Country: Curacao, Netherlands Antilles
Profession: Director of The Instituto Buena Bista (IBB).
Education: 1985-1986 Akademia di Arte Korsou, Curacao
1987-1989 Hogeschool voor de Kunsten Utrecht, The Netherlands
1989-1991 Molenaar Fashion School, The Netherlands
1999 Training and refreshment course dealing with problem children
Tirzo Martha was born on Curaçao in 1965. His urge to create art has its origin in humanitarianism and social engagement. As a child, Martha did not consider himself a creative being. He would however react critically to the conditions surrounding him in his neighborhood. The decaying social conditions in his beloved neighborhood Buena Vista disturbed him, creating a feeling of unrest.
Although he came from a good home, he was still confronted with the reality of his neighborhood on the streets and in his school. A reality that didn’t fit with the way he experienced his surroundings.
These contradictions brought him closer to what he had already seen in the past; Art. He saw in art the space and the infinite possibilities to strengthen his voice and communicate.
Just like an anthropologist, he investigated all the details that contribute to the big puzzle of the existence of his people. Besides the oral and physical information that he was gathering, he was also getting visual information that would become the point of departure in his works. He considered the living conditions and the way people coped with their space and objects as visually strong enough to encapsulate their dreams, hopes, disappointments, visions and state of mind. He translates the information into ideas and structures that would become his body of work. This brought him to the installations, videos and performances that are very close to the living conditions and structures of the people.
Chaos consisting of objects, materials and emotions are brought together in a baroque molding; a rough composition carrying the beauty of the people’s hopes and dreams; a voice that is familiar but still had this unknown sound. Martha performs and builds his installations in public spaces, most of the time in neighborhoods, where he thinks that his work will fit in perfectly.
Captain Caribbean (CC) holds up a mirror to the Caribbean societies. He is a figure called into being to create a new and progressive consciousness and to stimulate a change in the mentality concerning identity and the origin of the Caribbean as a whole. In the past decades, one can notice an emphasis on the so called African roots of people in the Caribbean region, whereas in reality what makes up people’s identity is far morecomplex,divers and multicultural.
In his seminal essay ‘Diaspora and Identity’(1990) Stuart Hall analyses this complexity into a number of “presences” that in each individual case constitutes someone’s multiple backgrounds. The Caribbean melting pot is characterised by a hybrid complexity that transcends a singular African root.
The reason these ‘roots’ are so prevalent is because they’re ‘sexy’ and appeal to many people. However, not everything from an alleged African descent is embraced, as for instance shows the disapproval of religious rituals that originated from the African past. The “flirtation” carries the risk of a so called inverted Africanism, that is: to behave ‘African’ whereas this stance is based on the ideas and ideals of an “Africa”, not the continent as it is at present or what is was. A related issue is the persistence on the history of slavery and colonialism, which in most cases means taking in the position of the victim. This also implies thinking of “them” and “us”, the (former) rulers and colonisers versus the innocent and the subordinate.
CC fights against this conceited attitude by holding up a mirror to the Caribbean. He teaches by the clarity of his example. He has freed himself from the past and has become a self confident Caribbean with his own will and strength. This he does to replace the role of the victim who moans about his misfortunes yet continuously runs after the latest hypes. There is work to be done by CC: a society to further develop, education to be given to young generations and a firm self confidence to be build up for the average Caribbean.
He raises awareness through his performances in which he personifies the legendary fighting spirit of the Caribbean. He is dressed in clothes and wears paraphernalia that refer to the daily lives of the Caribbean people. Whereas his sidekick represents the popular mentality pumped into the mass upholding the attitude that he looks “cool.” The two characters are both connected and antipodes, they show what’s at stake. The adventures of CC are a critical voice from within the Caribbean, pointing at the problematic of deprivation, poverty and exploitation in the region. It calls on action and change from within. The medium he uses to voice these matters is performances.
￼Art can open up a space for such critical voices, and subsequently for debate and exchange. It creates space, it creates discourse and uses what is on hand: current issues, the local status quo, well known symbols and iconography, site specific materials and situations. The people recognise these and can connect to them. This makes site specific performances effective.