Tropical Kingdom: Contemporary art from Aruba, Curaçao, St Maarten, Bonaire, Saba and St Eustatius.
The Tropisch Koninkrijk (Tropical Kingdom) exhibition in Museum de Fundatie in Zwolle has been organized in the framework of the 200 Years’ Kingdom celebrations and provides an extensive overview of contemporary visual art from Aruba, Curaçao, St Maarten, Bonaire, Saba and St Eustatius. With work by twenty artists, ranging from classic paintings to modern installations. A number of artworks will be specially produced on location for the exhibition. Dutch-Caribbean art distinguishes itself through its strong international orientation and multicultural stratification.
Cross-culture and cross-time
‘Tropisch Koninkrijk’ draws attention to the latest artistic developments in the former Netherlands Antilles. These generally concern internationally oriented painting and sculpture, video, film, photography, ceramics and installations. Art from the Caribbean is primarily displayed in Central America, at the biennials of Santo Domingo and Havana, for example. A characteristic feature of the work is the quest of the inhabitants of the different islands for an own identity. Felix de Rooy, an inhabitant of Curaçao, summarized the essence of the quest in the following slogan: ‘Cross-culture and cross-time’. The African and Indian legacy is a determining factor in the art of the Dutch Caribbean islands. In addition, the influence of the Netherlands in particular and of Europe in general, and the Middle East – some artists on Curaçao and Aruba have Jewish and Lebanese ancestry – manifests itself within the mixture of cultures. Important themes, besides the diaspora, are history, religion, myths and customs, as well as the current sociopolitical situation and the overwhelming and unforgettable beauty of nature. In many cases, a fascinating interplay of ‘fusions’ arises, along with a multicultural stratification that underlines the unique position of the six Caribbean islands in the Kingdom of the Netherlands.
Paint, bronze and sumpiñas
The twenty artists in the exhibition use the most divergent materials, ranging from traditional media such as paint and bronze to waste products and organic material. For example, especially for the ‘Tropical Kingdom’ exhibition, Herman van Bergen created an enormous wall of sumpiñas, the typical thornbush on Curaçao. In doing so, he offers barbed commentary on the many divisions in the island community. Heleen Cornet presents a series of poetic watercolours on canvas, made in the tropical jungle of Saba. To accompany these, she allows the sounds of the island residents to fade into classical music composed by Benjamin Britten. Yubi Kirindongo is known in the Netherlands through his participation in ‘ArtZuid 2011’ in Amsterdam. The collection of the Beelden aan Zee Museum contains some of his work, which is also on display in the sculpture garden of Museum de Fundatie at Kasteel het Nijenhuis in Heino/Wijhe, to which it has been given on long-term loan. David Bade was invited to participate in ‘ArtZuid 2013’. In 2010 an overview of his work was on show in the GEM in The Hague. In 2012, for the sculpture garden of Museum de Fundatie, he produced the sculpture Ins Blaue, a colossal orange figure on horseback that now makes an annual trip to the Lowlands festival in Biddinghuizen. Both artists present their latest work in the exhibition in Zwolle.
First museum overview
‘Tropisch Koninkrijk’ is the first large-scale museum overview in the Netherlands of contemporary art from all six islands in the Dutch-Caribbean region. Approximately 130 objects will be on display in the exhibition. Particular attention will be paid to the specific developments and backgrounds of this work, including the relationship with the Netherlands. The traditionally strong cultural bond between the Netherlands and the overseas territories is shown by the the close collaboration between the Instituto Buena Bista on Curaçao and Ateliers 89 on Aruba on the one hand, and various art academies and other Dutch institutions on the other. Instituto Buena Bista is an official partner of the Royal Academy of Art in The Hague.
‘Tropisch Koninkrijk’ has been compiled by art-historian and Maarten Jager. He has selected the fol-lowing artists: David Bade, Herman van Bergen, René Emil Bergsma, Ruben La Cruz & Karolien Helweg, Yubi Kirindongo, Tirzo Martha, Felix de Rooy & Kirk Claes, Evelien Sipkes, Ellen Spijkstra (Curaçao); Ciro Abath, Stan Kuiperi, Elvis Lopez, Osaira Muyale and Ryan Oduber (Aruba); Nochi Coffie and Winfred Dania (Bonaire); Ras Mosera (St Maarten); Heleen Cornet and Glenda Heyliger (Saba); Magumbo Muntu (St Eustatius).
To accompany the exhibition, a tri-lingual (Dutch / Papiamento / English) catalogue will be published by Uitgeverij de Kunst, containing contributions from Maarten Jager, Adi Martis, Felix de Rooy and Maaike Staffhorst. ‘Tropisch Koninkrijk’ has been made possible by support from the Province of Overijssel and the Prins Bernhard Cultuurfonds. Koninklijke De Gruijter & Co. is the main sponsor, while Maduro & Curiel’s Bank Curaçao N.V. and BCD Holdings have also sponsored the exhibition.