‘E porta’ (The gate) by Giovanni Abath
by Josée Thissen-Rojer
As of early December 2020, Parke Lucha Pa Libertad (Fight for Freedom Park) at Rif features a large, new entrance gate. The park is located at Rif, just behind the mangrove forest, and serves as a tribute to the historical freedom fight of 1795, led by the enslaved Tula.
The new gate is designed by Giovanni Abath (Curaçao, 1974) who has been leaving his mark on various striking places in Curaçao these past years. Now the gate will be a part of his collection of monumental creations. A gate that provides an entrance to a special location in our history and where every year on the 17th of August the start of the freedom battle is remembered.
Giovanni has played the role of Tula in the annual ‘Ruta Tula’ for 10 years. In the 2013 movie ‘Tula the revolt’, he took on the role of Bastiaan (Bazian Carpata). He often designs the décor for the memorial on August 17th, the ‘Dia di lucha pa libertad’ (Day of the freedom fight). During the ceremony, he reenacts history with his theater group ‘Grupo Kara’. When approached for this project, he saw this as the perfect moment to bring his years of acting experience around this theme to good use. He creates a design with depth, in which the many sentiments surrounding slavery on our island are expressed.
Giovanni chooses to work with stainless steel, even if that will cost more. For Giovanni, it is important that the work he delivers can stand the test of time, especially when so nearby the sea, where the saltwater damages everything so easily. He realizes that what he makes here, for this place, is the most important project in his still-growing career.
The gate fits between two wide yellow pillars. The two halves of the gate are symmetrical in design and construction. At the bottom, a chain is placed, referring to the chains of slavery. Giovanni consciously interrupted the two ends of the chains with the pillars. A pole is attached to the side of one of the pillars, aiming upwards. The second pillar has nothing attached to it and symbolizes freedom.
The most eye-catching part of the gate features the continent of Africa. Inside of the map, the shape of Curaçao is formed. Africa, because that’s where the enslaved people came from. Because during the times of slavery, these Africans worked on the development of the island. With this, he indicates the duality of the later generations; even though their ancestors hailed from Africa, they are no longer African. On the map of Curaçao, the route of the freedom fight of 1795 is carved, including various quotes of the fighters “We don’t want to hurt anyone, we want our freedom”.
In the center of each side of the gate, an illustration of ‘skérchi’ —the black frigatebird— flying upwards is highlighted. The bird symbolizes the soul of the enslaved person flying back to his creator. The bird is placed on the setting sun, from which the small rods fan out. The rods are actually small arrows pointing either to the sun or in the opposite direction. Giovanni explains that in life, things, feelings, and people come and go. The arrows represent the continuous movement of life.
In the upper right- and left corner of the gate, a separated round field is drawn, where the lines flow through each other. For Giovanni, these lines represent the energy- or life sources. In between these energy fields, the name of the park is shown: Parke Lucha Pa Libertad.
Freedom is an important theme of the gate and this is emphasized in the top part. The figures are holding their arms up in the shape of the letter V, of victory, to demonstrate that they are free and not shackled. The figures have three different sizes, representing the three social classes in society: the higher-, middle-, and lower class.
Being as self-conscious as he is, Giovanni signs the gate in the lower right corner with his signature ‘7.1’. The numbers refer to his initials. The ‘G’ is the seventh letter of the alphabet and the ‘A’ is the first. All his creations have a title and Giovanni names the gate ‘E porta’, simple yet meaningful. It is the gate through which you enter the park, which also serves as the door to the past, the memorial, and contemplation.
Gilbert Bacilio of Fundashon Parke Nashonal and Director of Asosiashon Promoshon Konsenshi Istóriko, says that picking Giovanni Abath for this project was the logical choice. They are aware of his affinity with the theme, as an actor and director. In addition, they are also familiar with his other monumental work including the roundabout of Brievengat, the roundabout at Leliënberg, and the decorative fence around the flagpole at Brionplein.
The new gate had to be solid and able to withstand vandalism and other disturbances in the park. With Giovanni, they knew the execution would be in capable hands. They are more than satisfied with the end result: adding a new monument to the park.
This article was previously published in Amigoe, on Saturday, January 23, 2021. The text may only be reproduced with reference to the source and author. Copyrights of the artworks remain property of the artist.