What do our artistic imaginations tell?

TEXT Miguel E. Keerveld, Curator-in-Residence for the project ALAKONDRE: A space in time in collaboration with  Readytex Art Gallery (RAG).

In stories from the bible, fire is symbolic of a tsunami of misery. The element of fire also turns up in my own life history, but then to search for new ways of being in relation to time. It makes no difference if the finding of new approaches unearths from my role as an artist, as curator or as something else … I have great respect for fire. Maybe it burned during the selection of artworks for the exhibition UDUBAKI part two? The colors in many of the works remind me of fire; something that I particularly feel in the work of Remy JungermanReinier AsmoredjoRinaldo Klas and Wilgo Vijfhoven, and which I see as an opportunity for self-actualization.

Partial view of installed works in the exhibition UDUBAKI part two / PHOTO Courtesy Readytex Art Gallery/Ada Korbee, 2022

UDUBAKI-narrative

I am especially curious about self-actualization from an artistic point of view. For this, I focus on the series of exhibitions titled UDUBAKI, which relate the UDUBAKI-narrative from three perspectives.  Part one is about the relationship between surrealism and masks.  Part two is based on the feminine sensation in relation to the inner child. In part three, there is more attention for the deeper relationship. By displaying these relationships through art, I hope to contribute to other impulses in a world that is too much dominated by masculine muscle flexing. I am more than fed up with this, which is why I installed the conversation UDUBAKI part two in Readytex Art Gallery (RAG) between January 7 and 29, 2022, with this part of the narrative dealing with the family in a Surinamese context. It is an honor to have Remy Jungerman as a participant. Because this honorary artist is not the only one who is special, I bring his work in dialogue with among others, the work of the ‘local master’ Kit-Ling Tjon Pian Gi. I furthermore selected work by Hanka Wolterstorff, Paul Chang, Reinier Asmoredjo, Rinaldo Klas, Roddney Tjon Poen GieWilgo VijfhovenHumphrey Tawjoeram (YouTube), Danasion Akobe (aka Dona) and Lola Ankarapi. Through a variety of visual imagery, this part of the UDUBAKI-narrative focuses on why mothers and children can be important elements in Surinamese visual language. And how Suriname can draw strength from this.   

With some of the works I also dared to imagine special experiences. The series One Can Make A Difference by Kit-Ling Tjon Pian Gi, with Surinamese school children, was one of those. There I wondered: what abstract beauty supported the process, and what moved the artist to seek a connection with schoolchildren?  Another work I found striking was the painting Face in the Sun by Reinier Asmoredjo, guarded by the multiple-panel Nature in Abstraction by Paul Chang and supported by Two Souls from Rinaldo Klas, looking on from the background. Because nature was not automatically placed in relation to the woman or to nudity in these works of art, they contributed significantly to my search for greater depth.

Feminine sensation

I recognized feminine sensation in all of the works. For me, this sensation contributed to a profound manner of inclusion. I saw that for example, in the work by Remy Jungerman. He is ‘our alakondre export’, as theatre maker Alida Neslo says about him. In UDUBAKI part two alakondre manifested itself as an architectural spatiality in which I could recognize limitless subjects. The earlier works of Jungerman, the series Peepina Antoinette with various fowls, equally reminded me of recognizable and non-recognizable matters. That is why, in the installation Alakondre, I combined these prints with the work of Kit-Ling Tjon Pian Gi (from the series Gems in Your Brain and In Search Of…) and works by Danasion Akobe and Lola Ankarapi. I approached my attempt to remind the viewer that ‘modern’ and ‘traditional’ always coincide, by blurring the boundaries between high and low art. The visitors could then also contemplate two sides of the same thing.

I found a few of the works somewhat problematic. Those were artworks in which I believed that women were too strongly associated with nature. Are women not also an ‘object’ of culture? Maybe the woman-nature-relationship originated in my programmed brain, and was further reinforced because I saw quite a bit of nudity in some of the paintings. I thought the reaction of one of the visitors during my tour was rather justified, as she questioned these clichés: ‘When will I also get to see male nudes in our visual art?’ Alas, I still owe her an answer. Could masculinity at least be the theme of an exhibition within our project?  Part two of UDUBAKI searched for the strength in the entanglement of the inner child and the female sensation as a dialogue with the fire in the rituals of Indigenous communities in the Caribbean.   

Generally speaking, the focus on fire in the process of UDUBAKI goes a lot further. I am inspired by Being and Time (Heidegger, 1927) which calls for self-actualization (Zimmer, 2005). Whereas Martin Heidegger uses fire as a metaphor for industrialization, it inspires me to research collective experiences. I thus find much motivation in communities like the Kariña. Besides the fact that for them, nature and culture go hand in hand, everyone is involved during the general preparations while working their agricultural plots. This is known as moshiro. Herein I see a deep form of inclusion, between nature and culture and between people amongst themselves. After the community has divided the worked land among the various families, comes koiwara: a ritual during which mothers and children continue to work their assigned plots by further burning remaining woodpiles and insufficiently burned tree trunks and branches. That is why I relate Heidegger’s self-determination to koiwara.

Moshiro and alakondre

Are moshiro and alakondre comparable? In the Surinamese context they are deep inner experiences of inclusion, which is why they are also manifested in our art. Here for instance, I think of the work of Klas, who interweaves man, flora and fauna.  The entanglement of flora and fauna in the work of Roddney Tjon Poen Gie also reminds me of inclusion beyond the human reality. To understand this properly, knowledge of alakondre-fasi is required, which is also necessary to be able read the diversity in the UDUBAKIexhibitions. Giving meaning to alakondre-fasi starts with recognizing that alakondre is the opposite of apartheid; fasi is Sranan for method. However, alakondre-fasi is not translatable. In attempts to translate the concept of alakondre, reference is made to ‘universal’ (Ensie, 2017) which is placed in relation to winti (a hybrid philosophy in Suriname based on Indigenous, African and European knowledge). But I would rather associate alakondre with a composition: the manifestation of what is ‘never plural or singular, never one world and because of that also never more worlds.’ This composition is what a modern political theory peasant consciousness calls: ‘the ability that specific other-than-humans engender in a person, so that he or she can engage in an effective relationship with them’ (Cadena, 2015). Precisely because art in Suriname is so different, alakondre-fasi transcends that what is known as winti. Approaching alakondre from the territorial, makes it impossible to experience its depth.

I wonder: who is fully aware of alakondre? For me it is the complexity of the Caribbean ‘identity’ that is based on a process of exchange with each other. That is why alakondre in Surinamese art is simultaneously being able to recognize and acknowledge similar and different (visual) languages in one or more objects; a phenomenon that behaves like an agama. The alakondre spirit in our imagery also translates beyond the reality of paintings. The work of Hanka Wolterstorff, made from clay, evokes within me the strength of prana and at the same time I am referred to Mother Earth. Known as Mama Aisa (in Suriname) and as Pacha Mama (by Indigenous peoples of the Americas), it is not at all strange that Mother Earth is often presented as a chameleon. Unfortunately, the deeper nuances of this are not always understood. Just like the chameleon, alakondre is a deep-rooted composition of our creative and cultural experience. In the Caribbean, the experience with alakondre is not the same as in the Netherlands for example, because the Dutch experience with alakondre is for us An Other. And yet, UDUBAKI is also about someone who is not really-truly Caribbean.

In order to adequately demonstrate the ambiguity that alakondre is, one must really-truly be Caribbean. Take for example, the observation that more is more fits in seamlessly with the alakondre-idea (Krieger, 2021). This causes me to frown. It does make me aware that alakondre-fasi is a borderless spatiality in which the UDUBAKI-trilogy arises from inner spontaneity. Although UDUBAKI part two displays ‘more is more’, other parts are reminiscent of less is more. It is for this inclusive spirit of alakondre, and to continue building on artistic research and conversations about the role of alakondre in Surinamese art, that I use the concept I kroywara I: I walk with you and you walk with me asa strong and necessary basis. This is my point of departure in post modernism and a vision for the 21st century. In this vision I see an Opète of which Jungerman’s work also reminds me, in addition to features of the modernism of the 20th century.  Because his work demonstrates what alakondre-fasi is in a brilliant way, I understand why he is also understood so well in the Netherlands.  

I find the essence of alakondre-fasi special. It is a conscious-unconscious tension field and goes beyond the borders of ethnicity, gender and nation. Of Jungerman for example, it is known that in the Netherlands his work often reminds of that of the art movement De Stijl (The Style). However, for how many people in Suriname does De Stijl mean anything? Regardless of artistic intention in the work of this honorary artist, I see ‘traditional’ art. His work offers a multitude of associations, which is why I place it in relation to, among other things, modernism, Indigenous and Maroon traditions. Then I also turn myself to differences and similarities of his work in a constellation with works by Kit-Ling Tjon Pian Gi, Danasion Akobe (aka Dona) and Lola Ankarapi

I get that it might be difficult for An Other to understand alakondre. Precisely because of the different basic attitudes of Suriname and the Netherlands, this could result in diverse experiences with alakondre, which are also opposite. The project ALAKONDRE: A Space in Time is indeed a way to demonstrate to An Other, a deeper inclusivity, as space in which we stand in connection with each other at navel level. For us this connection is a pleasant encounter. According to one of my mentors: ‘We celebrate the freedom of diversity, identity, affinity… all three at the same time… We celebrate …’ (Neslo, 2021).

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Sources:

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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.

PHOTOS Courtesy Ada Korbee & Readytex Art Gallery (RAG)

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