Sylvio Alatoe (Galibi,1985) graduated from the Nola Hatterman Art Academy at the end of 2012. Even though he is no longer a student, he still always attends workshops and lessons when visiting-lecturers are present. He wants to keep developing himself as an artist and regards it as being important to actively participate in artistic activities. He also conducts workshops for children. In his daily life he works as a government security officer. He hopes in the future to be able to fully devote himself to art. He was born in Galibi, in the district of Marowijne, and is proud of his indigenous origin.
Sylvio Alatoe was prominent at the National Art Fair 2013, which was held during Carifesta XI. He described his style in the catalogue as being ‘symbolic fantasy’. In a glance, when you look at the paintings, it is clear that there is a lot going on in the head (and heart) of this young , then still unknown artist.
Even as a child he was always drawing. His mother said: ‘You always did those strange things. You were different.’ At the age of fourteen he went to the city. He stayed at Zaailand Boarding School in Zorg en Hoop. He was still continually busy with drawing. That was noticed and people asked that he come paint for them. That’s how he made a painting for a music formation, something which they could display during their performances. He laughs as he reminisces: ‘I bought water and oil paint and wanted to mix that. But that was totally unsuccessful.’ In the meantime Sylvio was stimulated by his brother-in-law to register himself at the Nola Hatterman Art Academy. ‘I thought that he was teasing me. I couldn’t believe that such a thing really existed: schooling for artists.’ He was taken there by his brother-in-law and Sylvio registered immediately.
At Nola he especially learned to utilize his feelings. To take creative decisions by listening to his feelings. ‘That is the foundation. And I also apply that in my daily life.’ Teachers as Humphrey Tawjoeram, George Struikelblok, Sunil Puljhun, Kurt Nahar, Kenneth Flijders . . . Their lessons have made a deep impression on the young artist. Marcel Pinas is a big example. ‘He utilizes his culture, he doesn’t allow his things to die out. He doesn’t write it down, but displays it. I find that fantastic.’ He is also inspired by Anand Dwarka, especially due to his use of colors.
Sylvio Alatoe’s most recent works are all about his indigenous culture: ‘My Red Culture’ is the tentative title of the exposition towards which he is working. For Alatoe it is important to document something of his Carib culture. He explains that little to nothing has been written down; the knowledge and stories are passed on orally. ‘The Piayman (Pronounce: p-eye-man) was and is the source of all knowledge. Everything goes through him, orally. I want to transfer such things.’
He currently signs his work with “Sylbi”: ‘This symbolizes the cooperation between the spiritual and the physical. Sylvio is the name I got at birth, I use the first part of that: Syl. And bi comes from Galibi, which stands for the spiritual.’
What does he want to achieve with his art? ‘ I want to give people as my message that you can learn from art, and that you can express your feelings in art.’ I ask him how his mother finds it, what he does now. ‘She is happy. “This is what you always were”, she says.’
TEXT Marieke Visser, Boxel, May 2014
TRANSLATION David F. Michael
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.
This article was previously published, in Dutch, in the quarterly EFM Magazine (also on Facebook), nr. 9, July 2014. Subscripe to the free EFM newsmailing here. Sranan Art Xposed is in collaborates with EFM Magazine on the art & culture content.