Tula will decolonize Curaçao cinematography

The freedom fighting fetish genes I have got me respecting our liberation warrior Tula who strived for abolition of slavery in Curacao. When in 2010 the news got to me that attempts were made to catapult the 1791 rebellion with Tula as protaganist unto the silver screen by Dutch filmmakers I foresaw a controversy. I was wrong one year flew by and the slave narrative theft remained below the cultural conscious radar.

What happened to all my elders and their mental decolonization principles? When you reach around or passed 60 it waters down? I need my elders who still have decision making powers to be S.T.R.O.N.G. Don't you dare continue selling out on us. We need people to drink ‘Awa di Huramentu’ out of an ‘Ashe’ filled calabash. As United Nations declared 2011 the year of Afro descendants how in nomber di Dios (for heaven’s sake) can you green light a project of 2 Dutch European filmmakers who came up on this insensitive idea to do a movie about our recently declared freedom fighting national hero Tula? With the help from two Afro-Americans: A screenplay writer Curtis Hawkins and Warrington Hudlin a pioneering black filmmaker,activist and advocate for independent black film movement who should've know better to participate in the exploitation of Tula.

On the website www.tulathemovie.nl they are talking about :"A story representing centuries of conflicted relations between black and white the effects of which still haunt us today." And it does as the two Dutch white privileged filmmakers cold heartedly or extreme naively kidnap the opportunity of Afro Curacaoans or at least Curacaoans to tell the tales of freedom fighting Tula. The website of the commission to rehabilitate Tula responsible for their active role to declare him a national hero www.tulalives.org states this: "After the revolt of May, 1969, many political leaders, intellectuals and artists from Curaçao were inspired by Tula in their search for our national identity. In 1971, a play was presented in the national theater named “Tula”…" I can envision the outrage if this play 41 years ago wouldve been made by soley Dutch Europeans and written by an Afro-American. Fortunately it was written by culturista, historian Pacheco Domacasse and co-directed by Tone Brulin a Flemish sociopolitical progressive Belgian. But that was 2 years after 30th May during a period where the Afro Curacaoan was starting to revalorize his African heritage. A young nation in becoming where carnaval is the most elevated form of cultural celebration really doesn't worry that much about struggles of the past.

Was the announcement of this project lucid? No, there has been no transparency whatsoever of the commission in approving the making of 'Tula The Revolt'. No one knows the criteria, no national hero law has been made public if there is such a law, we the people sure didn't have democratic participation in it and therefore no one can scrutinize to see if the right procedures are just and were used which resulted in an approval.

A few lines from their summary: "As many slaves were transported and traded through Caribbean transit harbors like the one in Curacao, this story belongs to them and their descendants it deserves to be told, for its an important part of history, identity and in the end of our society today." So they understand the story of Tula is ours but morals and respect for our own emancipatory path that we as descendants have to walk fade away for a $25 million Hollywood adventure?

You have to wait your turn until the descendants themselves have created a solid infrastructure where they can empower their communities, develop their talents via art, sport, music, theatre and film. You can't commercialize our ancestor's history bypassing the descendants rights and think you are doing us a favor.

2011 there is no film school here, if you want to learn cinematography you will have to go study abroad. Only the middle and upperclass or connection to them without any regular working class pressure has the privilege to choose and see the importance of a film study. Most underprivileged or working class folks will not end up in a cinematography class.

Tell me how many Afro-Curacaoan rolmodels who went to film school a bario like Kenepa has? The area where the uprising started. Lagun, Santa Cruz, Soto, Barber, Sabaneta, any filmmakers or rolmodels to inspire people to grow an interest for filmmaking?
Let's be honest there is a great scarcity of visual griots who can light the fire inside our hearts to depict the past, present and future of Korsou.
Visionary leaders create a breeding-ground for democratization of film and media in general. Curacao troubled by social-corporate-political cataract epedimic within the Dutch Kingdom where its citizens are treated as third class hasn't seen these leaders rise up yet.

A year before the psychical dissappearance of the fierce independentista Papiamentista Joceline Clemencia during a lecture in Holland of the annually Tula commemoration of 1795 August 17th she emphasized that in 2013 it will be 150 years since the abolition of slavery and that we should tell our own stories, document and reinterpretate our own history. We have a long way to go as many Curacaoans really don't 'revere' Tula as some think we do. The thesis of Natasha Maritza van der Dijs- The Nature Of Ethnic Identity Among the People of Curacao (2011) illustrates this very clearly during her investigation: "an African descent a subject in the age range academic degree in business 19-35 recalls lucidly how a black child called her 'Tula' when she was in primary school, she even remembered that she felt ugly."

Amidst the constitutional changes, referendum and elections how many times our ears and hearts were bleeding as the group who supported the political process to become an autonomous neo-colonial country within the Dutch kingdom shouted that "Tula hasn't done nothing for us, you shouldn't look back to your past, stop reminding folks of that slave history". Ironically the same persons who contributed to buffoonize Tula are getting paid from Tula for being the master of ceremony and offer their restaurant to hold the pre-production Tula fundraise event within an elite circle far away from those that truely respect him.  A top law office like Van Eps Kunneman Van Doorne, who never showed any interest in uplifting the Afro Curacaoan heritage suddenly sponsors these filmmakers hoping on a ROI. Nobody ever seen the corporate sector showing love or any support financially to document the history of slavery or any sort of history period. We all vividly remember the fiery discussions on the removal of the Peter Stuyvesant statue at a public school in 2010. The rumour that the school would be renamed Tula unleashed an agitated youth protest weighing him off as a nonsensical historical figure. That was a classic dispicable representation of how middle/upper class youth have been ignorantly conditioned to dehumanize Tula.

On the other hand the political parties who are seated now in the new so called 'socialized' government  have used the slavery past and Tula for electoral benefits. Whipping up an anti-Dutch atmosphere scaring the folks that the Dutch would take over this island once again if they didn't vote for them during elections and referendum. We sure didn't forget the political propaganda on tv,radio,print media and how many times they referred to slavery, Tula and his comrads bloodshed for their liberty struggle which we all benefitted from. 10 months later all this pro Afro-Curacaoan bravado all the emancipation rethoric vanished completely from the public horizon. A cultural betrayal like this of course will have its repercussions. So to claim everybody loves Tula is hypocritical to say the least.

In 2005 I wrote a poem called: 'F..k Tula' because obviously just like now only a small group is genuinely interested in uplifting this heroic character. Every year on August 17 no media will even live transmit or dedicate afterwards a full spread to the commemoration in Holland or in Curacao, it has no cultural priority at all. The first monument made was in 1963 the second one in 1998 at Rif far away from the public eye unlike Louis Brion a Venezuelan national hero who occupies our biggest square in the heart of Otrobanda sad but true it took us to overcome an identity crisis of 48 years to proclaim him as a national hero.

A wise thing to do for Dutch filmmakers Jeroen Leinders and Dolph van Stapele is to reprogram their ambition put this project on hold and respectfully await the flourishing of Curacao cinematography who have true ownership over their slave heritage and ultimately will tell their story.

The re-enslavement of Tula the greatest fighting spirit of our times for commercial glory, international fame is an act of neo-colonial villany. A regime of critical thinkers and activists who sleep on this will have to deal with this when their ancestors lace them with the consequences. Everyone involved can still correct this injustice.

8 thoughts on “Tula will decolonize Curaçao cinematography

  1. Aubrey B.T.A. Janga says:

    Danki pa bo punto di bista iluminoso. Mi ta full di akuerdo ku bo ponensia, I ahun mas mi ta kere ku esei no ta ni sufisiente, pa motibu ku ta tiki di nos konose e kara di e konflikto real.
    Mi mama semper a bisami ku no tin nada nobo bow di solo.
    By the way Sr. Froude, un poplista Europeo ku a publica un raportage na 1888 a hanja un reakshon hopi balioso na 1889 bow di e nomber Froudacity skibi pa John Jacob Thoman, un esklavo di Trinidat. Su trabow ta inspirativa pa nos istoria. Te awe, 122 anja despues, ahinda nos ta diskuti sin salida. Konsidera Froudacity i kompronde kiko a pasa ku Haiti. Desaroyonan di 1693 na Haiti tabata Tula su inspirashon. Ta di suma importansia pa nos kompronde e meta filosofiko di Tula, prome ku nos purba di analisa su actonan. Kada akto, mester ta un inisiativa fundamental i no un reakshon diskabeja. (diskriminashon no ta nada mas ku un herment pa trese bruwashon, e ta butabo bula sali foi panchi i kai den kandela) sklamando nos pasado di sklabitud den un rol di viktima. No kai aden!

    • Jermain Ostiana says:

      Danki pa komenta, mi no a tende di Froudacity skibi pa John Jacob Thoman pero pa basta ratu mi tabata puntra konta ku Trinidad i Tobago. Mi por bai di akuerdo kubo ku tin profundisa mas pero mi no tin problema pa si nos no hasie. Tanten e historia keda mas puru mas logiko posibel. Pasobra por ehempel kon nos ta bai hanja sa e ‘filosofia’ di Tula?

  2. Jeroen Leinders says:

    Dear Mr Ostiana,

    Thank you for pointing out the relevance, or better yet, the essence of the movie Tula, The Revolt. Your article clearly shows that even today we are faced with a world in which being black or white makes all the difference. Integration is a word that apparently does not show up in your dictionary, whereas integration, and assimilation are in fact key characteristics of society in Curacao today.

    As you may be aware, on the island of Curacao, black people today may well be descendents of white plantation owners back in the day. On the other hand, white people today may well be descendants of black slaves working the fields. Now you tell me, is this important? Can a black man with white ancestors produce this movie? Or should he be white with black ancestors? Or maybe even better, a black man with black ancestors. For only he understands the true injustice that slavery brought upon these people.

    Wouldn’t it be better to agree that the key word here is people? Can we agree on the fact that injustice has been done to people? Can we both look back at the period of slavery and conclude that this is something that is despicable? Does it matter what color you are to come to this conclusion?

    You call the idea to make a movie about Tula insensitive. Why? Because you did not come up with it? You judge the fact that Van Eps Kunneman Van Doorne sponsors this project. Even if it were true that they earlier did not show any interest in uplifting the Afro Curacaoan heritage as you say, wouldn’t it be better to applaud them for doing it now? Even if you are right, can’t you see this as a step forward and welcome the gesture?
    In addition, you conveniently forget to mention the fact that we also have the support from Pacheco Domacasse. Indeed, the same man who directed the Tula play back in the seventies. He is kind enough to advise us on the script and we highly appreciate his involvement. You do not mention Mr Charles Do Rego, our historical advisor. You forget to mention the fact that we spoke to the Tula foundation and to the commission to rehabilitate Tula, yes the same people that are behind the website http://www.tulalives.org.

    You say we commercialize our ancestor’s history and bypassing the descendants rights and think you are doing us a favor. Let me tell you this. When we started out two years ago, somebody asked me if I would be willing to donate all the proceeds of the film to charity on Curacao if he would be able to find financing for it. My answer was “Yes” then and it still is. The offer still stands. So you want a film school in Curacao? Our project offers training on the job for people interested in making film.

    And so maybe it would be better for us to join forces. Work with us, Mr Ostiana. Read the script, talk to Pacheco Domacasse about it. Welcome the opportunity to tell the story of Tula in a way that is accessible for anybody. Help us to realize this important film. Give the youth of our island a chance to learn about their history and to honor the people that played an important part in that history. Learn from Tula. For his values: freedom, equality and brotherhood still are important today as your article clearly shows.

    The re-enslavement of Tula? “A story representing centuries of conflicted relations between black and white the effects of which still haunt us today.”

    Both of us have the power to say ‘no!’, to these effects. Everyone involved can correct this injustice.

    Jeroen Leinders

    • Jermain Ostiana says:

      From a Dutch white privileged framework your reaction reconfirms that you are delegitimizing what the United Nations in 2011 has declared as the “International Year for people of African descent.” The negation of the fact that slavery was perpetrated by whites and established a power structure in which whites would reap the most benefits and reinforce a system that disproportionately catered to their needs and not to those of all people is a giant failure.

      In the moral universe of post-colonial race relations the unlearning of white superiority think patterns is a must if you seek true unity. There is no justice trophy to be won while the Afro-Curacaoan still has to negotiate opportunities from a disadvantaged socio-cultural position in the 21st century.

      No conversations at parties,construction sites,hair salons, in the church, by the bus stop in Punda or beneath the viaduct in O’banda about ‘Tula the movie’. The blessing of a few prominent black intellectuals is not vox populi. There has never been no public debate ever in our language Papiamentu about this. Nobody approached common folks their voices remained unheard.
      80 likes on a facebook page is not representative for a broad public support. You need more peoples.

      Its naïve to assume that Dutch white filmmakers trying to start a project about the 1795 prime model of Curacao black leadership will not hurt and hinder the emergence of Curacao black cinematography leadership. If you still can not comprehend this the great poet Elis Juliana and his 1977 ‘Lòs e mucha’ poem might help you all out:

      Tende mama,
      Lòs e mucha!

      Lòs e mucha fo’i herida
      dje kadena di katibu.
      Lòs su mente lagé pensa.
      Lòs su lenga lagé papia.
      Lòs su pia lagé kana
      buska su mes identidat.

      Dun’é piki di orguyo
      p’e koba un buraku hundu
      dera bèrgwensa
      dera kompleho
      dera frustrashon.

      ‘Untie the child’ 

      Listen mother:
      Untie the child
      from the wounds
      caused by slavery.

      Untie his mind and
      let him think.
      Untie his mouth and
      let him talk
      In search of his
      own identity.
      Give him a pick axe
      and let him dig a hole
      so deep where he can
      bury all traces of shame, complexes and frustations.

      Only thing I would add is:
      Untie his eyes and
      let him film
      his own history
      his own truth
      his own reality.

  3. Alexander Isings says:

    Dia 17 di ougùstùs a keda proklamá komo “Dia di Lucha pa Libertat” na 1984.
    Kisas, despues di 27 aña, a bira tempu pa pueblo di Kòrsou duna e propósito di Tula (libertat) e mes un atenshon ku nos ta duna, aña ‘den aña ‘fo, na e lucha.

    Si nos sigui fiha riba loke ta dividí nos, hamas nos lo ta soberano den nos mes pais.
    Dia nos kuminsá hinka nos energia i esfuerso pa en bèrdat traha pa realisá su propósito, Tula su sakrifisio no tabata en vano. . . Djis un idea: http://bit.ly/pQM4rU

    “Tula, ba siña nos kon lucha.
    B’a bringa pa nos haña nos balor.
    Mira, mira ki ironia,
    nos lucha ya no ta kontra’é opresor.
    Nos ta bringa otro,
    si nos mes ta bringando otro.”

    ~ Rignald Recordino fragmento di “Tula Warda”

    • Jermain Ostiana says:

      Si bo wak den region bo ta mira ku no ta nos so ta pasando den e proseso pa libertat. Hopi anja konmemora e lucha di Tula pero e pregunta ta kwantu di nos? Kon bo por midi ku nos ta kaminda nos ke ta? Den tur e anjanan nos a hasi nos maksimo esfuerso di berdat?

      Opviamente nos tin hopi tarea pa ehekuta ora nos ta asina leew nos por bisa kiko e sigiente fase ta. E mester ta un proseso demokratiko.
      Ne momentunan aki nos tin tiki hende prekupa ku Tula esei tin ku kambia prome.

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