Pòpchi

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The special thing about this doll is that it has been baptized. It also has a name, a godfather and a godmother. The tradition of baptizing dolls shows that in Curaçao foreign influences develop their own characteristics over time. This Roman Catholic ritual has become fully Curaçaoan. The doll is baptized in the name of the needle, the thread and the safety pin. The Roman Catholic church has always had a lot of influence on the island and actively fought against Afro Curaçaoan culture. This doll shows they did not completely succeed.

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2:27 min

"The tradition of baptizing a doll just suits me because I never gave birth - and now I can be the godmother of a doll"

- Ersilia Pietersz-Martina

My name is Ersilia Pietersz-Martina – but everybody knows me as Chila. The tradition of baptizing dolls is an old one. Women who couldn’t have children of their own could baptize a doll and that way they could become godmother of the doll. Like in my case: I have two children but I didn’t give birth to them. I have two daughters, one is 35 and one is 41 years old and I’m so happy with them, I love them dearly. The tradition of baptizing a doll just suits me because I never gave birth – and now I can be the godmother of a doll. That way I can relate to our traditions. I am very proud every time they ask me to be the godmother of a doll. In this case my brother actually made this doll, he made it from cloth. I like it when they’re made of cloth because it makes it more traditional, more real, more authentic. I have a doll that has my skin color so I really feel like I’m part of the doll. His name is Chófilo. I gave him an old name . It’s an old name but we have to go back to the old days so I can’t give him a modern name – so I called him Chófilo.


Obra di arte

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This work of art was made by the Curaçaoan artist Philippe Zanolino, who used pieces of glass that washed ashore on the beaches of Curaçao. The pieces of glass are the archeological evidence of the transatlantic trade hub that Curaçao once was. Ships crossing the Atlantic Ocean would only bring alcoholic beverages, as drinking water went bad within 4 days. The glass shards of bottles that had been thrown overboard were polished on the bottom of the sea into soft jewel-like pieces. It is clearly visible that wine bottles were blue in the 18th century. Phillippe Zanolino’s son tells us about the beach where his father taught him to see what others can’t see.

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2:27 min

"As we were swimming my dad would pick up all the stones and say “Hey! Do you see the face in this one?” and collect them all."

- Giovanni Zanolino

My name is Giovanni Zanolino. I’m the son of Philippe Zanolino and I’m an artist myself. I was raised in a very tight relationship with my dad; I also followed in his footsteps. I saw him work on most of his collections that I can remember. This one was a very special one because he would go right in front of our house in the Penstraat which is a historical street in Curaçao. As we were swimming he would always pick up all the stones and he would always say “Hey! Do you see the face in this one?” Or “Do you see this in that one?” and he would collect them all. And then one day he bailed out all these sculptures with them He called the ‘The Love Warriors’, that’s a really fun series he made. I think he worked on it for about a year and a half, maybe two years. He made about three hundred of these objects. Right now he’s actually working on medium-sized Love Warriors. It was just fun to see the way an artist would see different things in objects and it also taught me to look deeper. If I would see a rock I would also want to impress my dad so all of us would go looking for rocks that looked like something. 90% of the time we would be wrong and then he out of nowhere would find all these magical objects. So it really taught me to look around for the treasures all around us and that God really is the artist.


Blous

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This small cube consists of synthetic indigo or “blous”. In the late 17th and early 18th century, Curaçao had a flourishing indigo industry. The natural “blous” was exported to Europe where it was used as a blue dye, and also to prevent discoloration of white laundry. In Curaçao, people kept and spread the African tradition surrounding “blous”, and used it for protection against evil. It is an example of the everyday spirituality that is present on the island. For centuries the colonizers and the church tried to ban these rituals. Today, younger generations show renewed interest in spiritual traditions and see them as meaningful elements of their identity.

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2:27 min

"My mother taught me this tradition, I will pass it on to my children and I hope it will live on for generations to come"

- Tiziana Penso

My name is Tiziana Penso. I’m 29 years old and I was born in Curaçao. When I think about blous I think about my family tradition. I know that blous was used originally to wash clothes with but my family didn’t use it that way. We use it to get rid of bad energy, jealousy, negative things that people can attract without knowing. Blous was used on me actually when I was a baby. When a baby is born and the parents go to a party or some other event where they know that a lot of people will be looking at the baby they use blous on the soles of the baby’s feet or on the back of its head. When you get back home you bathe your baby and you use a little bit of blous in the bathing water. That way you get rid of the negative energy or ‘oyada’ as we call it – anything that can be interpreted as negative for the child. And this is a tradition that I learned from my elders who learned it from their parents and from the generations before. My mother taught me this tradition, I will pass it on to my children and I hope it will live on for generations to come.


Yabinan

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This tin box with keys in it was a precious possession of the grandmother of Michèle Russel-Capriles. The Capriles, Henriquez, Alvarez Correa families are of Sephardic Jewish descent, and represent one of the many population groups that settled on the island throughout the centuries. The roots of the Jewish community of Curacao lie in Spain and Portugal. After having fled the Spanish inquisition in 1492 they ended up in Curaçao after wandering through the Netherlands and Brazil.

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2:27 min

"The reason they took their keys was either because they had hopes that they would come back and they would be able to reclaim their homes"

- Michèle Russel-Capriles

My name is Michèle Russel-Capriles, I brought today a small tin box full of keys. This is a tin box that I found in my grandmother’s belongings and I kept because there’s a legend behind her collection of keys. It’s a worldwide legend that the people in Spain when they were ousted before 1499 – they were ousted by the Inquisition, they were told to either convert to Catholicism or leave the country – the Jewish people in Salamanca, in Toledo, in various other cities in Spain decided to close up their houses and take their keys along with them. And the reason they took their keys was either because they had hopes that they would come back and they would be able to reclaim their homes or in any case if they were leaving they weren’t going to leave their keys for their oppressors to just take over their homes. So they took these keys with them and the feeling that I got after that was that my grandmother decided to take this to another level and kept all keys of all family members of all homes and everything that she could find throughout the years because I found hundreds and hundreds and hundreds of keys..


Manga

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This corn pestle was found on the former plantation of landhouse Girouette. It possibly shows a glimpse of what everyday life on the Curaçao plantations must have been like. Enslaved people performed heavy unpaid labor under difficult circumstances. Because of recurring droughts there was often a shortage of food. The most important source of food was the strong crop “maishi chikí”, or sorghum. After the abolition of slavery the plantations and the landhouses fell into disrepair. What remained was “maishi chikí”, which is still an important ingredient in the local cuisine. Chef Kris Kirindongo tells us how he uses the corn pestle.

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2:27 min

"For me cooking is not just something you do with your hands and a recipe. The feeling you put into it is very important for the taste."

- Kris Kirindongo

My name is Chris or I should say Kris Kirindongo. I am the leader of the Vittle art movement. The name Vittle Art comes from vittles which is an old word for everything that you can eat or drink and we present it in an artistic way.
Mortar and pestle are two of the most important elements of our traditional cuisine. I use them daily to crush garlic but also herbs for my seasoning. You can use the pestle to separate the sorghum from the head of the plant, then you have to crush it afterwards.
The pestle means more than something functional and physical. There is also an emotional side to it. For me cooking is not just something you do with your hands and a recipe. The feeling you put into it is very important for the taste.


Her’i strika

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Until well into the 20th century clothing irons were used to straighten hair in Curaçao. In that period straight hair was the beauty ideal on the island. The techniques to straighten hair developed into hot combs and the use of chemical straightening methods that changed the basic structure of the hair. In the late 1960s, hairstyles changed as Curaçao’s population started to embrace a more natural beauty standard. Nowadays young Afro-Curaçaoan women like Nathifa Martina still face a personal journey regarding the expression of beauty and identity through hairstyles.

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2:27 min

"From what I heard people would heat the iron and literally iron their hair."

- Nathifa Martina

My name is Nathifa Martina. My object is an antique clothing iron. From what I heard – not that I have done it myself nor that my mother has done it – but I heard that as a matter of fact people used iron, they would heat it and literally iron their hair. Me I have never straightened my hair. When I was about 14 years old my mother told me that we could go do a treatment that I think was called wetlook and that is as far as I went. There are various other options but I didn’t do any of them. And then when you’re old enough to make your own decisions you choose what to do with your hair. A lot of people who have straightened their hair in the past get to the point where they make a conscious decisions to go for the big chop where they cut it all off and start all over again. And then you let your hair grow, the natural way. And you embrace who you are. You accept your hair and you accept your identity. Not that you didn’t before but this is really a process of identity.


Benta

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Richard Doest is a Curaçaoan painter who also makes musical instruments such as the “benta”. When he was studying in Amsterdam, he became fascinated with his own Afro-Curaçaoan musical heritage. Many of Curaçao’s traditional instruments originated as practical tools for everyday life. The wood that is used for the “benta” needs to be bendable. In order to get the right branch you need to cut it during full moon, or otherwise it will not bend and will eventually break. The “benta” was used for a musical genre called “muzik di zumbi”. The word “zumbi” probably hails from the Ubundu people in Angola, where it means ‘spirit’.

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2:27 min

"The benta was derived from the hunting bow – so it goes back thousands and thousands of years – and has been preserved here on the island."

- Richard Doest

The benta is a unique instrument in the Caribbean. It came from Africa. Curaçao is one of the most developed islands in the Caribbean but on the other hand the benta which is a rudimentary instrument because it was derived from the hunting bow – so it goes back thousands and thousands of years – has been preserved here on the island. This shows just how complicated culture is and how people decide to hold on to certain things, store them, not tell anyone about it but keep it to themselves and so forth. The benta is part of the muzik di zumbi from the Bandariba region but a lot of times the person that plays benta just sits in the door of his house and plays for his own joy, not to impress people and to get applause. I was always intrigued by the benta. I lived in Holland for 11 years and then I saw a stamp with a man with a hat playing an instrument and I knew: this is the benta.


Ka’i orgel

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This wooden object with nails in it is the ‘music roll’ of a “ka’i òrgel”, a typical Curaçaoan musical instrument that looks like a combination between a cilinder piano and an organ. A wooden chamber amplifies the sound produced by a cilinder with thousands of nails. Every nail is placed with the utmost precision. Building a “ka’i orgel” requires a skill that only some instrument builders master. The nailed compositions are unique. The mix of European melodies (often walzes and mazurka’s composed by Chopin, Jewish harmonies, and African rhythms) has developed into a unique musical genre. It is dance music because music cannot exist in Curaçao without dance. The “kai orgel” is the center of many parties. Migali is the daughter of the best known “kai orgel” maker on the island and she tells us what the instrument means to her.

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2:27 min

"My father used to tell me that back in the days the kai orgel parties would last 2 days, these were some parties!"

- Migali Pinedo

I am Migali Pinedo, I am the youngest child of mr Serapio Pinedo. Next to me you can see a cylinder. A cylinder takes more or less 8000 nails. You have to remove the head of each one of them. With a nailer you stick a nail into one of the holes in the cylinder. In the end the cylinder will be full of nails and the nails together define the melody. So the cylinder is the main element of the kai orgel that carries the song of the kai orgel. My father used to tell me that back in the days the kai orgel parties would last 2 days, these were some parties! The kai orgel was especially popular among wealthy people. In time it spread across the island and came to areas like Bandabou where my father actually saw one when he was a little boy and said this is for me! He learned to make kai orgel all by himself. And it has been popular ever since.


Bala di beisbòl

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The people from Curaçao have baseball in their blood. Amazingly, this small island has the most big league players per capita of any country in the world. Players like Kenley Jansen, Andruw Jones, Ozzie Albies, Andrelton Simmons, Jonathan Schoop, Jurickson Profar and Didi Gregorius all made it into Major League Baseball. According to the two most common theories, Curaçao owes its baseball success to the local baseball fields, which are largely rock-strewn dirt lots and are therefore ideal for sharpening reflexes and building toughness, and the other explanation is that the Curacao players have a relatively high educational level and the ability to speak multiple languages. This makes it easier for them to adapt to the requirements of living and playing in the USA. The pioneer of Curaçao’s baseball miracle is Hensley Meulens. He was the first Curaçao-born MLB player, and later went on to become a very successful coach.

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2:27 min

"The sweet spot of the ball is the middle of the ball. Only one person is allowed to sign and thats the manager."

- Hensley Meulens


Penha

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Eunice Coffie has worked for local company “Penha” for 55 years, mostly in their historical shop in the Punda neighborhood. Her life is intertwined with this shop. The tiny house she holds in her hands is a replica of the monumental building made of Delft Blue pottery. KLM Airlines launched this collector’s item in 2004, to mark the 70th anniversary of the airlift between Amsterdam and Curaçao. The “Penha” building is one of the most striking monuments of Curaçao. One of its most intriguing aspects is not visible at first sight. The bricks that were used for this building in the early 18th century came to Curaçao as ballast in slave ships. In the 17th century Curaçao had become an important hub in the worldwide slave trade under Dutch rule. Traces of this history can be found everywhere, even in mundane objects such as a brick.

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2:27 min

"What always fascinated me the most is the fact that the building is located at the entrance of our harbor"

- Eunice Coffie

My name is Eunice Coffie. I was born and raised here in Curaçao. I am 72 years old and I just celebrated my 55th anniversary working for Penha. I am happy to work for this company, I’ve always enjoyed my work. I’ve met a lot of people throughout the years, many tourists, many people from abroad. What always fascinated me the most is the fact that the building is located at the entrance of our harbor, our beautiful, splendid harbor. Even the tourists like it! I started working at Penha at a very young age, even before the revolt of May 30th. And another thing that I like is that you can see the floating bridge, the pontoon bridge. This building is really the face of Curaçao. As soon as you enter the harbor you see it. It’s great to go on a boat trip through the harbor and just watch our beautiful Penha building.