Written by Josée Thissen-Rojer.
The current COVID-19 pandemic has shaken up everyone’s daily lives to some extent and things are no different in the visual arts sector. In this series, we visit local visual artists and ask what changes they’ve experienced and how they’re dealing with the situation. This time, we are in Seru Fortuna, in artist Omar Sling’s studio.
Omar Sling (Curaçao, 1976) describes himself as a self-taught recycle artist. One of his works can be found on Plaza Jojo Correa in Punda and is called ‘3 lil birds’. Three huge ‘suikerdiefjes’ (bananaquit birds) stand on a fence proudly puffing out their yellow chests. Their wings are folded forward to hold their colorful instruments. Despite its size, it’s an endearing ensemble that stands out in the streetscape. The birds are made of recycled materials, but it’s done in such an ingenious way that you don’t notice it right away. Omar is very modest when he talks about himself, and the popularity of his sculpture in Punda still astonishes him.
During his youth, music is his main focus. Omar is taught by musicians such as Richard Doest and Mito Martis. He learns to play various instruments such as drums, cuatro, bass guitar and trumpet. “The quality or material of an instrument isn’t really that important,” says Omar, “A good musician just knows how to entertain the audience with his music.” Until the age of 15, he has his own band with some friends, with the mischievous name ‘Suta Kuero’ (Whip Skin). Their instruments consist of buckets and cans. At the end of the eighties, he notices that there is little appreciation for his imaginative musical skills. In retrospect, he realizes that teenage shame led him to quit.
In 2001 Omar goes to the Netherlands for his continuing education at the Graphic Lyceum Amsterdam. He returns as a graphic designer in 2006 and soon finds himself with more work than he can handle. He works long days but earns a lot and is doing well. Then his health starts to suffer and that forces him to stop temporarily. When he tries to re-enter the labor market after his illness, he is unsuccessful. He’s unemployed for a long time and to distract himself he starts creating things with all kinds of leftover materials. Everything he makes, he puts up or hangs up in his living room. Reflecting on it now, he admits that it was quite a lot at one point.
One day, a friend, Nataly Pas, persuades him to apply to participate in a new exhibition organized by Helen de Haas-Elisabeth, for the former Kas di Kultura. This exhibition in 2013, ‘Libertat’, turns out to be his stepping-stone into the art world. He notices that his submission receives a lot of attention from curators and that it invokes a lot of discussion. Invitations to other exhibitions follow. His success gives him more and more self-confidence and over time he realizes that he’s making his living as an artist.