José Maria Capricorne was born in Otrobanda on Christmas Day 1932 to working-class entrepreneurial parents; his father owned a carpentry business. His mother owned a plantation. His childhood in Otrobanda was spent amidst cobblers and tailors, authors and musicians. But he was also close to nature, plantation; dry arid land, insects and butterflies, mango and coconut trees, goats, chickens, pigs, wild geese. And fishermen casting their nets and reeling in hundreds of fish. (Fish eyes appear in many of his paintings)
Capricorne felt Curaçao’s industrial revolution. Saw more and more imported goods come in from the US and Venezuela, displacing his mother’s and other small-scale farmers’ plantations. He felt those bulldozers destroying mangroves to make way for international hotel chains. And observed oil (sometimes in tragic spills) killing fish, scarring regal pink flamingos, destroying corals.
He feels what it means to be black in post-colonial times. He worries about things, but he’s not a pessimist. He believes things work themselves out eventually. Source: Breukink, Eva. Artists from Curaçao (2007)
He studied in Brazil and the Netherlands, moved back to Curaçao in 1968 and founded our Art Academy. He lives in the Netherlands as of 1993, his soul still lives in Curaçao.
“Of course, you will see in my paintings the Caribbean influence: for instance, you’ll see fishes, goats. You will see a lot of eyes in all my paintings. Eyes mean for me that the painting is a living object. You look at the painting, but the painting looks back at you. So there is a communication between the painting and the one who observes the painting. You will see also people from the Caribbean, faces like masks, influenced naturally the African culture, the Caribbean influence, and you will see also the influence of the time I lived in Europe. But the basis of my paintings is my education in the Caribbean and in Brazil. You will see a lot of people with all kinds of clothes and a lot of decorations on the clothes. That is the influence that I had from Brazil–because in Brazil I met people from the Makumba religion–the way they act, the way they use the clothes, the way they dress, you see; you will see several women with the clothes on, all those clothes, the symbol, the influence from Brazil. You will see that I also use a lot of blue in my paintings. In the Caribbean, the sky is blue, the sea is blue; the fishes in my paintings are a symbol of our own islands–the island of Curaçao is like a fish in the Caribbean waters. I paint always the changes in life. You will see a lot of symbols that mean life is changing. You will see people with two faces. You will see people who are moving. You will see trees.”
Source: AN INTERVIEW WITH JOSE MARIA CAPRICORNE by Charles Rowell. Callaloo, Vol. 21 No. 3, p.481-482.
Below is a great promo for a documentary on José Maria Capricorne, to celebrate his 80th bday this year.
[I apologize to non-Dutch speakers, I’ve already inquired about English subtitles, stay tuned!]