Published On: Wed, Aug 20th, 2014

Curaçao artists awakens art within delinquents in Suriname

YubiPARAMARIBO, WILLEMSTAD - Identity, independence and respect: that is the motto of a new program in Suriname aimed at ‘re-socialising’ young dropouts and helping them to rebuild their lives in a more constructive way. Young prisoners and single mothers are among the target groups. The figurehead is the Curacao-based artist Yubi Kirindongo, who is himself a reformed character who climbed from the gutter to international recognition and respect.

The project was initiated by DeSaN Productions, in conjunction with the EPACT Foundation. Finance comes from the Dutch embassy, represented at the launch and the early events by incoming ambassador Ernst Noorman.

Among the first stages in a program that lasts until early August was a visit to the prison at Santo Boma, where inmates were coached by Kirindongo as they sought to make works of art out of old motor vehicles. In his own work the artist uses scrap materials, and his influence on the project elevates the notion of ‘art’ above the stereotyped paintbrush-and-sensitive-creator and makes it more acceptable to some of the more rough-and-ready characters who make up the prison population.

Santo Boma, with its barn-like outbuildings and workshops reflecting the area’s agricultural heritage, and being much more outdoors-oriented and less prison-like than most, added authenticity to the process.

The building where the work was taking place was littered with stacks of wood, barrels, half a bicycle, a tractor, an old office chair and three dead refrigerators. The group working on the shell of a Toyota Corona Exiv had already taken the headrests from the seats and welded them to the roof, like ears. A computer keyboard was fixed to the dashboard. On the wings were fixed thin steel arches. Inmate artists wandered around, electric grinders and jump leads in hand, weighing it up. An hour later it had acquired gas canisters fitted on the rear wings like rockets.

Meanwhile, outside, the carcass of an Isuzu minibus had been kitted out with a big, boxy television set. The artists on this one had started the paint job early, with red graffiti-like markings on the back.

Both vehicles ended up with bars and grids on windows which, to the untrained eye, seemed like a reminder of the circumstances, consciously or otherwise.

“It’s the freedom of art,” said Kirindongo, in a perhaps ironic choice of phrase. The results of the workshops at Santo Boma and elsewhere will be displayed publicly at venues yet to be confirmed, and after the departure of Yubi Kirindongo, other characters will be brought in to lend their influence and perspective to what will be an ongoing program.

By Chris Morvan

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