Written by Josée Thissen-Rojer
On December 7th, 2021, the new name of a school in Buena Vista is revealed in a celebratory manner. The new name is ‘Skol pa desaroyo integral Tirzo Martha’ (School for integral development Tirzo Martha). Visual artist Tirzo Martha (Curaçao, 1965), after whom the school is named, is present at the unveiling and addresses the crowd afterwards.
In his speech, he recalls how difficult it was for him 40 years back, when he announced that he wanted to become an artist. Back then, people didn’t think you could build a decent existence as an artist. On top of that, he came from a disadvantaged neighborhood, and it wasn’t even expected he could finish any education at all.
“The opposite appears to be true”, says Tirzo. Not only did he manage to realize his ambition, but he even garnered international fame. He travels the world for his work, to hold exhibitions, and to teach at prominent academies and universities. With great emphasis, he mentions the amounts of money involved in the world of art and culture: 100,000 euros for the enclosure of artwork for transport. Or the many professions, organizations, and companies that the industry runs on, such as insurers, transport companies, museum staff and curators. “The amounts that circulate in the world of art and culture are higher than in any other economic sector whatsoever”, he adds.
After secondary school, Tirzo Martha follows an art education in the Netherlands and returns to Curaçao in 1991, where he takes up residency as a visual artist. He is already awarded the Colá Debrot prize for his oeuvre in 2009, at 43 years of age. It is the highest cultural distinction in Curaçao. In 2017 the Museum Beelden aan Zee in The Hague organizes a special exhibition of his work ‘No excuses’ and a monograph is published, ‘I Wonder If They’ll Laugh When I’m Dead’, that is awarded the ‘Best Dutch Book Design’ prize. Two years later he receives the prestigious Wilhelminaring, a biennial national award for sculpture in The Netherlands. A commission for an exhibition as well as a sculpture, are tied to the award. Both are realized in 2020. The exhibition ‘Het huis dat nooit af is’ (The house that’s never finished) is on display for 3 months in the CODA museum in Apeldoorn. The sculpture ‘Overcoming ourselves in order to overcome’, is added in December 2020 in the sculpture park, Sprengenpark, also in Apeldoorn.