Curaçao searches for its African roots

The island of Curaçao, in the Caribbean is showing growing interest in its African roots. This interest is most notable in art and culture. Richard Doest, an artist from Curaçao, plays an important role in this field.

Richard Doest studies African culture and its influence on the Curaçao society. An accomplished artist himself, Richard mentors various upcoming artists who use African music and art of storytelling to draw attention on the island’s African heritage. “Because Curaçao is also part of the African Diaspora”, he says.
According to Richard Doest, the African influence is apparent in “the way we do things”. Take communication, for instance: “In the past, children were not allowed to look their parents in the eyes. Respect for the elders is an important component of African culture”.
Not black
Richard notes that the customs that have been preserved were mostly those related to the European way of life. “We generally abandon the aspects that we dislike”, Richard says, adding that thirty to forty years earlier, people used to deny their African origin. “We do not come from Africa, we are from Curaçao”, they used to say.
Today, being black is perceived in a less negative light, especially since the emergence of the Black Power movement in the United States. “They were searching for their roots in Africa. Braids and afro haircuts suddenly became popular”, he explains. Pop singers like Stevie Wonder became the role models. These kinds of trends are quickly adopted in Curaçao. “The assimilation of new trends is part of African character traits”, says Richard Doest

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