bell hooks (Gloria Jean Watkins, United States, 1952-2021) recently passed away. She focused on the importance of love ethics in her work and told us: once we choose to love, we act in a way that liberates ourselves and others. Therefore, a reevaluation of our religious experiences is necessary to heal our collective grief. Social change can lead us to a radical political vision, a love ethic to “convert” people (hooks, 1994). An attempt at converting people is the UDUBAKI exhibition in Readytex Art Gallery (RAG), which consists of three parts. From December 10, 2021, to January 1, 2022, the first part and part two can be seen between January 7 and 29, 2022.
Our own surrealism
Paintings, sculptures, and installations express our own surrealism in UDUBAKI part one. But what exactly is surrealism? According to art history, the surrealists create images that express the irrational and subconscious, through dream images and associations (Kletter and Ter Veer, 2012). This fusion of the object and its meaning also manifests itself in UDUBAKI part one; an appearance of knowledge as conscious and unconscious imaginations and distortion of human reality. I therefore use surrealism as a special network, thinking of ancestral knowledge. Is surrealism an imitation of the ‘other-than-the-humanly’? With UDUBAKI part one I feel something elusive that can manifest itself through dreams, in art and through visions. In short, something spiritual, and I believe that the ‘other-than-the-humanly’ directs it.
Kurt Nahar, A Never-Ending Story? volume 4, installation, 2021 / PHOTOS 1 & 4 Courtesy Readytex Art Gallery (RAG)/Gilbert Jacott & PHOTOS 2 & 3 Ada Korbee
Artists participating in UDUBAKI part one were Delvin Bisoina, Dhiradj Ramsamoedj, EdKe, Kenneth Flijders, Kurt Nahar, Leonnie van Eert, Rinaldo Klas, Rachel Nijman, Roddney Tjon Poen Gie, Steven Towirjo, Wanda Eduards and Xavier Robles de Medina. Gradually the performance persona tumpi flow presented itself and the ‘local master’ was John Lie A Fo. At the entrance, Kurt Nahar installed the work A Never-Ending Story? volume 4. This version – part of a performance that revealed itself in 2020 as volume 0, during the one-day expo NET’ALENG: You are NOT invited! – that included work by more than 30 people, also contained two paintings by John Lie A Fo: Rite and Le pharmacien. From the center of the room, behind Kurt’s installation, the visitor encountered John’s La signe du sweri gado and the backs of two other paintings. To find out who these two paintings belonged to, the visitor not only had to dare to enter the exhibition; he also had to walk through it and connect with the works of the different artists. After that, one could clearly see that two paintings by Rinaldo Klas were in dialogue with La signe du sweri gado and another work.
Putu Re-Imagined, an installation with work by Wanda Eduards, also appeared in the middle of the exhibition. Furthermore, the images Kumbat’tey by Steven Towirjo and Transformation by Roddney Tjon Poen Gie were part of this place: UDUBAKI‘s navel. You couldn’t help but take it all in, regardless of whether you chose to take the route to the left or to the right. Perhaps you felt that the conversation in UDUBAKI‘s navel was important for a need to transform ourselves? Or were you converted through art? It seemed to me that human processes and that which is ‘other-than-the-humanly’ were connected in this place… Maybe art appeared here as a form of knowing? Putu Re-Imagined was necessary for this.
Putu is a square piece of letter wood with sharp edges. While women paint this Indigenous mace, the handle is braided by men with colored warimbo (Ischnosiphon gracilis) strips. This instrument is strapped to the wrist and used in battle. Now it is mainly produced for festive and spiritual purposes, or to sell to museums (Ahlbrinck, 1931). Opposite the revolving Putu Re-Imagined is The Negro Bible: A Non-existing Manual? volume 0. This installation functions as a performance of tumpi flow, which manifests itself as a three-dimensional mamio (patchwork quilt, patschwork pattern); a form of appearance according to Afrofuturism that promotes the artistic practice of simultaneously navigating the past, the present, and the future (Gaskins, 2016). Another mamio in the exhibition is a painting by Kenneth Flijders with the same title. Is intuition an alternative way of knowing in this case?
Because I see surrealism as a form of knowing, I experience art as knowledge. Inspired by this, I connect surrealism with masks. With this focus on surrealism in the context of UDUBAKI part one, I understand that art objects have specific meanings: faith, magic, and transformation. In the meantime, it has become clear to me that a person who is involved in such perceptions is no longer an individual because he loses himself and becomes a pure, will-less, painless, timeless appearance of knowledge (Lang, 1999). Take for example, the art of vodou: a spiritual lifestyle or religion of a specific community. Patrick Goodness, lecturer in the study of ancient cultural mythologies, distinguishes between voodoo and vodou. Voodoo is based on a misinterpretation: for many it comes down to the practice of magic with dolls by sticking pins in them. But in this imagination, I think of only one historical figure: Jesus Christ. Goodness points out that vodou is something completely different, as the ritual of hurting enemies and/or transforming the dead doesn’t match what vodou is. Vodou is more than a belief; it is a way of living in and with the community. The misinterpretation of vodou is due to popular culture. Although vodou priests motivate their community to action, enabling it to trigger the Haitian Revolution (1791-1804), pin-making dolls originated in Europe (14th-16th centuries), intended as a fight against witchcraft. It is at least astonishing that they were generally female dolls. The adoption of pin dolls in vodou was used to drive out slave masters; a ritual that was often combined with fire dance. Vodou is therefore a political force within the Caribbean; but sticking dolls with pins is neither African nor Caribbean (Goodness, c.a. 2019).
In general, UDUBAKI refers to the correlation between service and spirituality. That is why objects in this exhibition focus on the religious experience of art: the appearance of gods (Anderson, 2011). I regard this experience as surrealism: a form of spirituality. But in Suriname there is a taboo on spiritual experiences, as well as on some religious expressions. Fortunately, art can act as religion for people whose religion has collapsed, because religion and/or mysticism teach us that there are dimensions of experience that result in developing interesting connections. As a result, we learn aspects of reality that we would miss if art were not regarded as a form of knowledge (Kuhn, 2021). Closer To Truth explores the question: What is Philosophy of Art? According to the research, art is nowadays also seen as an object to carefully listen, look and read (Kuhn, 2021).
- Ahlbrinck, W., Encyclopaedie der Karaiben: behelzend taal, zeden en gewoonten dezer Indianen
- Anderson, Jon, The (Spiritual) Crisis of Abstract Expressionism
- Gaskins, Nettrice, Afrofuturism 2.0: The Rise of Afro-Blackness
- Goodness, Patrick, The Mysteries of Vodou, Santeria and other Afro-Caribbean Faiths
- hooks, bell, Love as the Practice of Freedom
- Kletter, Sander en Kyra ter Veer, SURREALISME: Droombeelden vol innerlijke waarheid
- Kuhn, Robert L., What is Philosophy of Art?
- Lang, Karen, Reason and Remainders: Kantian performativity in the History of Art
This publication was made possible in part by a grant from the Dr. Silvia W. de Groot Fund.
Read more about the Dr. Silvia W. de Groot Fund here (only in Dutch).
Read more about Dr. Silvia W. de Groot here (only in Dutch).
TEXT Miguel E. Keerveld
Miguel E. Keerveld (Suriname, 1982) works in conjunction with the brand EdKe and the performance persona Tumpi Flow. Educated in civil technical engineering, ‘he’ operates with focus on visual language and creative writing. As a hybrid-intuitive concept, ‘she’ performs political interventions related to social practice. As researcher ‘it’ is focused on activating performative politics and manifesting rituals, both related to creative counseling and civic engineering of a cyborg feminist project.