 years later, Rudi Getrouw’s words are still true and once again underline the importance of artists and artists’ initiatives , such as the ABKS , for a country to help shape the spiritual life and to give the nation a face and to give it’s people a direction which way to go.
This jubilee year has yet another silver lining, namely the 80th birthday of one of its early members, Ron Flu.
Download the pdf of the exhibition brochure for free here: Brochure ‘Unleashed’.
TEXT Marieke Visser, 2014
TRANSLATION Cassandra Gummels-Relyveld