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?
PICTURED: Monument to Tula, and the rebel slaves on the south coast of Curaçao
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 films 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.