Artist Isan on his Slavery Past exhibition: ‘My grandmother is my source of inspiration’

Your grandmother as a source of inspiration, you don’t hear that very often, but for Isan Corinde (32), his grandmother has a great influence on the works of art he creates. This led to his exhibition ‘Slavernijverleden’, which can be visited until Sunday 22 January in Stadsklooster Utrecht.

From an early age, Isan’s grandmother told him the stories of her ancestors who escaped as slaves to the interior of Suriname. Those stories have always stayed with him. For years the artist had the idea of ​​doing something with the theme of slavery, but it has not yet come to fruition. Until a few years ago.

George Floyd

“I’ve always tried to make art that makes people happy or inspires them to do good things in life.” Until the murder of American George Floyd in 2020 was frequently in the news. “That year, all those pictures and stories from my grandmother came back and I decided to make art about our history. It’s intense and I thought about it for a long time before I actually started, but you can’t run away from its history and culture, it is going to haunt one day.”

The history of slavery

The Slavery Past exhibition features various paintings, tapestries and two installations that Isan made together with children from Utrecht. “By using different materials, I try to tell a story together with children from the neighborhood,” he explains. “The children know a thing or two about slavery and whatever comes to their mind they can express using drugs or painting or drawing. It turned out very beautiful.” The 32-year-old also painted the soles of the children’s feet. These were then printed on a piece of fabric, turning their footprints into a work of art. The footprints are in a walking route from the exhibition to the outside. “It is one of the most important parts of the installation as it symbolizes the runaway slaves.”

Running footsteps

In addition to the footprints, the town monastery itself also has an additional significance. The exhibition is set up in the nave of the former church. Enslaved people were transported across the sea in ships. “When I talk to someone about slavery, I see a ship in front of me. I see it everywhere. My style is figurative and I have chosen not only to paint ships but also people, with my grandmother’s stories in mind. There is a guest book in the exhibition room where people can write down what they know about slavery and what image they have when they think of slavery. People’s responses inspire me again.”

Discover young talents

Isan’s grandmother passed away a few years ago, but she was still with him during the opening on Saturday 7 January. “When I spoke during the opening, I got the feeling that she was with me.” Fortunately, Isan’s talent was spotted early and his grandmother was able to witness the start of his career. “My talent was discovered when I was five years old and it brought me to where I am today. It doesn’t matter where you come from, if you believe in what you do, you will get where you need to go. That’s how I found my way in society.” Since 2013, Isan has been teaching children art, both in Suriname and in the Netherlands. “Once a year I go back to Suriname to work with the young people there. I think it is very important that children can discover all their talents from a young age.”

Utrecht is remembered

Isan was born in the interior of Suriname and has been living and working in Utrecht since 2016. After living in Amsterdam, The Hague and Eindhoven, he ended up in Utrecht for love. “I met my wife in Suriname and decided to invite her when I had an exhibition in the Netherlands. Then we kept seeing each other, and now we live together in Utrecht,” he says. “For me, Utrecht is the right place in the Netherlands where I can relax and do my work.”

In 2023, Utrecht will reflect on the abolition of slavery, now 160 years ago. Several events and activities have already been planned for this. Isan’s slavery past exhibition is one of them. Slavery past can be visited for free until Sunday 22 January in the Stadsklooster Utrecht at Kanaalstraat 198. Read more about Isan, his exhibition and the Stadsklooster here.

Utrechter of the week

Every week we appoint an Utrechter of the week. Do you know someone who makes our city a little more beautiful? Does your neighbor have a special hobby? Or do you know another Utrechter with a good story? Let us know!

Also read:

Leave a Comment