A selection from his work

Satires in bronze, full of humour or biting sarcasm, questions and answers that often evoke strong emotions –those are characteristic features in the sculptures of Nelson Carrilho. Identity - who cares?, We are going to Holland, Waiting for God and the installation Fools Parade. Power and impotence, justice and injustice. Obviously, politics and the church are strongly embedded in his works.

Carrilho is from Curaçao, an island swarming with the bronze busts of the former conquistadors. They adorn beautifull squares with benches no one ever dares to sit on in the burning heat of the merciless sunshine. Yes, I sat there once, a tourist in shorts, I watched and heard Nelson in the back of my mind: 'Megalomania from the past, ridiculous idolatry'. Identity - who cares? refers to this idiocy (it was made in celebration of the five-hundredth anniversary in 1999 of the discovery of Curaçao ), but it also lashes out at the current authorities, who feel themselves losing their grip on the citizens and wriggle to hold on to their powers at all costs.

The same is true with Fools Parade. What is written on those large papers on the wall? The double–faced politician, does he look with content at the prose obeyed by the masses unthinkingly or does he avert his eyes from pure poetry telling the truth? And who are the ones guarding the word? A jury? Judges? Masks?
We gaan naar Holland (We are going to Holland, from the series Fools parade) – a popular innocent nursery rhyme, but also topical: the slumping economy, the result of an incompetent government, causes many to flee the island.

(We are going to Holland / on a French boat. /The masts are made of gold / and the flag is the Dutch flag. /Ferries on ferries, /people on people, / a hat with a black ribbon, /To Holland we are sailing …')

Carrilho monitors world politics with a suspicious eye. He is an observer, who cannot intervene, but at times airs his vehement comments. 'It's a carnival, a fake world. 'As in Waiting for God, where, engraved in the wall it reads: 'I never promised you a rose garden'. Cynism? Humour? Man clings to so many symbols, what would happen if they disappear, and walls are demolished like the Berlin wall?

Nelson Carrilho's works do not only hold an accusation, they also tell about liberation and the emotions it can evoke in people. You do not have to visit Curaçao or Amsterdam to understand Nelson Carrilho's works, they speak for themselves; you do not have to know Nelson in person to appreciate the beauty of his works, but I consider myself lucky that he was willing to tell me what I am telling you now and point out details I would otherwise have missed. Such as the wink in La femme et l'oiseau (The woman and the bird); a woman tells a secret to her best friend the bird, even though she should know that in literature the bird is the symbol of indiscretion. Two vices having a tète-à-tète.

Carrilho's social engagement also shows in the work that has found a place in Holland and on Curaçao outdoors. In the Vondelpark in Amsterdam stands a large statue he made when the black youngster Kerwin Duinmeijer was murdered. It is an antiracism monument: Mama Baranka (Mother rock). Mindful of the saying: 'When you hit a woman, you hit a rock; this statue is a homage to all mothers'. In the Westerpark, also in the capital, we find the statue Dragers van Verre (Carriers from a far) –a symbol of multicultural Amsterdam. Its theme is the constant migration of people from one continent to another. The sculpture on mount Arrarat on Curaçao does not have a name. One name would not even suffice. Nelson showed it to me several years ago. I walked around it in a wide circle and took a picture every other metre. Every picture shows a different image. The sculpture is crowned with universal symbols such as water, fish and wheel. It is an enormous manifestation of power that joins battle with the huge space surrounding it. I saw the artist win.

Nelson Carrilho, born on Curaçao (Netherlands Antilles) on March 30 1953, moved to Holland in 1964, where he graduated at the Academy of Fine Arts "Artibus" in Utrecht in 1980. Since then he has developed a sense, a talent to touch modern man.
Like one critic wrote, and I gladly agree with him: 'Biting humour features many of his sculptures, as does poetry, which makes his works put the darker sides of the human character in a pleasant perspective.
Nelson Carrilho explores the human soul with a smile.

Sjoerd Kuyper, 2000


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