The Diaspora strikes back: Creolisation, hybrid identities and ultimate beauty

Remy Jungerman (1959) Bakru 2007 Installation, mixed media, 310 x 165 x 44 cm Private collection
130 KE IRIS KENSMIL_Zwarte Dagen
Iris Kensmil (1970) Black days 2004 – 2006 Oil on canvas, 110 x 140 cm Courtesy Galerie Ferdinand van Dieten – d’Eendt

The Dutch language, Dutch youth culture and the Dutch visual arts are currently subject to great influence from the Caribbean and black culture from the United States. Nationalities and identities – black and white, North and South American, African and European – all are mixed up in everyday life and in the art world. Black culture has become part of European culture. European culture is creolising. Black people are no longer merely interesting and unusual models, attractive to paint on account of their colour.

123 BB Erik van Lieshout, High and Mighty_Stad-s 184
Erik van Lieshout (1968) High and Mighty 2000 Oil on canvas, 250 x 210 cm Museum Boijmans Van Beuningen, Rotterdam

There were a number of examples of creolisation at the Black is beautiful, Rubens to Dumas exhibition in 2008.

One of the categories chosen comprises black artists who have appropriated white icons: a simple adjustment has given Queen Beatrix an Afro hairdo, a (European) gnome is transformed into Bakru, a forest spirit of Surinam.

126 GN VanDalen
Gillion Grantsaan (1968) Landgenoten (Compatriots) 1996 Pencil drawing on paper, 60 x 40 cm Collection G.H. Grantsaan
Remy Jungerman (1959) Bakru 2007 Installation, mixed media, 310 x 165 x 44 cm Private collection

Artists such as Iris Kensmil function as contemporary history painters, adding black history to the repertoire of Dutch visual culture in an unmistakably Afro-Caribbean palette in which yellow, green, red and black predominate.

129 KE Iris Kensmil divine words dordrechts museum
Iris Kensmil (1970) Divine Words 2004 Oil on canvas, 200 x 180 cm Dordrechts Museum, Dordrecht

Iris Kensmil NK 2Iris Kensmil in NK 1Iris Kensmil NK 4

Iris Kensmil (1970)
Various titles: Anton de Kom,
Marcus Garvey, etc.

White Dutch artists absorb the new identities they encounter through the media, the world of entertainment and street culture, producing hard, magnified realities in which is role is played by displays of power in the ‘newcomers’ exciting world and sometimes envy of that world. Erik van Lieshout would love to be part of the black scene and provokes to obtain a reaction.

Van Lieshout
Erik van Lieshout (1968) EMMDM 1999 Video-installatie Museum Boijmans Van Beuningen, Rotterdam,


Charlotte Schleiffert magnifies the might of hip-hop with new mythical and erotically charged figures, derived from sources such as videoclips.

128 BB Charlotte Schleiffert, How_Stad-T 215
Charlotte Schleiffert (1967) How we want them 2000 Egg tempera, acrylic paint, conté, pencil, silver paper, tape and branches on paper, 300 x 150 cm Museum Boijmans Van Beuningen, Rotterdam,

Berend Strik embellishes his erotic fantasies of black women with embroidery, turning smooth, hard photos into soft, touchable objects. Elise Tak dreams up black actors, her indisputable protagonists, to star in her paintings of imaginary films.

125 Elsie Tak BRL 93 13 009
Elise Tak (1957) Thomas Kirby 1992 Acrylic on canvas, 25 x 20 cm Museum Boijmans Van Beuningen,

Relations between blacks and whites play a major role in the works produced by the ‘skin painters’ Marlene Dumas and Ina van Zyl. Dumas gets under the skin of the mother, the super model, the baby, the teenager and the lust object, feeling her way as it were over its delicate surface, intensifying their vulnerability, their touchability, their individuality and their power to elicit a feeling of identification with them. Black people and their beauty are main themes in Dumas’ work. While her models are often lovely, they are also sad and sensitive.

112 NB 128 Marlene Dumas Kop jpg
Marlene Dumas (1953) Supermodel 1995 Lithograph, 70/100, 66 x 55 cm De Nederlandsche Bank Collection,
114 Dumas 2
Marlene Dumas (1953) Coloured Drawings (Tropical Days) 1997 44 x paper, mixed techniques Koninklijk Instituut voor de Tropen Collection, Amsterdam,
114 Dumas 1
Marlene Dumas (1953) Coloured Drawings (Tropical Days) 1997 44 x paper, mixed techniques Koninklijk Instituut voor de Tropen Collection, Amsterdam,
114 Dumas x

Ina van Zyl focuses on details of the body. As she paints her subjects grow darker: white hands and white breasts turn brown; a brown princess’ toes are found to be a white woman’s feet. All people become brown in her paintings, Van Zyl declares, explaining that everyone turns brown in the African sun. Another theme in Van Zyl’s work is South African’s extreme history, especially the impossibility of black and white reconciling. White makes overtures but these will fail.

119 ZI rosie1
Ina van Zyl (1971) Rosie is Nuut 1994 26 drawings, c. 83 x 60 cm Charcoal and conté on paper, heightened with white pastel and Tipp-Ex Collection of the Artist

119 ZI rosie2119 ZI rosie3119 ZI rosie4119 ZI rosie5119 ZI rosie6    119 ZI rosie7

In short, nothing is what it seems any more. We are constantly wrong-footed.

121 NB 129 Ina van Zyl 2001100000
Ina van Zyl (1971) Cinderella 2001 Oil on canvas, 50 x 70 cm De Nederlandsche Bank Collection
118 NB Fluitspeler 1996390000
Bas Meerman (1970) The Piper 1995 Oil on canvas, 170 x 120 cm De Nederlandsche Bank Collection,
122 KE 130 Kensmil
Natasja Kensmil (1973) Untitled 1999 Oil on canvas, 145 x 205 cm De Nederlandsche Bank Collection


116 NB 125 Berend Strik 1997510103
Berend Strik (1960) Tissue and lovely Blacks 1997 Embroidery, mixed media, each 37 x 59 cm De Nederlandsche Bank Collection

Esther Schreuder 2008 in: Black is beautiful, Rubens to Dumas

Research has been made possible thanks to a contribution of de Mondriaan foundation, AFK and VSB fonds.

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