Urban adventurer extraordinaire Leslie Koch, founder of Downtown Traveler and frequent blogger, is not afraid of stepping out of her comfort zone and her blog is perfect for people who seek offbeat travel destinations, snap photos of street art on their iPhones, don’t shy away from visiting local art galleries, hike obscure trails, sample exotic food… in short, people who are game for adventure wherever they go. Lucky for Curaçao, Leslie has decided to zoom in and peel the layers of Curaçao’s relatively pristine (and therefore) over-marketed façade and try to understand some of the multilingual, deeply rooted messages written on its walls.
‘Downtown Traveler’ Leslie Koch (befuddled?) in Curacao.
Leslie writes: “A walk through the colonial city of Willemstad reveals colorful murals and public art installations with political – and erotic – themes. This clean and orderly country seems to have embraced artistic expression; even public service announcements and barber shop advertisements are painted by hand on its pastel walls.”
Leslie’s thoughtful, culturally sensitive and genuinely curious perspective feels like a bear hug… and a breath of awesome (marketing) air to me.
Please visit Leslie’s post: Caribbean art: 25 photos of colorful street art in Curacao and show some love!
Here are some of my favorites,
This “See No Evil” mural is an ad for Optika Hakim (a local eye glass store). Please note that all the characters are wearing sunglasses, shielding them from ‘evil’ 🙂
Leslie writes: “This ad for Nena’s Dominican restaurant in Willemstad caught my eye. They are clearly targeting diners who like their women with curves!” Also please note that they serve Presidente ‘Bon Friw!’ (Papiamentu)
Leslie writes: “Oil – not tourism – is the main industry in Curacao, and a massive oil refinery is located just north of the tourist area in Willemstad. The refinery isn’t visible from the floating bridge or the cruise ships that dock on the south side of the island – but if you drive a car to or from Willemstad you can’t miss the flaming smokestacks and industrial barges. After exiting the highway, which encircles the refinery, I came across an abandoned building covered in street art… This is clearly a critique of the oil industry; the mural includes a tiger wearing sunglasses (or blinders?) with the logo of Shell oil company. Smokestacks billow in the distance– contrasting with the topical flowers and sea shells above them…” (This mural was created by Instituto Buena Bista guest artist Liesbeth Labeur with the assistance of IBB students. A Dutch artist, Labeur spent her childhood in Curacao and is writing a graphic novel about the “waning days of the Shell corporation” on the island)
Hand-painted Hair / Nail Salon + Barber Shop sign adds special charm.
Leslie writes: “Oil – not tourism – is the main industry in Curacao (…) A second scene [of a larger mural] depicts a tiger (‘Cha Tiger’) taking off his Shell glasses (‘blinders’) flanked by goats, a giant spider (‘Kompa Nanzi’), a woman and the Curacao flag. While I can only guess at the significance of these details, it’s clear this artwork deals with the political, social and environmental impact of the oil industry.” (This mural was created by Instituto Buena Bista guest artist Liesbeth Labeur with the assistance of IBB students. A Dutch artist, Labeur spent her childhood in Curacao and is writing a graphic novel about the “waning days of the Shell corporation” on the island)
Leslie writes: “The buildings throughout Curacao are beautiful – even when they are crumbling. Many commercial buildings are covered with painted advertisements for beauty salons, supermarkets and restaurants. This [roving] barber shop was tagged with the words “no pichi aki” in Papiamentu-Dominican-Spanish (“don’t piss here”, in English)”
Leslie writes: “Even Curacao’s public service announcements have an artistic twist. I came across this anti-littering sign in a residential neighborhood east of Willemstad. In English and Papiamentu it bears the message, “Clean up your sh@#”
Leslie writes: “While taking a pleasant stroll across the floating bridge into Punda, I spotted something that stopped me in my tracks. A series of erotic sculptures carved into trees, right in front of the historic Governor’s House!” (Artist is Mac Alberto, see #858)
Leslie writes: “I spotted this painting of a defiant child on the edge of the tourist zone in Otrobanda. It shows a boy scowling under the words, “Tula Town Respect City.” Tula is a celebrated historical figure in Curacao – a slave who led an 18th century slave revolt. Although he was executed, Tula is remembered as a human rights activist.” (See #692 and #683 for more on Tula)
Fu Hao Minimarket sells Dutch cheese, Venezuelan Polar beer, Thai Mahatma and Jasmine rice and Scottish Ballantine’s!
Leslie writes: “While the message is clear– peace and love– the artist has yet to perfect their English spelling.”
ALL PHOTOS BY LESLIE KOCH, FOUNDER & BLOGGER DOWNTOWN TRAVELER.
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