Can visual art bring about social change? A question that could not be answered even after many days of discussions. The question can be formulated more sharply, is the conclusion at the end of the discussion evening which was held last August 3 in Readytex Art Gallery (RAG) (also on Facebook). The discussion was held by Kit-Ling Tjon Pian Gi, Alida Neslo and Ann Hermelijn. The topic was Art in Suriname and it took place in the gallery, amidst the work of Kit-Ling which was shown here in her solo exhibition One can make a difference, while curious passersby could stop for a while and listen in to. The ladies had five minutes each to introduce themselves. Although they are no strangers in the Surinamese society, there was still a lot of new information .
As a girl Kit-Ling always dreamt about becoming an artist. In the meantime, with the limited resources of the times she grew up in, more than fifty years ago, as an artist she has reached far. The public’s attention was captured by the fact that once women were not taken seriously as professional artists. In spite of the fact that Kit-Ling was working full time as an artist, it was still considered her hobby. This has not always been easy, especially when her work had to be combined with running the house
Ann Hermelijn is an ‘artist’ in a different way; she is more focused on the corporate side, the business, commercial part of art. She started as a businesswoman and then through her study of Sociology, she gained more in-depth knowledge about sales, links, transferring knowledge about art, and she wants to provide space for beautiful ideas. Ann loves beautiful, unique and useful art creations. These could be in the form of events, within the disciplines of music, theatre, film, dance and merchandises. For Ann, it often begins when someone approaches her with a beautiful unique idea, and together they can execute it. This is how Ann Hermelijn and Alida Neslo met.
Alida was working on the text for a play. She drew inspiration from one of her many diaries. She read to the public the short text she wrote after first meeting Ann. The reaction on Ann’s face could not be compared to the price of Kit-Ling’s art work… A memory, a moment of encounter and gratitude was evoked for Alida and for Ann as well. Theatre woman Alida had a very visual way of expressing her part and she set the audience to thinking about her thoughts (and questions). What do we as Suriname have to offer? What is the secret of our beauty? What language do we speak for bringing about change? What is our manifesto? The latter is derived from her ‘bible’ Manifesto, in which Alida reads about several international artists who philosophize and describe situations from their own countries. It makes every artist ponder: What more could we do for our country? And: Who is responsible, is it the government?
One thing is for sure: Surinamese artists do not work to become rich, but they would like to receive the government’s support and recognition since visual artists too, make contributions to society in their various disciplines. Awareness cannot start from the ground and then seep upwards. If we want to compare it to water flowing from a waterfall, or from the source of the river: Everything coming from above reaches the ground and not the other way around. To give art and culture the appreciation that it deserves, the government also should demonstrate its appreciation by providing facilities, in order to increase the social outcome of artists’ self-efficacy much faster. This would allow artists to remain working and to proudly represent Suriname in all its diversity to the world. This should specifically be the case when the theme is to be showcased.
Kit-Ling knows that be more discussions should be held; her question ‘Can visual art bring about change in society?’ has not been answered completely, but the many bottlenecks have been discussed. It is yet another debate or session to look at a structural approach to the bottlenecks.
TEXT Xaviera L. Arnhem
Xaviera L. Arnhem is a versatile woman with a passion for journalism. She creates fun creative productions on multimedia platforms. In 2017 she was the first video journalist to graduate from the AHKCO. She co-presents the bi-weekly radio program Egi Du Magazine on Radio 10.
Fun fact: The pronunciation of her name is Shevera. There is an interesting story behind it, because the name is created by her mother. To take her father ‘along’, Xaviera added the L. to her name.
TRANSLATION Chandra van Binnendijk
The 10 Minutes Youth News August 7, 2019 with an entry about Kit-Ling Tjon Pian Gi:
When: Opening: Thursday, August 01, 2019, 19:00-21:00 hrs. Extra evening open: Friday, August 02, 2019, 19:00-21:00 hrs. Discussion about art with Kit-Ling Tjon Pian Gi, Ann Hermelijn & Alida Neslo: Saturday, August 03, 2019, 19:00-21:00 hrs. The exhibition is open from August 02 until August 31. Opening hours: Monday thru Friday, 08:00-16:30 hrs and on Saturday, 08:30-13:30 hrs. Also open in the evening on Friday June 7 and Saturday June 8 from 19:00-2100 hrs