Influencer Omar Sling: multi-talented and positive
Interview December 2021
From waste to art…
The power of Passion and Perseverance
Could you share with us some information about your family life?
I was born in the old Seru Fortuna. I have three other siblings. I am married and have 3 children that are part of what I am doing. My father was a hard worker and he was the breadwinner of the household. My mother was the motor behind our development as at an early age she would allow us to develop ourselves through lessons in music, arts, scouting, you name it, but she also taught us discipline and we had to learn to do households tasks at our home. So all of us had our day to do the dishes, clean up the house, the chairs and I would despise doing these household chores and I didn’t want to be the household maid. So at a certain moment, I bartered with my mother. When she would go to the supermarket to buy groceries for the whole week on Saturdays, as I loved decorating, I became the interior designer of our house. I would make a vase from calabash, paint a bottle, I would draw a painting, and placed it on some wall in our house, I would make any kind of work of art and in hindsight, these became my first steps as an artist. I would long during the whole for Saturday to come so that I work on my art projects and this gradually evolved into my working the whole week on my projects. Btw although neither my father nor mother are painters nor musicians, they and especially my mother was very important to enabling me to become the person I am today as a multi-faceted artist.
Could you share something about your educational background and your experience?
I attended the Technical School (LTS) and passed my High School (MAVO), but during that time I was the joker in school as I didn’t know why I needed to go to school. I went because I was forced to go to school. I have always been part of a music group or a group that was doing wall paintings and I was in the leadership of those groups. After LTS and attending the MTS, I went to Holland to study electrical engineering, but soon changed my course radically and studied to become a multimedia designer. My past experiences in Curaçao gave me an edge. But I was always teaching myself all sorts of things, so I learned hairdressing and all sorts of things, but what I liked the most was graphic designing on a computer. After graduating as a media designer I worked for a little while in Holland, but soon decided urgently to come back to Curaçao in 2007.
I started working for a magazine, that worked with deadlines, which was very stressful. A few hours before publication they would come with some big changes and whatever I did like I worked till 10 PM, they were never satisfied with my work. So I developed a mouse arm, I was very tired from all this and as I became ill, soon after I lost my job. I admit that my character was a little bit immature, but I also felt that I gave so much and got little in return.
“All the things I have gone through were lessons I needed to learn to become the person that I am at this moment.”
In a way, those moments were very crucial because after working some jobs I worked, after a while I couldn’t find a job. The Universe shot all the doors so I couldn’t find a job anywhere, but I kept working on art projects that were fun to do for my own home and my room and after all those years this became art. I am not the person that was to be put in the spotlight, but after all these years someone suggested I organize an Expo which I did in 2010. It was the first time I came out with my work and from that day on, my name as an artist has been established.
My lesson learned?
You can’t get wine without the grape being pressed or the gem can’t be polished without friction. All the things I have gone through were lessons I needed to learn to become the person that I am at this moment.
My mother is a very reserved person and so is my dad as a craftsman. He has so many tools, and when I was younger I was very messy with his tools. I would use the saw because that is what I needed and didn’t clean it up after I saw what I needed. I did this a couple of times and then my father gave up on me, he put a big key lock on his toolbox and I could figure it out myself on how I would continue to work on my projects/art. This didn’t prevent me from continuing working on my projects, as a triggered me to look at tools from a different angle, like using a pair of scissors for example to use it for multiple purposes as a screwdriver, as a hammer, and I had enough raw material as there was soo much waste that people didn’t care for. So this ended up with me getting fully in the recycling arts. In nature, you have different cycles of recycling. It raises, water then would evaporate and become clouds and it would rain again, etc..a leave would all from a tree and perish, but it is also a new beginning as fertilizer to grow new trees, etc……our whole life consists of cycles that we are not aware of and I believe that we need to become more aware of these cycles. Living in Holland for my studies, taught me to see things differently. I was trying to figure out how to achieve the most efficient recycling possible. Like construction sand costs Ang 180,- per truck, and nobody disputes this. But if there is waste that people dispose of, like an old television, I could see the value of it, in its new form. It just changed my mindset and started looking at things differently. 10 to 15 years ago nobody on the island understood what this was all about. But I became aware that nature doesn’t care what we humans think, it continues breaking things down. Like a plastic bottle of water, once we drank the water out of it, it becomes useless. I teach my students that if you had only one “can” on an island and that was the only thing you had, you would use it to cook, use it to transport water, you would use it as a cushion or a chair, or use to collect cherries. So because everything comes so easy and value the things we have at this moment. That is how I started with Recycling Arts.
I have scrolled on your Facebook page and seen that you are very active as an artist working with recycled materials and you do projects like a project with youth at a school in Banda Abou? Can you expand a little on this?
As I made the project the birds at the plaza DjoDjo Corea, it caught the eye of a tourist and he took pictures. I was very aware of where the materials I used, came from. Either from Landfill and just thrown at the side of certain roads and I picked it up. We, unfortunately, loved to play the blaming game here in Curaçao and curse Holland. I choose to be pro-active.
At this moment I have a group called VivaKids that uses recycled material as instruments.
During my youth I have mastered playing the “Quarta”, I was in scouting and I have mastered making my own “tambu” and at a young age, I and my cousins had a band “ Suta kuero”. We were using even buckets as instruments.
I got this epiphany one day to: “Why not offer this to some interested youth and the band VivaKids has now made 5 video clips. Every year the task was to make an instrument, play a song on it, make a video of your performance, learn to collaborate with other children, discipline yourself to follow the conductor and these 15 children trained every Saturday and I believe that in due course just like other bands of children we had in the past like Pumpulunchi, Perlitas,..etc. we will bring forth a prominent artist. I believe that to change the world, starts with changing yourself, as we can’t change other people. And as I go about dealing with these children, I develop my leadership skills. You can find all 5 videos on YouTube as we exist about 5 years now.
As I work what I do also teaches me, my awareness of the valuable artworks I was making came as I was working with the VivaKids, they also formed me; the artworks I make, they also form me; working at the artwork at Plaza DjoDjo Corea made me realize how much my work was appreciated. It started when I attended my first expo. This was like a cold water shower or a warm hub as the overall acceptance of my work was cruel as I finally landed in me, that I do make valuable art. But I am also the kind of person that can work as a hairdresser, I can write, I can cook, I am multifaceted and what I give is who I am.
Like forming a band, I was playing instruments and asked myself why not start a band “Suat Kuero” with my cousins and we performed in Centro Pro Arte, while we were playing on trash turned into musical instruments that were badly painted and that was an awesome experience. We looked till we found the sound of congas or the sound of a drum. We also had a performance on Brion Plein as Sinterklaas was arriving into town at a certain moment. To perform well we stretched ourselves and trained very hard. At first, people were skeptical when they saw us arrive, but when we started playing, this was also on the local television, we were buried under compliments as the sound of Viva Kids on the radio, sounded like a real band. We proved to ourselves and others that the instruments don’t need to be expensive to sound great and playing in the band and playing for audiences unites people.
What is your BIG WHY or driving motivation to be who you are right now?
I am still in the process to get to know my purpose in life and big why. But I continue to surprise myself. I am taking steps forward continuously. I write also but I am humble about my writings, I didn’t publish them yet. Whatever you set your mind to do, you can achieve.
My purpose is as a Philosopher: “To be a master that makes others more aware. This is symbolized as a person that encourages you to climb out of a deep abyss and bring you to a place that you couldn’t imagine”.
I have Koko Yoko statues as a separate line. It all started when in the beginning, I was struggling as an artist. My revenues were low and I was forced to look for a job. But just like the Ant is connected to the Universe and the Cock starts to crow at 5 am, announcing that the sun will come up soon, the cock is announcing light, telling us that darkness is not there to last forever. I want people to see the truth, live out fully, discern the different colors that exist, and become aware that obstacles on your path are there to let you grow.
So I have different types of Koko Yoko’s, they can be used as souvenirs, as I use recycled material to make them. This has great growth potential.
What are your plans for the coming years and when do you consider that you have been successful in your personal and business/professional life, let us say 5 years from now?
I see that I am watering a fruit plant that is starting to sprout, that is my recycling Art. I can see myself going international. 5 years from now Viva Kids will be 20 years old and we would have a venue where we can help more children to play music and make works of art. Now we have to turn down some children as my porch has limited capacity and there is where we practice. I can see that Curaçao would be at a better place, I would have become a better version of myself as I would be working on my research and I would be reading and applying what I am learning at tweaking my learning curve.
What are the challenges that you are dealing with? And how are you dealing with these different challenges you confront?
I have a lot of challenges. My biggest challenge is myself and my mental health, as every single day I have to wake up and surpass myself. It has been very hard when we were in a lockdown and based on your license plate number you were allowed to drive. Drive to go to a warehouse to buy stuff.
For me, it is no work no pay. On top of that, tourism wasn’t great either and it is only now that it is gradually picking up. I believe that we as artists need some support from the government.
Do you use your inner voice to evaluate when dilemmas show up? How does that work for you?
It is hard to explain how it works. It is not a straight line or structure. The first time I was aware of it, was when I was still working for an employer after I came back from Holland. I was driving in the car and started taking notice of this voice telling me what to do. For example, when I am working on Koko Yoko and I am pouring some puppets, I just end being on another planet, so to say. As you look at the object you are working on, everything else surrounding that object just becomes blurred. I become so focused on what I am doing, that I have experienced times that I noticed that have cut our water supply because I didn’t pay the water bills in time.
How are you trying also to keep up with your knowledge and skills levels?
In this day and age, if you don’t grow, it is your fault. You have to roll up your sleeves and start working. When I am confronted with a challenge and I have no clue on how to tackle it, I would go to YouTube for example. They have information about anything imaginable on YouTube, so if you want to make a cake, they have it.
So I wake up every day and I start doing what I have to do. I read a lot, of late I enjoy this more and more, I listen to podcasts where they share information on some research they have done. And as I work, I tweak my approach based on the outcomes I get.
What are your strengths?
My creativity to create images that stem from strong roots and my willpower.
Do you have hobbies or interests that you are also passionate about?
I am a nature lover, I love philosophy, science. I lobe listening to an audiobook when I am working to uplift my mind. Just like eating healthy food I love my ears to eat healthily.
If you as Omar would meet a stranger on the bus (let say in New York or Bogota Columbia) and they would ask you to introduce yourself, what would you answer?
My way of connecting with people depends. If the person would be an art director I would sell myself to the max as a recycle artist. Otherwise, I have no fixed way, how to introduce myself.
How would you describe Omar in some word or one sentence?
A multi-talented, creative, positive person with strong perseverance, chilling and inspiring.
Who are the persons that have inspired you the most in your career?
- Richard Doest that taught us a lot about our Culture and the Arts when we were a child.
- Mirto Martis picked us up every Saturday so that we can go to learn and play “quarto” and form a choir. This has evolved into the group “VivaKids”.
- My journey to find the great Architect of the Universe, my biggest source of inspiration. A boy born in Jerusalem without filling in any more details. In mathematics it is “X” referring to everything I can observe of our Universe, that is my inspiration and that enables miracles to happen, the greatest artist of all artists. In my last work that I build for Banco di Caribe and made two persons and it requires so much effort to not let them look like Monkees, this “X” made a flower and every other thing in nature, that is awesome.
I could have chosen to be a bad person, but I want to add a list of good things to the world. Now I don’t think of this that much, but my life’s work of making music and works of art. I will read about this afterward, as it tells my story to the world.
What is a trait that is still a work in progress?
Learn how to balance the mind and the heart. The ego and the other you. If you can achieve this balance, everything will flow.
What was a defining moment in your life?
Every assignment brings with it, its challenges. Every work of art has its history. Like the work of art, I made om Plaza DjoDjo Corea for the MCB-bank. I had neither a solid floor nor roof where I could work on. After I arranged a floor, it still didn’t have a roof and it started raining, but that is how nature and the Universe works.
When working on my last assignment for Banco di Caribe, it was tough because of the lockdown. So there were days I wasn’t allowed to drive my car to reach the hardware stores for materials I needed. That wasn’t a pleasant time, it wasn’t a vacation. The kids were at school and my wife was at work. It made me reflect on the question: “How free we are as human beings, are we that free to decide free of any strings attached?” So every assignment has its own defining moment and then in the end you do manage to create something unique and that is appreciated by others. That gives me a feeling of fulfillment.
Where do you want to be 10 years from now with your career?
One of the great ones in the work I am doing. As I am already a step ahead in the work I create, 5 years from now I will be Internationally renowned, 10 years from now I would have become one of the pillars of recycling waste into works of Art in Curaçao and the whole of the Dutch Caribbean.
“From waste to art in Curaçao…”
What would you want your Loved Ones, family, friends, and others to say about you let’s say 20 years from now?
I will be grateful for all the things I have done over the years. Loved Ones, family, and friends will say:
“He is an example. He has managed to use waste as valuable resources, to be used as recycled materials in his work of art”.
One of my goals is to give proof in my works of the greatness of the greatest Architect of the Universe and be some kind of spiritual teacher for others. As every person will interpret reality from a specific angle, like a car will have red lights if you look at it from the back and white lights if you look at it from the front side.
I am not striving to be one of the great artists in the world, if something is good, it is good, you can’t hide this from people to see that.
I don’t care what others say, but the more I create the more people get to know me. 100 years from now they will still be singing my songs and my artworks will still be there. I will also be a fruit of those role models in arts and literature, the generation before me, like Ompie Ellis, Rudy Plaate, Doble R, Gibby Doran, Frank Martinus Arion.
What makes you stay optimistic about the future of Curaçao as we are in the middle of a worldwide pandemic, recession, and in the middle of growing environmental challenges because of the global warming consequences?
We are one of the best places to live in the world, small, but are people are very talented. Check what we accomplish in Baseball, Track, and Field, Karate, Taekwondo. We speak 3 to 4 languages, we are multi-religious and we are very well located geographically. We shouldn’t let our color affect our self-esteem as we are descendants from so many nations, like African, Dutch, English, and Chinese. We can, yes we can.
One of the 250 Influencers of Curaçao
Omar Sling is a creative, inspiring, resilient, energetic, deeply spiritual multi-facetted artist. Based on his drive to make work of arts with little, he developed a mastery to use waste to create valuable work of art. Apart from his increasingly renowned works of art from waste, he has been leading Viva Kids for 5 years, making use of self-made instruments, like he used when he played in “Suta kuero” with his cousins years back. By offering this to some youth, he doesn’t only offer them musical training but also helps them develop collaboration, production, songwriting skills, and discipline. With his latest “Koko Yoko” puppets, he has started the 3rd line as part of his busy multifaceted life. Besides all this Omar wants to be a master that makes others more aware, encouraging them to climb out of a deep abyss and bring you to a place that you couldn’t imagine. For all this, we deeply love and respect Omar, and we consider him one of the 250 influencers of the islands representing the Arts and Cultural Sector. Look at the list of the Influencers we have interviewed or reported on, up to now.
Short videos of Viva kids and Omar Sling short videos.
PopCorn – YouTube
Viva Djasabra – YouTube
Man Man Moketa Moketa – YouTube
Ku Pashon – YouTube
Bail’e Kacho – YouTube
omar sling – YouTube
Miho Tempu Ta Bin – YouTube