If you listen carefully, you can hear it from afar. The swelling sound of voices in the lobby of Hotel Krasnapolsky, Domineestraat, Paramaribo, Suriname. It’s one of the student nights at the Nationale Kunstbeurs 2019 (National Art Fair). It is the 54th edition. [This is not 100% certain, since the NK was skipped several times during the 80’s). The first NK was held in 1965. Edit.] The exhibition has been put together on the ground floor of the hotel as well as in various other spaces on the second floor. Quite noticeable is the fact that there are also works from foreign, mainly French, artists on display. And in addition to the more established names, there are also students from participating art schools at the exhibition.
During the first hours of the student nights, there is hardly any space for other visitors among the crowd of diligent, searching, listening, waiting and admiring students. They talk to each other about the paintings in front of which they are standing, are busy with their phones, are keeping an eye on the door for friends they’re supposed to meet up with, or they are talking to one of the few artists present there that night. Ellis Pikientio came to the exhibition together with classmate Sipingo Antonius. They are first year students from the Henry N. Hassankhan Scholengemeenschap (HHS) at Lelydorp. Just like those two, there are countless other high school students in attendance. They have come for one purpose only: to write their school report. Ellis and Sipingo are there for their art class. After the exhibition they have two weeks to finish their assignment. They are happy that there are specific student days, because they might not have been able to visit the art fair otherwise. Sipingo feels that he has more space and can take a closer look at the art. What strikes Ellis, is that some paintings have to be studied more closely before you can get something out of it. “There are some that I don’t understand at all”, he says. This is the first NK visit for the school friends. Sipingo would like to speak to one of the artists to find out what his work is actually about. According to Sipingo art is important, because for some people it is a way to express their feelings, but personally he does not like drawing. Ellis enjoys looking at art, because you can find a certain meaning in it.
There is a fairly wide selection of art on display. From paintings, multimedia works, ceramics, installations, sculptures, photography, jewelry to processed calabashes and more. The loud voices fade away slowly. More space opens up in between the paintings. Yet it seems that very few students stick around to actually study the works. Some are already on their way home or off to another destination, some are getting a bite to eat in the restaurant, and others are enjoying a quick meal at Subway or a at Popeyes. Others are chit chatting outside. Several small groups are still hanging around on the second floor and they are taking advantage of the opportunity to make selfies in front of their favorite works of art. When asked for an interview, two friends from a group of three immediately point to the same person: Esha Boedhoe is according to them, the most intelligent of the group. But not long after the conversation starts, the others join in as well. Aman Autar and Artie Gopichand are Esha’s classmates at Imeao 3. They are working on a report for the subject Esthetische Vorming (esthetic education). Aman is happy with the assignment, which becomes all the more obvious when, with a smile, he starts talking about his experience at the art fair. They asked artist Carmen Renardus-Burke for an explanation about her work, which she gave. Before getting this assignment they never really paid any attention to art, but now they actually think that they will visit subsequent art fairs, whether they have a school assignment or not.
The Nationale Kunstbeurs 2019 was held from October 25th until November 2nd 2019 in Hotel Krasnapolsky, Domineestraat, Paramaribo, Suriname. The student days were on October 28, 29 & 30.
TEXT Rose-Marie Maître
Rose-Marie Maître is a freelance writer and likes to visit art and culture events. In the past ten years, she has primarily produced news items for television, newspapers, websites and also radio. She also writes poems and now also creative texts for Sranan Art Exposed.
TRANSLATION Cassandra Gummels- Relyveld