Rotterdam pays tribute to painter Ro Heilbron

The Daily Herald writes that the Centre for Visual Arts CBK in Rotterdam is paying tribute this month to painter and graphic artist Ro Heilbron, who passed away in 2014.

In commemoration of Heilbron, who is considered one of the most important and renowned visual artists from his native Suriname, CBK Rotterdam has organised an exhibition in several stores along the West- Kruiskade.

The exhibit, which runs until August 1, was opened on Emancipation Day, July 1, by Rabin S. Baldewsingh, who was one of Heilbron’s close friends. Piet de Jonge, who put the exhibit together, gave a short introduction.

Slavery was one of the themes of Heilbron’s socio-political art.
Slavery was one of the themes of Heilbron’s socio-political art.

Heilbron (1938-2014) is not only known in the Netherlands and Suriname, but also in St. Maarten and Saba. Throughout the years, he held various exhibitions in the Caribbean islands. The Rotterdam exhibit gives an overview of Heilbron’s work, his involvement with poverty and suppression, the hope and reality in connection with Suriname’s independence from the Netherlands and the intimacy of his later work, inspired by his Indian roots.

His paintings do not only relate to the social circumstances in Suriname, but also refer to other Third-World countries and the situation in the world as a whole. Heilbron also made his mark in Rotterdam. The murals in the Hofbogen have in the meantime disappeared, but an anti-racism painting of his hand is still visible in G.J. Mulderstraat, as well as a door and electricity box along Essenburgsingel which he painted towards the end of his life. Several of Heilbron’s paintings are in the CBK collection.

Ronald George Heilbron was born December 6, 1938, in Paramaribo where he grew up in a poor family. In his young years he worked as a student-typesetter with various printers, and eventually as a typesetter and layout artist with the largest newspaper of Suriname De Ware Tijd. In the early 1960s, he started to paint colourful scenes from daily life with much focus on poverty and poor living conditions. In 1963, he held his first exhibition in renowned Hotel Casino Torarica in Paramaribo.

Where Heilbron was concerned the social and artistic practice were closely connected. He used various techniques in expressing his message, which always contained a political or social statement.

He called himself a “Third- World Artist” and always looked for confrontation, without being too explicit. “Not openly political; everyone can fill it in for himself,” Heilbron said. It earned him recognition in the Netherlands, the Caribbean and in Suriname.

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