Monday, August 31, 2015

The Suriname Chronicles: Part VI

Our time in Paramaribo was (mostly) done.

We crossed over the Suriname River on the Jules Wijdenbosch Bridge on our way to the town of Moengo.  In the distance, you can see a boat that was scuttled during WWII and has remained in the river ever since.

In less than 2 hours, we arrived at the Tembe Art Center in Moengo.  The Tembe Art Center is housed in the former hospital built by SURALCO/ALCOA back in the heydays of Moengo when it was a bauxite mining hub.

In short order we headed out to the middle school where Terry and I would be working with a group of students to help construct our sculpture, Colloquy.  Prior to arriving to Suriname, Terry and I inquired if someone could line-up some of the materials we would need.  Local artist Razia Barsatie came through in a BIG WAY for us and secured these mega 2"x4"s and several sheets of plywood  (check out Lih-Lan Wong's description of Razia and her work by clicking HERE).

That night, at dinner, I was introduced to this fiery death sauce.  Tasty, but burny.

The next day we got to witness an impressive spectacle......

There is no high school in Moengo.  Formal schooling goes through middle school (9th grade).  You take a comprehensive exam at the end of that year and either you pass or fail.  Some who fail can make up an area or two of deficiency, but depending on your score, you may have to repeat the entire grade again.  Those who pass the exam, can go on to high school, but the closest one is an hour away OR if you have family in Paramaribo, you go live with them while you attend high school.  Either way, it's a pretty emotional day for the students to come to the school and learn their fate when they see their scores posted.

Terry and I saw a wide range of reactions.  Honestly, there were a couple of times when I couldn't tell if the student was ecstatic or devastated.

That night we were invited to go to the ninth grade graduation ceremony/celebration.  It was an honor to be invited to share that evening with the students and their families.

Just an aside, did I mention that the property that abutted our lodging in Moengo had chickens? and by chickens I mean, nature's cacophonous alarm clocks.

I now know why we eat chickens.........revenge!

Prior to traveling to Suriname, Terry Rathje designed and laid out the cross sections for our giant heads (think ribs of a wooden boat before the hull is attached).  He broke the image down into patterns, printed them out, taped them together, and rolled them up into his suitcase for travel.  It is difficult to overstate the ramifications of Terry's efforts.  Without these patterns and the time/thought/effort put into them, mission success would have been unlikely.   Thank you, Terry.

In addition to cutting out 'the ribs' for the heads, we also cut out 14 4' in diameter plywood discs for our students to design and paint.  We had them do small sketches on paper and then showed them how to transfer their image to a larger circle using a grid.  Mmmmm, proportions.

The next step was to obtain some paint.  The cans were not labeled in English, so I had to guess at what we had.  I could have sworn I saw something that looked like 'acrylic latex' on the side of the can.  I have never seen an acrylic latex paint eat through plastic and Styrofoam cups before.......Good times.

We left the content of their drawings up to the kids to determine.  They covered a wide range of ideas/topics/motifs.  Here is Gwenieva smiling and showing off one of her designs.

Melony hard at work.

Threecio laying down some color.

Valencia beginning to paint her complex image.

Orkney was a very gifted, creative, and fun-loving artist.  However, when the camera came out, he was all business.

While the students were painting, Terry and I were amassing a small army of strangely shaped cut-outs against the outside wall of our classroom.

Back to the painting.....

The U.S. Embassy in Paramaribo (link helped Terry and I say 'Thank You' to the students who worked on the Colloquy project by providing us with a couple of boxes of soccer balls as gifts (as well as half a dozen balls for the school itself).

I would like to thank Mandy Vanderbos, Lydi-Ann Resodimedjo, Wirjosentono Melony, Threecio Ansoe, Astraija Masa, Gwenieva Strijdhaftig, Orkney Kastiel, Valencia Karnawi, Damien Byeren, Norelly Kompai, Donovan Vanan, Britney Byeren, Mikael Akale, Souenna Byeren, and Rozenhout Haisha for all of their hard work and great attitudes on this project.  Please accept my apologies for any/all misspellings AND I apologize to the two or three students who I know helped on the project, but weren't present the day I had everybody jot down their names so I could acknowledge them.  You all helped make Colloquy a reality and Terry and I had a great time working with you!

The discs were all well-underway and the students had done a great job, it was now time for Terry and I to focus on fabricating our portion of Colloquy.

Saturday, August 29, 2015

The Suriname Chronicles: Part V

One of the activities that Terry and I did while in Paramaribo was to offer various workshops to different groups of artists.  A huge 'thank you' goes out to Public Affairs Officer Melissa Quartell and her team for setting up these workshops and getting us there in one piece.  The streets of Paramaribo are chaotic, and they drive on the left-hand side of the street.  The chaos I could handle, remembering which way the traffic was coming from never stuck in my head.  More than once, Terry had to grab me by my shoulder to pull me back because I had stepped out into oncoming traffic.

Our first workshop was at the Academy of Higher Arts and Cultural Education.

The next presentation was to the Suriname Photographers Association (Check out the SUFOV by clicking on this link  Photoshop is more of a skill in Terry Rathje's wheelhouse, so he basically handled the whole workshop.

The next day we spoke to a group of art students studying to become art teachers at the Teachers Training College (IOL).  Terry and I showed them several methods for idea generation.

One of the 'tricks' I showed them was using positive/negative shapes to help trigger ideas/develop compositions.  These next two images are the positive and negative shapes of my sunglasses, keys, and pocket knives.

We also had the good fortune of seeing a show of student artwork right outside the classroom where we gave our presentation.

Our second-to-last workshop was at Matoekoe Center (Check them out by clicking  We had a two-part demonstration consisting of how to draw portraits and making some full-body action drawings.

Our translator that day was Public Diplomacy Assistant Ingrid Hill.  She was nothing short of awesome (and by awesome I mean an indispensable, energetic, force-of-nature).  Later that day, Ingrid introduced Terry and I to the Surinamese treat pom.  To learn more about pom, click HERE.

A few shots of Ingrid cutting a rug with one of the students from the Matoekoe Center.

Terry showing students how to turn themselves into drawing machines.  I should mention that this large roll of paper, along with a whole bunch of other supplies were made possible with an extremely helpful Art$ Dollar Grant from Quad City Arts (provided by Hubbell-Waterman Foundation, Illinois Arts Council Agency, John Deere, and the Doris and Victor Day Foundation).

One of my favorite images from my 17 days in Suriname is the image below.  There is pure joy in this guys' face as he is drawing.

A few buildings away is a gallery with student work on display.  Check these beauties out.

Later that day we went to the Nola Hatterman Art Academy for our final workshop/presentation in Paramaribo and an exhibition of our artwork.

I'm including this image for Dean Kugler since he made a giant bee for our project,  allinitogether, this past Summer at The Figge Art Museum.

A student at work in the studio.

Immediately next door to the Nola Hatterman Art Academy is Fort Zeelandia -a former political prison and the site of the December Killings (link to Wikipedia article on Fort Zeelandia).  Fort Zeelandia, I am told, is now a museum.

A panoramic shot from the second floor of the Nola Hatterman Art Academy looking out over the Suriname River.

Immediately following our presentation on the second floor, Terry and I had an exhibition entitled Colloquy (which is also the name of the sculptural installation we were hoping to build in Moengo) in the gallery on the main floor.  Two of the people who showed up for the reception were local artists Melany and Brian.  I had a fabulous chat with them and I was impressed at how excited, knowledgeable, and passionate they were about art.

With the bulk of our activities in Paramaribo behind us, it was time to devote all energies towards our teaching and sculpture creation in Moengo for the Moengo Festival of Visual Arts.