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Film maker Selwyn de Wind offers an 'Insider's View'

Tela Sambo

The exhibition 'Kòrsou – Curaçao' is a unique collaboration between the National Archives and photographer/film maker Selwyn de Wind. Besides shooting photos and videos for the exhibition itself, De Wind's pictorial stories make up the campaign. Creative agency Havana Harbor brought the two parties together.

'Het Nationaal Archief' (The National Archives) was/were busy launching the exhibition 'Kòrsou – Curaçao' (from 16 December 2021 to 23 October 2022, opens again after the Lockdown period) with records, photos and audiovisual material about the history of the island. Several agencies were invited with a view to developing a promotional campaign, i.e. attracting as many visitors to the exhibition as possible. In their pitch, Havana Harbor clearly shared the view of The National Archief that they needed to work with an artist who new the island well. Someone who could tell the complete and honest story of Curaçao, someone with an insider's view. "You cannot tell the story of Curaçao based solely on the sources from our collection'', Anouk de Wal of Het Nationaal Archief explains. "That would principally be through the eyes of the colonial rulers. You should also have the story told by someone who looks at that same history from a different perspective, a different point of view."

Girlfriend from Curaçao
The pitch landed on the desk of Havana Harbor's senior creative, Rob Nolten. Not least because his girlfriend comes from Curaçao. "I immediately envisioned the sensitivities. This exhibition is also about slavery and you need to involve people who know more about that, who know the whole story. I soon thought of Selwyn.... I met him at the première of 'Atardi', the film he had made about the musician Rudy Plaate."

Selwyn de Wind launched the film about this Curaçao musical hero last year but he has been attracting attention for many years, both as a film maker and an entrepreneur (he has his own clothing line). His work has included video clips for such artists as The Opposites, Fresku and Kempi, various documentaries and TV commercials. It was interesting that De Wind's non-commissioned work matches perfectly with the framework of the exhibition. "On Curaçao, I always have a camera in my car and if I see something, I take pictures. Over the past six years I have built up quite an archive, from which I occasionally post something on Instagram. So it was interesting that a commercial agency started working with me on the basis of my non-commissioned work."

Nolten of Havana Harbor explains that De Wind's treatment underlined the choice. "His work, his story clearly illustrated how slavery still affects people on the island. A story only people from there can tell." De Wal explains that the records in the National Archives often present only one vision. "They were created by the colonial ruler that had control there.Those documents present the colonial perspective, consequently giving a very one-sided portrayal.When you read official documents, you often forget that they really do relate to people. The Curaçao people that Selwyn portrayed provide the human element.'"

"Most archival records, including those in Curaçao, are propaganda," says De Wind. "They are often a celebration of how well the Netherlands is doing, how well the schools are set up, for example.That still happens, by the way. Watch any newscast of Princess Beatrix visiting the island.It is a lot of good news and later becomes an archival record, yet it is also very one-sided, of course." De Wind's approach for his photos was 'unknown heroes' (people on the island itself often know them) and their stories.He made a list of people he wanted to portray, in image and sound, based on the themes of resilience, governance, society and slavery. "Working with a team, I took maybe eighty photos and selected some that are representative of the theme."

The great thing about this method is, of course, that De Wind partly determines the exhibition with his photos, but that he also takes care of the campaign. An interesting development if you compare it with the world of the big brands. Not only does he create the advertising for the Tesla, he creates the Tesla himself too. Nolten: "This gives you a clear picture of the exhibition and gives such a campaign more substance.'' De Wal: "Research taught us that a campaign often gives people a very limited impression of an exhibition.Logically, because they usually get to see mostly old archival records.Everything is now more blended and the campaign more meaningful."

The promotional campaign centres around the photo of Tela Sambo, a Tambú singer. Tambú is the music sung on the plantations. "It's a celebration of black culture.There stands a proud black woman, she stands for resilience," says the film maker. "A lot of the history between Curaçao and the Netherlands is hidden in this genre. It is the rebellious genre that was not, and is not allowed to be played and sung. You can't just throw a Tambù party and this singer has recorded several songs that have been banned. She is the bridge between then and now. The story of Tambù is also the history of Curaçao. These parties are temporarily allowed at the end of the year and you have only really experienced Curaçao once you've experienced such a party.

With a view to attracting visitors to the exhibition, advertising on socials and bus shelters has been purchased. Brief impressions of the interviews can be seen online and some of De Wind's beautiful photos on bus shelters. Anouk de Wal: "Research we have done reveals that people are familiar with the National Archives but people don't actually come in very easily. They obviously think that there are all very educated people studying with us, but the National Archives are there for everyone!" 

Rob Nolten, Selwyn de Wind and Anouk de Wal 

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