Aruba’s Darwin Winklaar wins Amsterdam Fashion Week’s Class of 2020 Award

A post by Peter Jordens:

Darwin Winklaar from San Nicolas, Aruba, a recent graduate of Gerrit Rietveld Academie in Amsterdam, the Netherlands, has won Amsterdam Fashion Week’s Lichting 2020 [Class of 2020] Award. Lichting is an annual competition in which the fourteen best graduates of the seven fashion academies in the Netherlands present themselves and their work to a select group of fashion-industry professionals and the press. The aim of Lichting is to offer promising fashion talent a springboard towards a viable career.

As Loïs van der Wildt reports for Amsterdam Fashion Week, Darwin Winklaar presented the result of an in-depth investigation into Caribbean folk-religious practices. Through a series of six altars and a performance, Darwin shared decolonizing rituals with the aim of increasing awareness and knowledge of marginalized cultures in the Netherlands. The work transcends fashion and is multidisciplinary. […] The Lichting Jury report states: “[…] Darwin touched all four of us with their personal work. Darwin’s multidisciplinary expressions took us into their story, experience and mission to connect through emotion and education. It is an important story and study that contributes to a community in need of representation. Darwin shows that fashion is an expression that knows no boundaries and must be shared. Fashion cannot and should not be pigeonholed. We also want to send a clear signal to academia and the industry that the old system is in need of renewal through open communication and dialogue, instead of continuing to dictate what fashion should look like. Darwin makes fashion as it is meant to be: an expression. […] With this selection, we as Jury also make the statement that fashion may, can, and should be more than garments.”

For the original article in Dutch, go to Translation by Peter Jordens.

Here is Darwin Winklaar’s summary of his work for Amsterdam Fashion Week’s Class of 2020, from (edited here for clarity by Peter Jordens): “This work is the result of a deep investigation into the folk-religious practices that are predominant in the Caribbean. Based upon the “altarity” terminology* proposed by Dr. Laura E. Pérez, I am analyzing my upbringing and creating a series of altars that teleport the audience to the magical realm where my childhood memories are being venerated, healed, liberated. My thesis got nominated for the annual Gerrit Rietveld Academie awards and covers a journey in which I speak proudly and non-apologetically about the vulnerable conditions and spiritualities of a working-class single mother. I graduated with a performance in which I venerated my mother with a cathartic cleansing ritual which I named “THE EXOTIC CUNT OF VIOLETA”. I started using my mother’s rituals as a new way to decolonize all the belittlement that I have encountered throughout my years living in the Netherlands, especially all the words that refer to my artistic practice (exotic, jet-lagged, too colorful, too much, too kitsch, etc.). The decolonizing practice is seen as a means of bringing awareness towards marginalized cultures and their interrelationship with the more Eurocentric attitude that we encounter in the academy. This gap or in-between space is fertile ground for conversations around cultural diversity and a means to acknowledge and resolve our colonial history. My work shows a conceptual process that transcends the fashion-design field and operates on a multidisciplinary frequency. By my use of embodied storytelling, music, dancing and singing, I try to convey an artistic practice that reintroduces a new genre informed by my Aruban roots: Neo Folklorism.

* Altarity may be understood as alternative, altar-like, spirituality-inspired performativity. See: Laura E. Pérez, Chicana Art: The Politics of Spiritual and Aesthetic Altarities (Durham: Duke University Press, 2007).

[Photo above by Peter Stigter.]

Two fascinating interviews (in Dutch) with Darwin Winklaar are available at and

Darwin Winklaar’s social media: and

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