Artistas

Nadine Salas

Nadine Salas currently works freelance as a photographer and webdesigner in the Netherlands as well in Aruba.

For more information, visit their web site at www.aruba-apart.nl

Rosabelle Illes

Rosabelle Illes, born on the 17th of October 1987, has been writing poetry since she was 6 years old. At that time, most of her poems were dedicated to family members and for special occasions. At the age of 12, she discovered spirituality and began to understand where her deeper writings came from. As she continued to develop herself spiritually she managed to form her first book titled ''Beyond Insanity''. A collection of writings beaming different vibrations and flowing on different frequencies. Respected Aruban artist, Nigel Matthew illustrated all of her poems giving ''Beyond Insanity'' the final touch of depth.

Rosabelle is currently working on her second book along with another young artist, Robin de Vogel, who will be illustrating her poems. Her new book is promisingly deeper and dedicates more time on emotions. Next to her poems, in her new book she also philosophizes on what's left when you erase layers from what we call an emotion; more importantly what this leftover means.

In 2006, Rosabelle completed her high school of Colegio Arubano with a VWO diploma. She plans to pursue her studies in parapsychology and spirituality in the states.

For more information contact: r_illes@hotmail.com
Visit their web site at www.rosabelleilles.com

Elvis Tromp

A self-taught Aruban-born painter and graphic designer.
 
Working mostly in oils, Elvis paints the charming Aruban landscapes that fascinate so many art lovers for over 3 decades.
Tromp has been painting Aruban landscapes in particular since he was a child and enjoys making each scene a personal interpretation. He also finds time to paint portraits of friends and family. Because Elvis is a self-taught artist, he had the opportunity to discover his environment, his style and technique in his own way. Although this was very hard and slow in the beginning, it was very positive and helped him working his way through life to become a respected and exhibited artist.
 
Elvis is now at a turning point in his career as an artist and wants to discover new horizons. He feels he has matured and is now more than ready to go abstract.
With his new direction, where the human figure is central, Elvis is working his way, searching, learning and experimenting, to a new level in his art.
 
e-mail address: elvishtromp@gmail.com
website: www.ElvisTromp.com

Jane Hochstuhl Getty

Jane Hochstuhl Getty grew up in the Dutch Antilles on the island of Aruba. The beauty of her island home and the colors of the Caribbean Sea captivated her imagination.

 
“I was a dreamer, constantly attempting to put my world on paper with crayons and paint. I was intrigued with the cliff formations, the waves pounding on the cliffs and then receding in a plume of white salty spray. My heaven was walking on the pristine beaches, with my dogs, collecting treasures the sea deposited at my feet. We rose early to see the sun rise from Colorado Point. I watched the fishermen go out to sea, mesmerized by their boats rising and disappearing in the waves. The Caribbean with its constantly changing color, and the wind in my face were exhilarating and inspiring.”
 
Jane went on to earn a Bachelor of Fine Arts at Ohio University. She taught art at the elementary and junior high levels in New Jersey and Texas before taking time out to raise four children and send them on their way in the world. She continues her work and study with noted area watercolorists. Her paintings have earned numerous prizes locally and regionally, and her Aruba works are well regarded and recognized on the island. “Painting is an elixir for me. Each painting is an adventure and an enlightening experience. It is a quest. I am still a dreamer.” Currently, Jane resides in Wayne, New Jersey, with her husband and two dogs. Her work includes florals, Jersey Shore and Cape Cod landscapes and seascapes, and many works from Aruba. Originals and fine museum grade giclee prints, which are signed and numbered, are available online.
 
For more information contact: Jg64aruba@msn.com
Visit her web site at www.GettyWatercolors.com

Eefje van Twillert

Is an artist living on the island of Aruba. Her work is well known among the locals and has a great popularity. Eefje works with different materials and styles yet somehow has a signature style of her own. Born on 12th of September 1946 in de town of Baarn in the Netherlands Eefje grew up in a family of 9 children. After finishing high school Mrs. Van Twillert completed her studies as a midwife. It was soon made clear that her capacities were more in the creative direction. Successfully the courses ‘creative art for youth leaders A & B’ were completed. These creative capacities were further developed by giving creative therapy at the psychiatric centre ‘Zon and Schild’ in Amersfoort, the Netherlands.

During this time period classes were taken in pottery, glazing, etc. and she was given the leadership position in a pottery centre in the above-mentioned centre. This was also the period where lessons with glassmaker Alex Luigjes in Amersfoort were followed for two years. In her marriage the artist raised five children, worked as a leader in various youth centres and camps and was the coordinator for the after-school program at “C.J. Washington” for a number of years. After 1994 she dedicated herself completely to her drawing and painting, as well as sculpting. Eefje her main inspiration comes from the nature of the Dutch Antilles. The greatness of Gods creation on so many levels. From the tiny sand grain to the big Caribbean Sea. This is what Eefje tries to capture.

For more information contact: eefje-art@live.nl
Visit her web site at www.eefje-art.com

Vanessa Paulina

To support her artistic endeavours, she also took classes in Caribbean History at Leiden University and a small business course at Atlas, Rotterdam. Vanessa works freelance as a stylist and designer besides her painting. Her career includes styling for several Dutch magazines such as BLVD and Dutch, fashion shows and videoclips for Hips and Delidel Touch. Also well known television drama series Westenwind and comedy show Raymann is laat. She also conducted workshops on painting and fashion, both in Aruba and the Netherlands. She's an autodidact painter.

 
For more information contact: wipstuff@vanessapaulina.com
Visit their web site at www.VanessaPaulina.com

Elvis Lopez

Elvis Lopez is an Aruban Artist. He studied Audiovisual Arts at the Gerrit Rietveld Academy in Amsterdam the Netherlands, from 1984 to 1989. He graduated Cum Laude from the Academy, in 1989. Thereafter he returned to Aruba and was appointed by the government as a coordinator of numerous projects, like for instance the Visual Arts Academy of Aruba, "Ateliers 89" a local experiment in the area of Art education in order to stimulate the Visual Arts in Aruba. Since 1985 he has exhibited works at several well respected galleries and museums in many countries.

 
For more information contact: elvistadios@hotmail.com
Visit their web site at www.musea.tv/elvis

Osaira Muyale

Osaira Muyale is a contemporary artist living and working in Aruba.

 

Osaira founded a studio gallery called “Eterno” and a foundation called Fundacion Eterno from 1993 thtough 2002. She has exhibited in Europe, the United States, Latin America and the Caribbean. Her work has been included in prestigious exhibitions such as the 6th International Bienniale of Havana, Cuba, Arte 99 of Curacao (grand award winner) and Acro Art Fair in 2001 Madrid.

 
In 2004, her work was be published in an Art History Book as part of a group of 20 contemporary woman artists living and working in the Caribbean. The book is being put together by the New York University Centre for Latin American and Caribbean Studies. Ms. Muyale's work is critically acclaimed and has received prizes not only from institutions in the region but continues to gather attention from the local, regional and international art critics and acclaimed art connoisseurs.
Osaira Muyale's Studio is part of her ongoing dedication and promise to interact with the community and her studio is a beacon of light to intellectuals and artists that live on the island. From there, she produces her work with international artists and local and regional educators reaching out to the community and continues to intrigue the public with her unique work.
 
For more information contact: osairamuyale@yahoo.com
Visit their web site at www.mocaom.net

Gustave Nouel

The mythical Orange Kingdom for many years has been an important inspiration source for Nouel. His painting “QUEEN BEATRIX IN PARADISE” reflects the local sun, sea and sand cliché, uniting Aruba to the Dutch Kingdom in the process. A special publication of step by step painting art lessons from Nouel titled “INSPIRED BY ARUBA” (and almost a love song to the beauty of Aruba!) has recently been published by Multi Media International. For years the artist painter has been giving special painting workshops inspired by Aruba, sharing his source of inspiration with the world. Gustave Nouel believes that Aruba is ready to inspire the rest of the world artistically, with a little help from the authorities.

In Aruba, Gustave was recognized as ARTIST OF THE YEAR and he earned a permanent place in THE HALL OF FAME, during his lifetime! Professional and hard working Aruba artist Nouel has had hundreds of exhibitions internationally. His art is found all over the world in part of many collections: Governments, Foundations, Museums and Cultural Centres, and Galleries as well as distinguished private and even royal collections. In the Dutch Pavilion at WORLD EXPO SEVILLA 92 in Spain, Nouel presented his Jazz Art. At Art Expo New York in 2000, he presented his New Biblical Art.
 
For more information contact: gustavenouel@orange.nl
Visit their web site at www.nouel.net

Andre Kock

At the age of 16, Andre Kock started to paint about his home island Aruba. He took lessons from local painters on Aruba and learned more about the distinct flora and fauna of his island.
 
Studying geography teacher in Holland broadened his interests in landscapes, and therefore started to paint more about the Aruban Landscape. Now 10 years later Andre is studying at Rotterdam Art&Styling academy to make a career of his favourite hobby. He is a painter of bright and lively colours inspired by the Carribbean, like the marvellous work entitled "Palm Beach, Aruba".
 
For more information contact: send2andre@gmail.com
Visit their web site at www.artscad.com/@/AndreKock

Elisa Lejuez Peters

Elisa Lejuez Peters born 15th of April 1973. From an early age on she did not have clothing without stains of paint on them. In 1991 she started studying at the Academy of Fine Arts in Arnhem, The Netherlands. Elisa graduated in 1996 and a year later she specialized in arts and textile at the Post Academy of Fine Arts in Arnhem. In 1997 Elisa got her Masters Degree in Arts.
 
Elisa's style is characterized by a striking use of colors, mixtures of acrylic paint and the technique of silk screen prints. You can see more of her colourful works at; Amazonia Restaurant, Lounge at Tierra Del Sol, Radisson Spa and Towers, Aruba bank at Camacuri en Central bank of Aruba. She also is very active in international expos.
 
For more information contact: elisa_lejuez@yahoo.com
Visit their web site at www.elisalejuez.com

Alydia Wever

Artistic Director/ Choreographer Alydia Wever is a native Aruban who is on the faculty along with her mother Diana, and sisters Pierangely and Astrid at the Skol Di Baile Diana Antonette in Aruba. She started at a very young age and has performed in different international festivals, dance projects, showcases, opening for exhibitions, music videos and dance concerts.
 
Alydia studied Dance and Musical Theater at The Boston Conservatory. In 2001 she presented her first Dance production 'Expresion 2001' in Cas Di Cultura, then she moved to New York City to do an Independent Study for three and a half years at the Alvin Ailey Dance School.
 
She performed in New York City with The Notario Dance Company under the direction of Brook Notary. Alydia also performed with Nathan Trice / Rituals in New York and in Aruba with the troupe in 2004 and 2006. In 2004 she presented her second Dance production 'Energia Interno' at Access Art Gallery and Cas Di Cultura. After that same month 'Energia Interno' was invited at the Luna Blou Theater in Curacao. Since then she has been choreographing, performing, producing and traveling to Curacao and Bonaire. Her work has been performed by students from Curacao for The Queen Beatrix from Holland. In 2006 Fusion #297 with other choreographies have been performed for the Queen Beatrix of Holland in Aruba.
Alydia was invited to perform Lugarnan Bashi and Fusion#297 with Aruba Dance Theater in the International Dance Festival in New York City at The Dicapo Opera Theater.
 
Alydia is working on her next production which wil be presented next year in March of 2008. It will be an integration of all the different disciplines in the Arts together with 17 Male Artists.
 
For more information contact: alydia11@hotmail.com
Visit their web site at www.wevercollective.com

Ryan Daniel Oduber

Ryan Daniel Oduber, a young Aruban contemporary artist and designer, has contributed to the Aruban arts & culture in many ways. This Master of Fine Arts graduate artist of the prestigious Sandberg Institute in Amsterdam, Holland, has represented Aruba in many foreign countries including, The Netherlands (Amsterdam), Germany (Magdenburg & Berlin), Portugal (Lisbon), United States (Washington DC & New York), Mexico (Merida), Costa Rica (San Jose), Cuba (Havana), Dominican Republic (St. Domingo & Santiago de los Caballeros), Venezuela (Maracaibo) etc.
 
He is back in Aruba to teach, organize exhibitions, make artistic video documentaries and make interactive websites. This year he started a new foundation for New Media Arts called www.cultura.tv. He has put together a fantastic team to work with the Aruban youth to explore the Aruban culture and focusing on New Media Arts. Together with Leopold Laclé, a young IT Specialist, they are handing out an interactive video based platform for youth in connection to Arts & Music through the site www.sve.tv (Suave TV). Ryan has won prizes through the arts and got awarded for an artistic children's website on how to cope with grief.
 
For more information contact: ryan@ryanoduber.com
Visit their web site at www.ryanoduber.com

STAN KUIPERI

Stan Kuiperi (Aruba, 1954) is a visual artist and an Art Education teacher residing on Aruba, Dutch Caribbean. From 1972, he studied art and art education in Puerto Rico, the USA and later in the Netherlands with a Sticusa scholarship. He graduated from both the S.O.L., Utrecht, in 1980, and the Academie voor Beeldende Vorming, Tilburg, 1982. He then lived and exhibited in France with his wife, international dancer/choreographer Wilma Jansen, before returning to Aruba in 1985.
 
After his return he pioneered the development of contemporary abstraction in local and Caribbean art, while at the same time innovating the visual arts in national education and in community development as a full-time Art Education teacher and through his Aruba International Arts Foundation. His abstract paintings, exhibited for more than 25 years by invitation in diverse local shows, international museums, galleries, corporate and private collections and international biennials, have greatly contributed to the development of the younger generation of local artists and the local public awareness and appreciation of the visual arts.
 
His work is characterized mostly by the abstracted, Aruban landscape as a central theme. Stan Kuiperi has successfully explored the landscape as metaphor for the human existence on Earth. The precarious relation between humankind and its natural environment, the passing of time and the ambiguity of space make up the essential elements in his work.
 
His abstraction allows for a highly personal, transcendental and spiritual interpretation of our collective histories and our individual destinies, and is a continuing exploration of Paul Gauguin's interrogative: D'ou Venons Nous? Que Sommes Nous? Ou Allons Nous?
 
For more information contact: stankuiperi@gmail.com
Visit their web site at www.stankuiperi.com

RUTHY VRIESWIJK-BERGEN

Splashes of beauty caress my soul…Expressions of love overflow…I am blessed!
Shine Aruba Shine

Ruthy Vrieswijk-Bergen, also known as Lady Ruth, is well-known throughout Aruba for her poetry writing and recital. Her expressive paintings are full of life, color and fantasy. 

Born and raised in Aruba, Ruthy has represented her country with her art and poetry - at special functions and official government events. In 2006, she wrote and published her first book entitled Mi bida den un dia den silencio (My life in a day... In silence), a collection of short biographical stories and poems. She has written hundreds of poems for friends and family as gifts for special occasions. In 2001, True Friendship won a prize at a convention of the International Society of Poets, held in Orlando, Florida. She has published six different CDs with poems in Papiamento; one has poems in English and Dutch as well. 

Her painting style has been influenced by Aruban artists such as Hubert Booi, Gustave Nouel, Elvis Tromp and Edmund Tujeehut. She has participated in group expositions at the Institute of Culture, Toyota Art Gallery, University of Aruba and National Library; in 2006, she held a solo exposition of Paintings, Pictures and Poetry entitled Soul Stirring Mood Swings; in 2009, her second solo exposition was entitled Never too old for fun. On her weekly radio program on Radio Kelkboom (106.7 FM) every Saturday from 2 - 3pm, Ruthy recites her poetry in four languages, conducts interviews with others in the arts, and plays a wide range of music.

Ivan Jansen

Ivan Jansen is a versatile guitarist with a jazz and classical music background. He has produced 2 solo classical guitar CD’s (Con Alma I and Con Alma II) featuring world renown compositions and his own compositions. He has also produced two jazz and Caribbean jazz fusion CD’s (Versatility and Jazz at the Divi Links). As a classical guitarist, he has performed solo classical guitar concerts and has formed part of orchestras, such as the Amsterdam Symphony Orchestra and Symphony of the Americas. As a jazz guitarist, he has performed with his jazz bands in many jazz festivals in the region. He is currently playing with his Jazz Trio at Mulligans at the Divi Links on Fridays and Saturdays and at the Divi Hotel on Sundays. He performs with his classical guitar on Thursdays at the Windows Restaurant at the Divi Links. Ivan Jansen is a graduate of the Berklee College of Music in Boston. Connect with Ivan Jansen on Facebook.

Bernadina Growell

Just as Padu-featured in January's icon profile-is considered the Father of Aruban Culture, Bernardina Growell is known as the Mother of Aruban Culture. The title is a prestigious one to live up to, but Bernadina does it flawlessly-and humbly.
 
Bernadina was born in 1939 in a neighborhood of Aruba called Brazil. She hails from a large, musically talented family, so it is no surprise that Bernadina began dabbling in music at an early age. When she was 12 years old, Bernadina began singing with her cousins at family get-togethers. She also began to play the accordion and piano, and taught herself how to play the guitar and her all-time favorite instrument, the cuarta (a special four-stringed Aruban guitar).

When she was in school, Bernadina began composing her own songs and was part of a comedy group. When she finished school, she formed a duo with her sister Maria, and they performed their own pieces accompanied by the Trio Brazil band.

In 1955, Bernadina, at the age of 16, founded the Trio Las Campiranas, an all-girl band made up of Bernadina, her sister Anna, and Lucresia Stamper. They composed their own songs and interpreted popular international songs. Their first presentation was on Radio Kelkboom, and later, their songs were played on Voz di Aruba (Aruba's Voice) and Radio Antillana. In 1963, the Trio presented a sold-out show in Bonaire.
 
Bernadina was a member of several other music groups as well: Estrella de Oro, Folklorico Arubano, and Grupo Amistad. Throughout her prolific musical career, Bernadina composed over 700 songs, many of which can still be heard on the radio today. Many of her songs were written for special occasions such as Mother's Day, Carnaval, and religious holidays. Bernadina composed a great deal of tumba music for the Tumba Festival of Aruba. She also composed songs for Sensacion del Caribe, a group whose manager and singer was her husband, Cecil Grovell.
 
Other singers-from Aruba, Curacao, and Bonaire-were constantly approaching Bernadina to perform her songs. Sensacion del Caribe, Grupo Maya, Ruben Lobo y su Orquesta, and Rudy Plaate even recorded her songs on disk. Bernadina has her own LP called Un Sonjo (translated, A Dream), which commemorates 30 years of her musical career.

In addition to songs from a variety of genres-waltz, tumba, calypso, and slow rock-the LP also includes Bernadina's favorite song, "Un Sonjo," the first song she ever wrote. Most recently, in 2004, a CD featuring Bernadina's vocals accompanied by Alma Folklorico became available to the public. The Mother of Aruban Culture did not earn her name for her musical contributions alone; Bernadina was also a member of various comedy groups. In 1995, she performed on stage for the first time. She worked alongside comedians such as Edwin Wouter, Vale Croes, and Percy Yeandor.
 
Today, Bernadina is busy spreading the Aruban culture she helped to create to her fellow Arubans and island guests. She works a lot with children, teaching them Aruban songs and Aruban history. She is also involved with the Bon Bini Festival, an event which welcomes visitors to the Island and showcases steel-drum music, Antillean dancers, Aruban-made artwork, local foods, and plenty to drink. The festival is held every Tuesday evening (6:30 to 8:30 PM) throughout the year at Fort Zoutman in downtown Oranjestad. If you go, perhaps you'll be lucky enough to run into Bernadina, one of Aruba's most celebrated cultural icons.

Astrid Salazar

Es difícil imaginar a alguien tan amable y encantador como Astrid Salazar fue durante el apogeo de sus años como profesora de danza. Ella confirma, con un poco de risa entre los dientes, que de hecho le pasó de todo.Desde la pérdida de un par de aretes durante un espectáculo, hasta lo menos perfecto señalando la punta de los pies. Pero Astrid está segura que sus estudiantes le agradecerán algún día por la disciplina y otros recios valoresque ella les ha inculcado.  Los estudiantes le pueden agradecer por el incansable trabajo que ha hecho trayendo el mundo de la danza a la pequeña isla de Aruba y ponerla a disposición de todos.Ella en realidad es la pionera de la danza en Aruba.

Astrid nació en Curazao en el seno de una familia de artistas que incluye músicos, pintores y  una madre costurera que fabricaba sus trajes de baile. Cuando las esposas de los oficiales Holandeses empezaron a enseñar danza a los chicos interesados la hermana de Astrid empezó a tomar clases de ballet, y la madre de Astrid la animó a unirse, pero ella se negó rotundamente. Un día cedió y fue a ver una clase e inmediatamente quedo enamorada. A los 13 años, empezó la pasión de Astrid.

En 1957, fue premiada con una beca escolar – la primera de su clase- para estudiar danza en el Rotterdam Dance Academy en Holanda.Después una increíble oportunidad se manifestó en si misma: la renombrada bailarina y coreógrafa Katherine Dunham, invito a la joven Astrid de 18 años a hacer parte de su compañía.Al día de hoy, Astrid está inmensamente agradecida por el honor de haber tenido a Katherine como su mentora de baile. Después de ganar una experiencia invaluable con la compañía de Dunham, Astrid regresó a la academia para terminar sus estudios en pedagogía de danza.

Astrid retornó de Holanda a Curazao, pero luego lo dejo para establecerse en Aruba, donde ella rápidamente se casó y tuvo un hijo. Hasta entonces la educación entorno a la danza no existía en absoluto en la isla, fue cuando en 1964, el Centro de Cultura de Aruba, hoy Casa de la Cultura, fundó la escuela de danza, y le pidieron a Astrid que se encargara de ella.
Ahí es cuando el trabajo real de Astrid comenzó, ella no esta satisfecha solo con aceptar los niños de familias de clases altas en la escuela, sino que se aseguró que todos los Arubianos tuvieran la oportunidad de unirse a la escuela. También salió en televisión educado a ala gente acerca de la danza, su historia, su importancia, y su nueva presencia en la isla. Empezó  a hacer presencia en varios distritos de la isla - Santa Cruz, Noord, San Nicolás, Savaneta y Paradera— para enseñar danza y animar a los chicos a unirse a la escuela, y a sus familias a venir al teatro del centro cultural para disfrutar de las presentaciones artísticas. Por lo tanto, Astrid jugó un tremendo rol en la ampliación y diversificación del Centro de Cultura difundiendo el interés por las artes en toda la isla.

A medida que más estudiantes se unían, Astrid se dio cuenta que no se necesitan pisos para aprender a bailar correctamente. Entonces ella peleó por conseguir su propio estudio y eventualmente consiguió uno justo al lado del teatro de la Casa de la Cultura. Bajo su firme liderazgo, otro estudio, el Skol di Arte, fue abierto en San Nicolás. Entre 1964 y 1974, La permanente diligencia de Astrid ayudó a incrementar la inscripción de la escuela de danza de 50 a 800 estudiantes. Seguramente esto fue una verdadera hazaña.
En 1975, justo en la época cuando el Betico Croes representaba el orgullo de Aruba, alentando a sus compatriotas a descubrir su propia identidad con Aruba. Astrid decidió abrir su propia escuela de danza Simadanza, donde ella aún enseña. La filosofía de la escuela está reflejada en su nombre, mientras Simadan significa “Fiesta de la Cosecha” en Curacao, los estudiantes son animados a sembrar la semilla del trabajo duro, crecer y desarrollar y luego celebrar la fiesta de la cosecha a través de las presentaciones.

Aunque Simadanza ofrece clases de ballet, jazz y danza moderna. Esta oferta de bailes en la danza típica folclórica ha ayudado mucho a establecer la identidad del pueblo Arubiano. Por supuesto,estos estilos de danza—mazurka, waltz, dansa y tumba— fueron alterados de su forma original, Astrid se refiere a ella como el folclor contemporáneo.Además de la escuela, Astrid inició una compañía de danza contemporánea para todos los al redores de la isla a audiencias locales y de los hoteles. De hecho, la compañía de Astrid fue el primer grupo local al que se le pidió presentarse en el Hotel Americana. Con trajes folclóricos, bailando con las danza típica de Aruba, la compañía de Astridcautivó a la audiencia y les dio una pequeña dosis de la cultura de la Aruba genuina.Unas pocas audiencias internacionales fueron lo suficientemente afortunadas de ser testigo de las creaciones del grupo. La compañía de Astridse presentó en el escenario del Radio City Music Hall en la ciudad de Nueva York City y fue el hincapié ara su presentación en el show de medio tiempo del Superbowl en Miami en 1979.

Es claro que Astrid Salazar ha dedicado la mayor parte de su vida a ayudar a la gente de Aruba desarrollando su cultura a través de la danza. Quizá lo más importante, ella realizó un increíble esfuerzo para envolver a la comunidad entera de Arubadentro de este proceso. Astrid indudablemente merece el honor de ser llamada un ícono de Aruba.

Aphonso “Buchi” Boekhoudt

Aruba’s music scene is dynamic and diverse, with islanders joyfully embracing everything from Caribbean-influenced genres like steel pan and reggae to Latin jazz and Latin Top 40 to good old rock-n-roll from the USA and Europe. But attend a national holiday celebration like Flag Day, Betico Croes Day, or a Dera Gai event and it is likely the “tingilingi” sounds of the caha di orgel playing a traditional Aruban waltz or tumba that you will hear.

Referred to as a music box, a barrel organ, a cylinder piano, street organ, or a crank-operated piano, here on Aruba, tingilingi box seems just as good a name as any. Although the sounds of this musical box can still send warm waves of nostalgia running through the veins of Aruba’s older generations, and it is still heard at weddings and the occasional birthday party, some fear the younger generation here, who has a current love affair with reggaeton, rap, and hip hop, may be tuning out an important part of the island’s musical history.

But not if Aphonso “Buchi” Boekhoudt can help it. Living in the community of Paradera in a modest cunucu home with a tin roof, this self-taught musician and master craftsman of caha di orgels is sharing his knowledge with many of Aruba’s budding musicians. In fact, Buchi has been donating his time and skills to the preservation of this musical art form for the past 43 years.

“When I was younger, I went with my sister to one of her dance recitals. For some reason, I was entranced by the man playing the caha di orgel. At that time, he was probably the only one on the island playing this instrument, and I thought, what will happen when he dies? Who will carry on this tradition?” recalls Buchi.

He was actually more interested in learning how to repair and even make these street organs from scratch then playing them. At that time, a well-known Aruban musician, Rufo Wever, was the only one on the island with knowledge on how to build a caha di orgel. “Rufo was a busy man, and was not interested in wasting his time on teaching me, a man who couldn’t even read musical notes, the complicated process,” explains Buchi. Since there was no one to show him the way, he taught himself. “It was a gift from God,” he says, “that I could figure out how to do this on my own, I truly believe it was a gift.”

In 1965 Buchi completed his first caha di orgel. “One night I took it over to Rufo Wever’s neighbourhood and played it outside his house. He came out on the porch, listened, and just gave me a slight nod of approval and went back inside,” says Buchi with amusement still in his eyes while recalling the memory.
 
The complicated process involves arranging music for the caha di orgel in advance (by the way, Buchi says he only took a few formal music lessons—he plays the guitar—and has his own version of music notes that he uses when he composes). The process then requires wrapping a paper with the pre-determined notes around a wooden barrel, and placing metal pins into the wooden barrel based on the notes (Buchi writes the melody in advance, but the bass and accompaniment come “from his head” while he is placing the pins). The metal pins will move the appropriate strings, which will then pull wooden hammers down on the pre-determined notes to create a song when someone cranks the handle that turns the barrel. Most of Buchi’s organs have three barrels that play three songs each. Each of these songs can be played as a waltz, by cranking the handle at a slower pace, or as a tumba, by turning at a faster pace.

To date, Buchi has crafted 18 caha di orgels, and has another two under production. The entire process takes anywhere from six to eight months. The craftsman also repairs old boxes, and has worked on many sent to him for repair from around the Dutch Caribbean.
 
That Buchi is a rarity for his skills and knowledge in creating and repairing these intricate music boxes is worthy of praise, but it is his unselfish devotion to preserving an important part of Aruba’s culture that really sets him apart: the majority of the caha di orgels crafted by Buchi were done so at no charge, including one he made for the local Fundacion Desaroyo Educativo Communitario (Foundation for Communal Education Growth). He also teaches weekly lesson to Aruba’s youth at a nominal charge.
 
“I am a poor man but a happy man - it’s only natural that I should share my gift with future generations to carry on Aruba’s caha di orgel.”

MAYBELLLINE ARENDS CROES

Helping to define Aruba's cultural identity for the past 40 years... and counting.

 
Ever since she was a little girl, Maybelline Arends- Croes found herself surrounded by music. During Sunday visits to her grandparents' house, Maybelline's grandfather—known as “Motito” by fellow musicians and friends—would wield his violin and serenade his family gathered around him. Maybelline recalls drumming her hands on the nearest table or finding some other makeshift instrument in order to accompany her grandfather. Her parents furthered her interest in music when they gave her a cuarta—a traditional Aruban four-stringed guitar—when she was eight years old. She would sit and pluck the strings for hours until she could replicate the tunes her grandfather played by heart. A year later, she broadened her musical repertoire by taking up piano and voice lessons.
 
Both Maybelline's father, who played the trombone, and her mother, the daughter of the legendary Motito, supported their daughter's love affair with music at a time when most parents urged their children to study disciplines such as engineering or medicine. Encouraged by this support to pursue her true passion, Maybelline decided to study in Holland to be a music teacher after graduating from secondary school at Colegio Arubano.

Fives years later, with her university degree in hand, Maybelline returned to Aruba, where she would play an important role in enriching the cultural life of the Island. On September 1, 1968, almost 40 years ago, Maybelline started teaching music at her alma-mater, Colegio Arubano, where she has been acquainting students with the many different sounds of music ever since. Of course, she finds it challenging to interest students in music that isn't typically heard on the radio or downloaded onto I-Pods. But she believes in the motto, “You like what you hear,” and so exposes her students to Latin, classical, calypso, international, and Aruban folkloric music as much as possible.
 
One year after she started teaching at Colegio Arubano, Maybelline also began working at the teacher's training school—today, known as IPA—where she played an important role in preparing others to teach music. Furthermore, Maybelline served as a UNOCA member for six years and taught for the Skol di Musica Arubano for many years. Maybelline is especially proud of her efforts to introduce the children of Aruba's various districts to music. She would travel to Savaneta, Santa Cruz, and other communities to teach music to children who didn't have the opportunity to attend the music school in Oranjestad.
 
For many years, Maybelline has directed two choirs on the Island: a church choir called “Melange” and a children's choir called “Coro Tutti Frutti.” Both choirs perform extensively and have even performed for Queen Beatrix. Under Maybelline's direction, Tutti Frutti had the special honor of singing the national anthem, “Aruba Dushi Tera,” during the inaugural celebration of Aruba's National Day (Dia di Himno y Bandera) on March 18, 1976. Additionally, Maybelline has served for 20 years on the commission that prepares the annual celebration of Himno y Bandera on the Island.

In addition to assisting with various music festivals and serving on the jury for a handful of song festivals, Maybelline teaches private lessons in piano, guitar, cuarta, and singing, providing yet another way to help drive the cultural arts on the Island. Maybelline has always felt most comfortable sharing her talents through teaching rather than by being onstage herself. She is especially proud when one of her own students excels musically. For example, two of her past students—Rose Marie Provence and Jane Lanooij-de Cuba—are now both music teachers themselves. Johnny Scharbaay, Maybelline's very first student, is now an accomplished pianist on the Island.
 
Although Maybelline is planning on retiring from Colegio Arubano soon, she will never retire from music entirely. Of course, she will continue working with her two choirs and will also continue giving private music lessons. Furthermore, she plans to devote a lot more time to her newest project: writing and publishing her own compositions, including Christmas songs, Mother's Day songs, church songs, and patriotic songs, but mostly children's songs, which are Maybelline's forte. Maybelline also wants to write the undocumented music that has been composed by others on Aruba over the past several decades. For example, she plans to write the music that her grandfather only ever played by heart (he never actually read music himself). Maybelline plans to publish these compositions in music books, an undertaking that will help to preserve Aruba's musical history for the Island's current and future generations to enjoy.
 
Maybelline knows that her work is appreciated, especially when her youngest students tell her that they want to be music teachers just like her one day. Maybelline values this feedback, just as the Island values Maybelline's many contributions to its cultural development. This year, during the Year of Culture, we honour Maybelline and celebrate her contributions.

ARMINDA FRANKEN RUIZ

In 1993, the initiative to relocate and expand the Archaeological Museum of Aruba was set into motion. Fifteen years later, the new Archaeological Museum of Aruba resides majestically in downtown Oranjestad on Schelpstraat, where it stokes the community's anticipation of the installation of its opening exhibition. A highly devoted team—as well as funding from the Aruban government, UNOCA, and the European Development Fund—is responsible for the construction of the beautiful cluster of buildings that constitute the museum, but a project of this magnitude also requires a leader of the highest caliber. Arminda Franken-Ruiz, the museum's manager and project leader, is in fact that individual who orchestrated the addition of a new cultural experience to the heart of “old” Oranjestad.
 
With an academic background in both geology and law, Arminda—known as Vivi among her family, friends, and colleagues—entered the cultural arena of Aruba when she started working for the Archaeological Museum of Aruba (then situated in front of the Protestant Church) as a scientific collaborator in 1990.She had the intention of only staying at the museum for about one year or so, but she simply got hooked on the work and continued until the present day. During the first six to seven years of working with the museum, Vivi completed a good deal of field work as well as other tasks, but her most important role at the museum has been progressing the museum relocation project. Vivi carried out this role under the tutelage of the former museum director, Evelino Fingal, until he took on other challenges in 2000, at which point Vivi became the leading force behind the project.
 
Of course, collecting the funds needed to execute such an ambitious project was no easy feat. Vivi never imagined she would be able to summon up the required monetary amount to support the project, but years of writing proposals among other tireless efforts paid off in the form of funds totalling approximately 12 million guilders. So it is only fitting that Vivi feels great pride when she approaches the new museum, her “baby,” on her walk to work every morning.
 
Along with her colleagues, whom she applauds for their invaluable efforts in bringing the project to fruition, Vivi is now focused on fabricating the permanent and temporary exhibits for the opening of the museum scheduled for the end of this year. After this goal is met, work on a restaurant, souvenir shop, and library will begin. These additions should be installed sometime next year.

Vivi explains that the demand for the museum is coming from three different parties: the local community, the education sector, and the tourism sector. A challenge exists in tailoring the exhibitions to appeal to each of these groups. But the biggest challenge lies in creating an exhibition that piques the curiosity of the younger generation. Vivi is well-aware of the stodgy impression that young people have of museums. Therefore, she is dedicated to deconstructing this impression by rejecting glass showcases, espousing thematic exhibits that young people can relate to rather than chronological exhibitions, and installing integrative technology. Hiring young people for the museum team will help make certain that the exhibitions stimulate younger minds. Vivi also envisions after-school programs and vacation programs wherein students will have the opportunity to be active (sifting projects, etc.) rather than be subjected to lectures. Creating a family experience at the museum is yet another focus of Vivi and her crew.
 
The opening of the new Archaeological Museum of Aruba will play a great role in helping to enrich the cultural life of the Island, indeed. Its construction also plays a role in the revamping of “old” Oranjestad, an ongoing project that will help to restore an important part of Aruba's history. Vivi is so grateful to be such an instrumental part of this project, and Aruba is certainly grateful for Vivi's dedication to the preservation of Aruba's cultural heritage.

ERNESTO ROSENSTAND

Although born in Santa Marta, Colombia, Ernesto Rosenstand has lived in Aruba since he was 11 years old. Playing soccer and baseball as a young boy, Ernesto quickly picked up the Papiamento language. In 1950, Ernesto finished secondary school, where he impressed teachers with his writing talent. Several years later, around 1956, he began teaching elementary school; soon after, he was hired to teach Spanish and Papiamento at the secondary-school level. Ernesto's teaching career was especially noteworthy since he was one of the first Aruban teachers hired on the Island (until then, all teachers were Dutch).
 
During Ernesto's years of teaching, he became the go-to guy for help in translating written works. Groups began asking him to translate plays from Dutch or Spanish into Papiamento. He even started writing his own plays: Ernesto wrote three plays in Papiamento—including a play called Macuarima—for Aruba's theater group, Mascaruba.
 
In 1970, while serving as the inspector of education for the Netherlands Antilles, Ernesto had the opportunity to meet a Colombian playwright who invited Ernesto to Colombia to learn more about a style of theatre performance being developed there called working theatre. Most of the plays that Ernesto had worked on in Aruba were based on comedy. However, plays performed on the working-theatre stage were more serious in nature, exploring social problems such as alcoholism and abortion. Ernesto was greatly inspired by the depth of these plays and returned to Aruba with these new ideas. In the same year, Ernesto founded his own theatre group, Teatro Experimental Arubano (TEA), which performed plays in the working-theatre style. For TEA, Ernesto wrote six one-act plays and three full-length plays. In addition to TEA, Ernesto also initiated a children's theatre group, called Chi cu Cha, which celebrated the three arts of theatre, music, and dance. Although it is no longer functioning, there has been recent interest in reviving the group.

Ernesto has influenced Aruba's culture as a teacher, translator, and playwright, but also as a writer of books. In fact, Ernesto is a prolific writer, whose works can be found at the library here in Aruba. He wrote two Spanish books and Companashi, a book about growing up in the Companashi neighbourhood in Aruba, for secondary-school students; Cuentanan Arubano, E Sono di Wawa, and Wawa den Mondi for elementary-school children; Tur Cos A Keda Atras for adult readers; and other works including poetry for all audiences. Additionally, UNESCO published a collection of Ernesto's various works in a book called Shinishi di Olvido.
 
For the past two and a half years, Ernesto has also served as a contributing writer for Bon Dia Aruba, one of Aruba's local newspapers. Once a week, Ernesto fills two pages of the newspaper with fragments of his books, mini Papiamento grammar lessons, lists of words that are disappearing from the Papiamento language, and typical Aruban expressions.
 
Although Ernesto is a humble man, with some urging, he admits that his greatest contribution to the Island has been his help in developing the various professional guilds on Aruba. So skilled in the Papiamento language, Ernesto was hired to teach Papiamento to various groups such as the police force, employees of KIA, customs officers, physicians, and teachers. Ernesto recalls how many of these Dutch professionals initially claimed that it was impossible for a Colombian to adequately teach Papiamento. Ernesto's response was simply, “Let's try.” Try he did, and he succeeded.
 
Today, in addition to writing for Bon Dia Aruba, Ernesto gives private Papiamento lessons to Dutch doctors. In other words, he continues to help buttress and spread Aruba's unique local language, ultimately helping to maintain the integrity of the Island's rich cultural heritage.

CARMEN HERRERA

Una vez, mientras oía por primera vez las canciones de The Sound of Music como una pequeña niña, este ícono de Aruba, se enamoró de la música, el baile y el teatro. Una pasión que nació como futo a su vocación de servir a la gente de Aruba y rescatar el patrimonio cultural de la Isla por 35 años. Conozca a Carmen Herrera.

Carmen empezó a trabajar en Teatro en 1975 cuando se hizo miembro del Grupo de Teatro de Aruba, dirigido por Burny Every. Su trabajo se hizo más serio entre 1981 y 1983 por su participación en muestras callejeras haciendo alerta a los problemas sociales y alentando al público a proponer soluciones para cada problema. En los siguientes años, su carrera como actriz floreció y viajo con diferentes festivales de teatro a otros países como Noruega, Holanda y Trinidad.

Pero quizás la más grande contribución de Carmen a las artes de Aruba fue la fundación de su compañía de teatro infantil, Grupo Teatral Kibrahacha, en 1986. El objetivo de Carmen fue traer a niños, jóvenes y adultos al teatro para entretenerlos pero especialmente para educarlos y sensibilizarlos en torno a los problemas sociales como el embarazo adolescente, abuso infantil y el abuso verbal y físico. A la fecha, Carmen ha escrito y dirigido 12 de sus propias obras y la adaptación de 3 musicales.

Su adaptación del musical “Las aventuras de la araña Nanci” fue el primer musical presentado por Carmen el cual incluía canciones compuestas por la misma Carmen. Estas canciones interpretadas por el coro de niños Tutti Frutti bajo la dirección Maybelline Arends-Croes— con las cuales grabó un álbum. Este fue el primer disco producido en Papiamento con niños.

En 1987, Carmen presentó “La Recompensa”—un musical acerca del amor a los animales, el entendimiento y la confianza—en Aruba, Curacao y Bonaire. En 1996, el Grupo Teatral Kibrahacha fue invitado a presentar su obra en Japón como parte del International Children's Toyama World Festival of Children's Theatre. La banda Sonora de la obra fue grabada en un álbum y casete, y la obra como tal, fue publicada también en 2000. Además en 2000, Carmen y Kibrahacha fueron invitados nuevamente a Japón, esta vez para el International Amateur Theater Association, para presentar una adaptación de “Blanca Nieves y los siete enanitos”—llamada Morenita—en el World Children's Theatre Festival.

“La Herencia” un musical educativo fue escrito y presentado por Carmen en 1994 a petición de la Fundación de Planificación Familiar. La obra trataba el tema del abuso infantil, y lo más importante, su prevención. En 1996, el Cuota Club de Aruba le pidió a Carmen escribir una obra callejera acerca de embarazo adolescente. El resultado atrajo gran cantidad de audiencia tanto de Oranjestad como de San Nicolás. Un año después, siguió desarrollando el tema del embarazo en jóvenes con su trabajo en la producción: Why Me and Not You? (¿por qué yo y no tú?)

Como se mencionó anteriormente, solo algunas obras fueron escritas y dirigidas por Carmen. Como se ha señalado, muchas de estas fueron creadas como solicitud de varias organizaciones que trabajan por el bienestar social de la Isla. Estas organizaciones han confiado en que el mensaje de Carmen se pueda regar a toda la gente de Aruba, especialmente a los niños. Hoy en día hay una fuerte necesidad de dar a conocer el tema del embarazo adolescente y Carmen ha sido la encargada de llenar esta necesidad. Esta importante contribución fue recientemente destacada con la entrega a Carmen del premio  del Teatro Nacional de Aruba de parte de la United National Scientific Cultural Organization y del Departamento de Cultura de Aruba en marzo pasado.
 
Además de su trabajo en teatro, Carmen ha publicado su propia colección de poemas, al mismo tiempo que fundó el coro de niños, Coro Kibrahacha. Ahora se encuentra jubilada después de muchos años de trabajo como profesora de escuela, sin embargo, se mantiene activa con su grupo de teatro y  más adelante le gustaría dirigir un coro de adolescentes. Parece que Carmen nunca se cansará de trabajar con los niños, lo cual es una fortuna para la gente de Aruba ya que se han visto beneficiados por su continua devoción por el bienestar y el significado artístico.

PADU DEL CARIBE

“In the old days, there wasn’t much entertainment,” recalls Aruba’s musical legend, “so getting together with friends and playing music was what we did.” Juan Chabaya Lampe, known affectionately by his stage name, Padu del Caribe, has been making music since his father taught him to play the piano, as well as other instruments like the clarinet and violin, as a child in the 1920’s.

 
Fast approaching his 90th birthday, the twinkle in his eye is most certainly still there, as is his passion for his music, art, the written word, and his dushi tera, Aruba. Still eager and open to share his story, I sat down with Padu on his front porch in the heart of Oranjestad one morning for lessons in life, love, and art.
 
“It was a small studio in a house with what, at the time, we considered a professional recorder,” shares Padu about what was perhaps the turning point from playing for fun on the island to sharing his unique musical style with the rest of the Caribbean. “My good friend, Rufo Wever, and I recorded our songs with our own style and shared them with the island,” he adds. That unique style, a hybrid of the Aruban waltz, tumba, danza, and mazurka, would soon become linked in musical history as distinctly Aruban.

“I made my first professional record in Caracas, Venezuela in 1955... I had taken my daughter, Vivian, there for 3 weeks for therapy she needed with an eye specialist. A friend that was living there, who had heard me play while in Aruba, convinced me to go to a recording studio there,” recalls Padu. The producers were enthralled with his variation of a popular song, “Diablo Suarte,” and recorded it onto vinyl.
 
“I came back home to Aruba and actually didn’t think much of that first record... I hadn’t heard from them in weeks. But then one day I was in my car listening to my favourite radio station out of Caracas, and there was my voice—they were playing my version of “Diablo Suerte” on the radio! I just could not believe my ears... and they were commenting on that radio station about my original style and encouraged everyone to go out and buy it.”
 
That first record sold all 60,000 copies that were made, and Padu received an honorary miniature gold piano by a popular Venezuelan television show that frequented as a guest. Aruba was now on the Caribbean’s musical map and, while not as widespread and mainstream as salsa and meringue, the musical styling of Padu was bending quite a few ears.

Original Padu compositions were requested, and a 14-hour studio session at the RCA studios in Caracas netted four new records. “I was astounded when I received a check for 10% of the sales of the records... I was able to put my daughter, Vivian, through school in the United States with that money,” shares Padu. Eventually, eleven mono LP’s were produced there.
 
But it would be many years later that one of Padu’s compositions would forever be embedded in Aruba’s culture. Together with his good friend, encourager, and musical cohort, Rufo, Padu wrote a love song to the island of Aruba. Says Padu, “I never thought it would become the National Anthem—it was never my intention; just my personal thoughts and feelings about how much I love this island.” But years after the original “Aruba Dushi Tera” was written and recorded in 1952, it was the obvious choice for the island’s National Anthem once “status aparte” within the Dutch Kingdom was declared in 1986. “It somehow inspires patriotic feelings and expresses our boundless love for this beautiful island,” Padu explains.

But it is not just music that captures the imagination of Padu; in addition to being the first Aruban musician to record professionally abroad, he was the first artist to exhibit and sell his art on an international level as well. “I liked to paint typical views of Aruba when I was younger,” says the artist, “and one of my first—I think I was about ten or twelve— was a man on a donkey... very simple, very Aruban.” That first painting made it all the way to the 1939 World’s Fair in New York, when a scout came to the island looking for a local artist who painted local culture or scenes. “About 100 other artists representing countries from all over the world were chosen as part of an exhibit for the World’s Fair... they bought my painting for $100, which was a lot of money for me at the time,” enthuses Padu. The artist’s work became popular within the Dutch art community as well, where additional work was exhibited and purchased.

Today, the artist still picks up the paintbrush from time to time, “but only when the inspiration hits” he insists, and his later works tend to be serenely expressionistic. He feels the same about his music—it’s for pure enjoyment now, and his rare public performances are coveted by anyone lucky enough to watch and hear the maestro play... he is, after all, the true icon of Aruban culture.

CLAUDIUS PHILLIPS

Carnival music and Claudius Phillips are practically one in the same—you just can’t have one without the other, or so it has been for more than 20 years. Also known by his stage name, “Mighty Talent,” he is the island’s foremost Carnival music figure, winning the Road March King title 15 times and the Calypso King crown 19 times.

Though he is praised as a gifted musician (he studied at the Berkley School of Music in Boston), recognized as an award-winning composer (his shelves are filled with colourful awards and acknowledgments from all over the Caribbean), as a successful commercial artist (he has attained more gold records than any other artist in the Dutch Caribbean), it’s his captivating style and undeniable charisma that attract legions of fans.
 
During Carnival, Claudius and his band OREO (One Real Electronic Organization) cause a ripple effect of heads turning and craning on the sidelines to see his truck making it’s way down the parade route. Claudius’ telltale keyboard effects, combined with drums and percussion, bass and rhythm guitars, and a multitude of singers to join him on the mike, results in perhaps the richest Carnival sound on the road. It’s a common sight to see Claudius jump off his truck and dance right alongside his fans with his trademark ear-to-ear grin.
 
Claudius has become so synonymous with Carnival that he now has his very own Carnival group—O.P.C. (Oreo Posse Carnival) which debuted during Carnival 53 in 2007. In just one year, the group nearly doubled in size, with some 350 participants costumed in the theme of Beijing, China—Summer Olympics.

Especially near to Claudius’s heart is his youth group, Whiz Kids, which he formed in 2003 and is now one of the largest in the various children’s parades. It was a natural step for the artist, who lends much of his time and talent to Aruba’s young community, often assisting young performers with advice and even collaborating to compose songs with them.

If you aren’t lucky enough to catch Claudius live during the Carnival season or during one of his many stage performances throughout the year, several of his CD’s are available in local CD stores. In fact, Claudius has three exciting CD projects currently under production: the first is a compilation of his most popular ballads; the second is a new collection of songs with his band OREO; and the third is a CD with gospel-inspired music.
 
Claudius also enjoys performing abroad and travels to other islands, including Curacao, Bon Aire, and St. Maarten for concerts, as well as sharing his special brand of Caribbean music on the international stages of New York and Holland.

RAMÓN TODD DANDARÉ

The 1960s were 'the most beautiful years of my life,' claims Colombian-born artist Ramón Todd Dandaré. These years - a time of turmoil in the world - were the years when Ramón began to understand life and learned to become critical of the social climate. The Beatles, Che Guevara, the Cuban Revolution, Vietnam, the African nations' movement towards independence - these were the social elements that awakened a sense of self-consciousness in Ramón, helping him to become aware of his real identity as an Antillean. Today, Ramón is one of Aruba's celebrated cultural icons who strives to help the people of his Island find their own Aruban identity.

Ramón entered into his period of self-understanding during his years of study at the University of Amsterdam. Although Ramón studied to be a Spanish teacher, he also devoted a great deal of time to writing poetry. In time, the budding Antillean poet realized that language is the true carrier of culture, so he began to write his poetry in Papiamento, a language that is 'truly beautiful because of its musical quality.'
 
Though most of Ramón's poetry draws attention to social matters - colonialism, racial discrimination in Aruba, and Aruban identity - Ramón claims that for every one of these 'social' poems, he also writes a love poem. (Indeed, this three-fold artist - poet, actor, and linguist - claims to be passionate about nothing more in life than women.) One of Ramón's most well-known poems, Isla Di Mi (Island of Mine), was published in the American literary magazine Callaloo. The poem is an attempt by Ramón to help Arubans figure out who they really are. Guiding his fellow Arubans in this self-exploration is an integral goal of Ramón's artistic endeavours.
Read Isla Di Mi here in both Papiamento and English (translated by Frank Williams).
 
Not only did Ramón start writing poetry at a young age, but he also developed a love for the stage. He played the role of a priest in three separate plays: a tragic comedy called Testamento di Cacho (Dog Testament), Romeo and Juliet, and E Secuestro (The Kidnapping), which was performed in Trinidad in 2002 during the Caribbean Theatre Festival. In fact, Ramón's gentle and warm personality seems to fit the role of a priest superbly.

On the other hand, Ramón's impressive work in the leading role of a 1990 production as an out-of-control, drunken wife-beater attests to his wide range of acting abilities. This social tragedy - called Dera Gai - was the first real Aruban made-for-TV film: it was performed in Aruba in Papiamento by Aruban actors and written by an Aruban writer. (The film can be borrowed from the National Library of Aruba.)
 
For on-stage work, Burny Every - a Dutch actress who moved to Aruba - was Ramón's inspiration. She also served as the director of an Aruban theatre group founded in 1975 by Ramón and his colleagues. Ramón warmly remembers the deceased Ms. Every, who had such a profound influence on the many plays and films in which he acted.
 
Ramón's love of language is evident in his work as a poet, but this love goes much further. In 1973, Ramón went back to Colombia in order to earn a masters degree in linguistics. From 1975 to 1977, Ramón taught Papiamento and Spanish, and then served as the director of the Linguistics Institute of the Netherlands Antilles (now the Linguistics Institute of Aruba). Five years ago, Ramón stepped down from this position and is now working at IPA, the teacher's training college in San Nicolas. At IPA, Ramón is busy with Papiamento linguistics: he is teaching school teachers correct Papiamento, which is being taught as a course at Aruban secondary schools; and he is overseeing the task of implementing Papiamento as the language of learning in the primary schools. (This change will perhaps be implemented in time for the next school year.)
 
Ramón's aim in bringing Papiamento into the local school system is to better enable Aruban students to learn how to think and write more logically in their own language. He believes that if left out of the school system, Papiamento will remain a superficial language which lacks the ability to convey in-depth ideas and concepts. As a linguist, Ramón is at the forefront of this endeavour to evolve Papiamento. As Papiamento develops into a more integral language, Ramón believes that Arubans - whose thinking is highly influenced by Europe and America rather than the Caribbean - will be better able to figure out who they are. For the next five to seven years, Ramón plans to compile a true Papiamento dictionary and an in-depth Papiamento grammar textbook. He also wants to do more acting, but for now, working as a teacher gives him the daily opportunity to act as well as satisfy his most cherished hobby.

JOANNES DONATI

JOANNES DONATI

Joannes recalls the exact moment during his childhood when he became interested in drawing. On his walk to school one morning, a bunny scurried across his path. For the rest of the day at school, all he could think about was that bunny: its form, its colour, the way it moved. That night, he stayed awake until the wee hours of the morning, trying to capture all the elements of the bunny on paper. That night, an artist was born.

Although he did receive some formal art education as a young adult (for example, he took some courses in the U.S. when he was in his 20s), Joannes is mostly self-taught through books. And, as several art professors and art aficionados pointed out to him after encountering his work, Joannes simply has a natural talent for painting—a gift that transcends what can be learned in any art school. One art enthusiast in particular, a gentleman from the U.S. who was especially taken by Joannes' natural artistic ability, suggested that Joannes start saving some of his paintings rather than immediately selling them to tourists among whom his paintings had become popular. The gentleman then helped Joannes set up his first big exhibition on the Island.
 
With more exhibitions at places like the National Library, House of Culture, and Institute of Culture, Joannes' work gained range. His paintings can be categorized into five different genres: historical/landscape, abstract, surreal, semi-real, and “upon request.” Most of his historical paintings tell the stories of the natives who were forced by the Spanish conquistadors to leave Aruba and work as slaves in the other Caribbean islands or be killed. His surreal and semi-real paintings combine a variety of concepts (such as religion and war), and his abstract paintings use bold colors to depict concepts such as willpower. But no matter what the subject of each piece of work happens to be, Joannes invariably paints what he thinks and what he sees.

Joannes is a modest man, but his wife and daughter proudly divulge some of his accomplishments. When Holland's Prince Willem-Alexander got married in 2002, Aruba presented him and his new wife one of Joannes' paintings as a wedding gift. Joannes has sold many paintings over the years, mostly in the U.S. and Holland, where he lived between 1985 and 1999. But perhaps one of Joannes' greatest accomplishments is the influence he has had on younger Aruban artists such as Elvis Tromp and Franco Koolman. According to Joannes' daughter, her father's work inspired both of these artists and motivated them to keep painting when the going got tough.

Besides painting, Joannes worked as a chef for many years in the hospitality industry at places such as Talk of the Town, Papiamento Restaurant, and the Divi Resort. He also writes poetry—usually only shared with his family members—as well as music. He has written several original musical compositions for Flag and Anthem Day, winning a few titles for best composition. Just as he paints what he feels, Joannes enjoys feeling the music that he hears and writes.

Joannes has always been true to his feelings when capturing them on canvas; he doesn't believe in using gimmicks to attract people to his work. He simply lets his pieces speak for themselves with the hope that others will not just see something when they look at his work, but experience something as well. So if you have a chance, stop by Access Art Gallery in downtown Oranjestad, where Joannes currently has three paintings on exhibit, to experience the work of this celebrated Aruban icon.

DIANA ANTONETTE WEVER

When Diana Antonette Wever graduated from high school in Aruba in 1963, her initial plan was to study law. That year, for the first time ever, a Dutch foundation called Sticusa offered a scholarship to study dance in Holland. The scholarship piqued Diana Antonette's interest and was in fact awarded to the young beauty. A career in law would have to wait; instead, Diana Antonette headed off to Holland to study for five years to be a teacher of classic ballet with a specialization in jazz ballet and Flamenco.

Luckily for Aruba, Diana Antonette decided to return to her homeland upon graduating in 1968 in order to share the fruits of her studies with her fellow Arubans. She worked for 28 years at the Arubaanse Dans en Balletschool, with an interruption of three years during which she co-founded and taught dance at Stimadanza dance school. Then Diana Antonette's dream came true in 1996 when she opened her own dance school, Skol di Baile Diana Antonette. The goal of her school is to stimulate the art of dance as well as the culture of Aruba.
 
Diana Antonette's interest in promoting the culture of Aruba is most evident in the work she has done through Teatro di Danza Arubano, a dance group founded in 1983. As the group's choreographer, Diana Antonette brought Aruban folk dances to both international and local stages.
 
Many of the group's performances honour the Aruban tradition called Dera Gai, a festival celebrated on June 24, the Feast of St. John the Baptist. Through dance, these performances tell the story of the killing and burying of a rooster, symbolic of the decapitation of St. John from the Bible. After the Dera Gai story is told, the dance group presents various styles of Aruban folk dance, all of which have a European influence: waltz, mazurka, and polka.

Besides running her own dance school and serving as the director of Teatro di Danza Arubano, Diana Antonette gives courses to the teachers and leaders of Traimerdia, an after-school day-care program on the island, so that they can integrate dancing into their activities for the children. Diana Antonette has also worked at I.P.A., teaching the island's dance teachers. From 1996 to 2007, Diana Antonette worked with deaf children, introducing them to the silent language of dance. Since 2003, she has worked at Colegio Arubano, teaching students how to use their bodies to communicate and tell stories through dance. She has found this assignment at Colegio Arubano to be challenging given the self-consciousness experienced by many adolescent girls and boys, but this makes her satisfaction that much greater when her students succeed in choreographing a beautiful dance.
 
Of course, dance is Diana Antonette's greatest passion: she even admits that at one point in her life, she feared that it had become an addiction. This is when Diana decided to add some more balance to her life by getting involved in theatre as well. Since 1971, she has been a member of the theatre group Mascaruba. acting and dancing in different works performed locally and internationally.
 
After 40 years of devoting herself to the growth of dance on the island of Aruba, Diana Antonette feels that it is now time for her two daughters to “go on,” to carry on her legacy. Both Alydia—who recently presented One in Soul—and her younger sister, Pierangely, have decided to follow in their mother's footsteps by pursuing dance careers. They both teach at Diana Antonette's Skol di Baile and are involved in their own dance projects as well. Diana Antonette is happy to see that her daughters are espousing traditional dance, but bringing in modern elements that appeal to the younger generation. Speaking of the younger generation, Diana Antonette now spends much of her time looking after her darling grandson, an activity which gives her immense joy. And like dance, this activity keeps her constantly moving!