On October 1st Razia Barsatie started her period as artist in residence at Tembe Art Studio (TAS) in Moengo. The relationship between the artist and Moengo however, had started much earlier. Razia was a student at the Gerrit Rietveld Academie in the Netherlands from 2008 until 2012. At that that time, while doing an internship in Suriname, she already visited Tembe Art Studio. Her colleague Ravi Rajcoomar was then the artist in residence there.
Since her return to Suriname, now a little over two years ago, Razia has made the trip to this former mining town in the district of Marowijne, many times. She also helped there during the Moengo Festival of Theater & Dance in September 2014, and she is already part of the team working on the preparations for the Moengo Visual Arts Festival of 2015. “I just love driving to Moengo. I often do so alone. Then I simply enjoy the surroundings and the rest and the opportunity to just think about all kinds of things.” That others often ask if she isn’t afraid to go to Moengo and especially to make the drive all by herself – which incidentally she is not at all – has put her to thinking. “People know so little about Moengo. What they do know, is what they see in the press, and that is often only the negative news. But there is so much that is positive. But the distance is an obstacle. Because of that the negative seems closer and the positive is kept at a distance. That is unfortunate.”
When the opportunity for her own artist in residence period came along, Razia knew immediately that this would be her subject for the artwork she would leave behind in Moengo. That artwork does not stand there yet. The concept is ready, the choice of materials is for the main part complete, but there are some questions still surrounding the execution. It is after all not a simple object. The art installation that Razia will leave behind in the art park at Moengo is a very large telescope. And preferably one that really works. The telescope will stand there as a symbol of reducing the distance; of bringing the positive closer. The positive side of Moengo should be clearly visible for anyone daring to take a closer look. Distance should not be an obstacle when you want to discover something new.
According to the original concept, the four meter long telescope will be positioned on top of a hill in Moengo, directed towards a beautiful spot or object in the area. The telescope will be ‘carried’ by two human figures covered on the outside with bauxite stones from the area. That the telescope will come, that is certain. Whether it is an actual magnifying telescope depends on the results of Razia’s search for the appropriate telescopic glass. And where exactly it will stand, and whether it will be on a hill, is something that will be determined very soon. “For now there is still a plan A, a plan B, etc, etc …”, says the artist. “Because if you have an idea, you should just go for it. Eventually you will find a solution for everything. Where that is concerned I always keep a few alternatives in mind”.
This way of thinking is something that Razia has taken with her from her studies at the Gerrit Rietveld Academie. “There they put great emphasis on the conceptual. You learn that the idea, the concept, is very important, and not so much the execution”. Razia is indeed very much focused on the conceptual when it comes to her art. She specialized in video art at the Rietveld academy, but she is also very interested in installation art. Regardless of the medium that she chooses however, it is always the concept that takes precedence in her work. That was already clearly visible at her first solo exhibition in Suriname called Anxious, where in addition to video animations, she also showed a wrought iron installation. It is also clear in more recent projects (in French Guyana and at Het Surinaamsch Rumhuis of the SAB for example) where she incorporated aromatic spices in her art. The addition of scent makes a much broader sensory experience of the artwork and this is something that Razia intends to experiment with further.
Razia has also introduced an interesting concept during the art lessons that she gives to the children in Moengo and surroundings as part of her residency. Instead of the standard drawing lessons, she makes short animation films with the children using drawings that they have made. In the films the children act out their own stories, visually as well as vocally. The concept was received with much enthusiasm by the kids. They start with a full-color drawing of a favorite place from their own surroundings, followed by a drawing of themselves. The latter is then cut out and glued to a pencil so that the figures can then be moved against the background of the first drawing. The children are divided in groups and together they make up a story which they play out and which is then filmed by Razia. The creativity of the children is thus stimulated on different levels and they learn to work together effectively. “The children really enjoy doing this. Sometimes they don’t even want to go home.” Razia hopes to also present the results of this project at the upcoming Moengo Visual Arts Festival in 2015.
Sometime in January the artwork of Razia Barsatie will proudly stand on the spot that the artist has ultimately chosen for it. People from Moengo, young and old, visitors, and others from the surroundings, will curiously look through the glass of the telescope to see what it is that Razia wants them to see. It will surely be something special. Because if you dare to take a good look, and don’t get scared away by distances, there is a lot that is worth discovering, and certainly in Moengo. Good luck Razia!
TEXT Cassandra Gummels-Relyveld
Cassandra Gummels-Relyveld is a freelance writer. Aside from her work for Sranan Art Xposed, she writes primarily for the Readytex Art Gallery in Paramaribo, Suriname. She writes press releases, website texts and takes care of the publicity materials surrounding the exhibitions and other activities of the gallery.
On the Sranan Art Flickr-page please find an album with photos by Peter Thielen and Cassandra Gummels-Relyveld of the presentation of Razia Barsatie‘s installation ‘San e soi faawe e kon koosube’ (‘Iets wat ver lijkt is eigenlijk dichtbij’ or ‘Something that seems far away is actually nearby’) on February 15, 2015, in Moengo, Marowijne district, Suriname.
A video registration from the unveiling of Razia Barsatie’s installation, February 15, 2015, by Peter Thielen: Razia Barsatie – ‘San e soi faawe e kon koosube’, Moengo, Marowijne, Suriname