Influencer Salustiano ‘Selsio’ Martha
Interview June 2022
Selsio, could you share with us some information about your family life?
I was born in Curaçao at Seru Fortuna on the 8th of June 1950, which is an auspicious date as it symbolizes balance and harmony, June is the 6th month of a year consisting of 12 months and 1950 was half of the 20th century and indeed I do have some special spiritual gifts. I have two other brothers and three other sisters. My parents were very important in defining who I am today. They taught me the discipline to do whatever chores needed to be done, and we did it. My aunt Anita De Windt, who lived with us in the property where I grew up, also influenced me very much. Over the years, she mentored and coached me to manage my spiritual abilities in a positive, constructive way.
I am the father of two wonderful children, a son and a daughter, both now live in Holland, four beautiful grandchildren and I have a good relationship with my ex, the mother of our children. I have a significant other as I never got married and I decided two years ago to come and live back in Curaçao as I felt after my health issues, that the Universe wanted me to come back to Curaçao. Which is indeed up until today feels like this was the right thing to do.
We know you to be an artist, you have lived some years in Holland and recently came back to Curaçao with the best of your art works that are yet to be produced. Can you expand a little on this?
I have been to Holland twice over all those years and during the past few years, I had some major health issues and needed an operation.
I am a great student of life. Most of what I have learned, I have learned through trial and error, as I found my way in life. In terms of formal education, I attended primary school till the 7th grade, but never passed the exams that would allow me to continue my studies at the secondary school level.
13 years old
I was 13 years old, two weeks before the exams. My teacher a brother (“frater” in Dutch) wanted to penalize me with a broken chair leg and wanted to whip me 3 times. I wasn’t a very obedient student btw, I had issues with the strict education we got because I saw them as representatives of the Divine, but in reality, I experience them to be very harsh. I have always had a strong mind, which got me also involved in fights although I don’t have a big and tall posture.
I was required to bend over and hold on to a table with my two hands and if I would let go of the table, the teacher would start whipping me all over again. After the first whip was very painful, but it was also very denigrating, I fled from the classroom to never come back to school. It was extra denigrating, because the other boys in the classroom, were also asked to drum on their school tables as I was being whipped. This has been a very traumatic experience for me. My parents ultimately agreed with me, that I could leave school at that age. Efforts by that teacher to send me to Scherpenheuvel to learn some “vocational skills”, I declined as Scherpenheuvel was completely managed by brothers (“fraters”) and I didn’t want to meet any of them anymore. I was already earning some money on the side washing cars and doing some chores where I was paid for. My father agreed with me to not go to school, only if I would earn my own money from that moment on, as he wasn’t going to help me financially in any way. I agreed with that and from that moment on I focused on earning my own money and my living. I had different jobs and I managed, learning life lessons along the way.
19 years old
When I was 19 years old, as I was working at the Caribbean Contract Cooperation, the uprising on the 30th of May 1969, was followed by lay-offs and I lost my job. It was then that we started a High Flying Park in Seru Fortuna, one of the first and it was called “The Rest of Africa”. We even had a design of Curaçao on the floor of this High Flying Park and we visualize our history and we, boys and girls in the neighborhood, had enough artistic talents and skills to design all of it. This lasted until 1972/73. After politics got involved in this movement of High Flying Parks in Curaçao, they organized a contest of the best High Flying Park, after we became 2nd, the park was set on fire by disappointed neighborhood boys and although they respected me, they were angry and frustrated by the outcome of the contest and used this to express their anger.
Around this time, I got acquainted with Len Gullen, an American expert that came to the island to test our clay soil and he asked me to help him. After getting involved at first in “Keramika Suffisant” in which Len was involved, I decided to start on my own after a while. I started my atelier, using what I have learned from Len and “Keramika Suffisant” and also became a teacher in ceramics which at a certain moment also included Santa Martha Tayer Soshal that was started to teach some handicapped people these skills. In my atelier, I was also one of the first that used wood from the sea that I collected from the sea close to where I lived and had my atelier.
How did I end up in Holland the first time?
In 1977, I was offered a scholarship to go to Holland. Len Gullen mediated and as I, against the advice of my elderly, went to Holland I experienced some unexpected setbacks. In the end, I started in “Ceramics S’Hertogenbosch” in Holland. It took me 3 months to get my scholarship money paid and some money for my partner that stayed in Curaçao. I overcame the first months though. While this scholarship was promised for 6 months, after the six months I stayed for another 3 months as I was offered an opportunity to continue my training for 2 years at “Ceramics Centrum Heusden”. As from Curaçao I never got an answer on an additional scholarship request, I decided to come back to Curaçao with the intention to go back to Holland.
I am grateful for the opportunity that Len offered me and I am not blaming anyone personally, it is all about the system, that mismanaged my situation.
From 1979 to 1982 I was working for the refinery on a retainer’s fee making pieces of art that they use as presents for their preferred customers.
From 1983 to 1985 I worked as a “couple boss” for different clients and at one moment in time, I had 32 employees in my network that I could call up at any given moment, depending on the work that needed to be done.
Then in 1984, the Shell left the island and as I was concerned about the future of my two small children, I decided to go back to Holland in 1986 after all. I choose deliberately to go somewhere in Holland where I could start all over again, which succeeded because I ended up in Havelte, where I worked and lived in two small municipalities. I was the only colored person in those days living there and I was accepted and respected and my children were also accepted. In my spare time, I used to work on my artworks and at one moment in time, I even invited the Minister Plenipotentiary from the Antillenhuis, mister Papy Jessurun to an opening of a new municipality center where I lived, where there was also an exposition of my artworks. So, I was settled and felt accomplished living in Holland.
In 1994, I went to Ghana on vacation, something that I always wanted to do, and I met my present significant other, Janna Kosters, after my break-up with the mother of my children. She had worked for the Red Cross, “Artsen Zonder Grenzen”, SNV and PUM and had been involved in projects in Uganda and Sudan. She introduced me to Africa.
My visits to Africa were like a homecoming of sorts as in my Astral Travels, I have been to some of the parts we visited, and I also had the privilege to be invited to some ceremonies, via some very synchronistic encounters. It was all meant to be. One medicine man told me exactly when I was born and told me that I am an old soul. In Africa I learned how Ubuntu works, it is about “we” and not about “me’, “myself”, and “I”. It is about “I am because you are” or “If you are OK, I am OK, if you are not OK, I am not OK”.
I have seen how their legal system works based on “Restorative Justice” and a need for understanding, re-integration, and based not on vengeance and exclusion. I have seen that Ubuntu is not being victimized and I have taken notice how they resolve conflicts based on dialogue. All of this deeply impressed me. That is why I want some people of Curaçao, to visit Africa because we can learn so much from Africa. At least I did.
Two years ago I decided to return to Curaçao. This time my children and my significant other approved, as they have taken noticed how much I started to feel unhappy, living in Holland. I started cleaning up and restoring parts of the houses that are in this property over the past 2 years. It is where I grew up (Seru Fortuna) and I called it “Paradise Rest of Africa Parque” (PROAP) and it started to change positively, as was confirmed by my two children and my significant other after they visited me early this year on separate occasions. They could see that I am on the right path. I was always “real” and when I felt things didn’t feel right, I left. My balance I never lost over the years and this is how I feel now.
What is your BIG WHY or driving motivation to be who you are right now and do what you are doing now?
The freedom to do what synchronizes with my heart. At this moment, my heart wants me to create art here in Curaçao. I am now in the phase in my life where I will be making my best pieces of art. That is my WHY.
With regard to other parts of my being, I feel abundance and I have so much to give. I believe in: “Give, and you will receive. Your gift will return to you in full, the amount you give will determine the amount you get back”. I will never say that something is not possible. I am open to what might happen, as everything I ask for, is already available. As I connect with my feelings, I connect with my soul and via my soul, I connect with my spirit.
Do you use your inner voice to evaluate when dilemmas show up? How does that work for you?
I listen to my inner voice in my moments of silence. All of us have it, but we were not taught to listen to it. We have access to the answer to any question we ask, for this is God’s gift to us. We all have access to it.
How are you trying also to keep up with your knowledge and skills levels?
I just live my life and learn my life lessons.
What are your strengths?
My ability to recognize my weaknesses. Furthermore, over the years I have come to manage my spiritual abilities much better. A medicine man in Africa told me that I am an old soul. Indeed, over the years, I was always more mature than my peers.
Do you have hobbies or interests that you are also passionate about?
Music, dancing, hiking in the “mondi” and traveling. Anything that makes me happy as I can get in one zone and then fall into another zone, basically everything that I love to do, with pleasure and fun. If I don’t achieve what I planned originally, I don’t worry as it is about the journey, not the destination. As long as you are free, this drive I already had since I was a young child, is why I had so much difficulty fitting into the educational system dominated by strict “fraters”. It is all about being free.
If you as Selsio would meet a stranger on the bus (let’s say in Ghana or Bogota Columbia) and they would ask you to introduce yourself, what would you answer?
I am an African, I live in Curaçao and I am a citizen of the world.
How would you describe Selsio in one word or one sentence?
I am part of the Universe. I am as small as a sand pebble at a beach but also in the Universe that is being thrown around by the sea waves, but I am still a part from the Universe.
Who are the persons that have inspired you the most in your career?
My aunt Anita de Windt, Martin Luther King, Nelson Mandela, Marcus Garvey, Bob Marley, Jimmy Cliff, Otis Redding, and Isaac Hayes. I am a great follower of what is happening in Africa, “Mapongo Joshua”, all these energies keep me motivated and keep me going.
What is a trait that is still a work in progress?
My relationship with ICT. I have decided to master some of it, but I also decided not to spend not too much time on it, as this would limit my creativity. I am now looking for a youngster to help me in activating my Facebook page again and sort of keeping it up to date for me.
What was a defining moment in your life?
The moment I left school and how I left school as a 7th grader. I had issues with the strict education we got because I saw these brothers (Fraters) as representatives of the Divine, but in reality, I experience them to be very harsh.
But also years later after I fell ill in Holland, I started to become paralyzed on the left side of my body. After attending all sorts of doctors, I ended up in Germany and met a very young specialist that made the right diagnosis. My channels were blocked and he operated me some months later when he was in Holland. After the operation, the morphine and other medicines I had, were so heavy that I started to feel, that I was losing the battle for my life, so after 3 days I decided to stop abruptly taking Morphine and all other medicines and after that moment I started to feel my life force and energy coming back, but I walked around for 9 months with lots of pain. I was advised to change my environment and decided to come to Curaçao for 4 months for my rehabilitation. I woke up every single day and went for a hike or went jogging. I also went for 4 weeks to Surinam and stayed one week in Paramaribo and 3 weeks in the jungle.
After staying 3 months in Holland back, I went to visit Togo and Benin and forgot that I was ill, my life energy force was so vibrant and I was ready to continue my Life’s Journey and Path.
But my children, who I asked for an opinion, strongly advised against it, at first. So, I stayed in Holland and experienced different incidents like once I was invited to have a dialogue with the Curator of the Rijksmuseum Amsterdam, in front of the slave monument in a Park in Amsterdam. There were a lot of people attending this event, and here is where I broke down. As I was recounting how I was beaten and quit school when I was 13 years old, I felt that all the ache that I have kept in my body all those years, came pouring out, and I was at first not to be consoled….but after that, I felt such a relief in my body…It felt much better energetically wise after I cried. It made me conscious, that we can tap into our spirit.
In 2016 I was invited by a University group that had studied the history of the slave trade in Groningen. They have published a book on this and during the presentation of the book I – on their invitation – held a presentation, based on my experience and a monument that I had designed. (I still have this in my container at this moment in Curaçao btw). The intention was to start a dialogue in Groningen. The study was sponsored by the Council of Churches and after a difference of opinion, I left the group and learned a lesson that is “Wie betaalt, bepaalt”. As I am not interested in a position or something, I decided to quit, which I had done sometimes in the past. I called my children and my significant other and told them that I really felt that I needed to go back to Curaçao. This time all of them agreed and told me to go ahead, as they knew it would make me happy. Holland was not the place where I should stay anymore.
Where do you want to be 5 and 10 years from now with your career?
Five years from now, I want to form a group in Curaçao and visit Africa. I will live in abundance and have more than enough. I would be motivating other people to also live a life that is in harmony with and close to nature, and I will know myself even better.
Ten years from now, I would have not only motivated others to visit Africa but would have also lived some years in Africa. Hopefully, I would be physically and mentally healthy enough, to still be doing the things, I like to do.
What would you want your Loved Ones, family, friends, and others to say about you let’s say 20 years from now?
Selsio, enjoys living his life. He is a sharing person that taught us how to do the same. He can be compared to a fruit tree, that needs to be planted and taken care of, but by doing that you can also enjoy its fruits so that his children and grandchildren can continue to enjoy its fruits.
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?
These days our youth doesn’t need a whole lifetime to reach a point where they can become wise enough to undergo a personal transformation. A youngster that lives in this day and age, can now by simply pressing a button, have access to all sorts of information that is available on the internet. It is easier to validate “what is true” and “what is half-true”, compared to when I grew up. I didn’t have this privilege. I was raised with a lot of half-truths and it took me my lifetime, to see through some of these half-truths. And this makes me optimistic about the future of Curaçao.
More information or connect
– Short video (Papiamento): when abroad and missing Curaçao in one art piece.
– Video (Papiamento): art piece representing the family harmony. his daughter, son and their mother and on top he and his ex-wife holding their children.
– Facebook Page: Beeldend Kunstenaar Salustiano Martha
One of the 250 Influencers of Curaçao
Salustiana ‘Selsio’ Martha is a nature-loving“real” (authentic), humble (he considers knowing his weaknesses as one of his strengths) energetic, enthusiastic, life-loving, and sharing artist. As he has spent over 30 years in Holland living, working, and making works of art, made him feel settled and accomplished in Holland until a couple of years ago, after a serious illness, he felt that he needed to come back to Curaçao. Now back in Curaçao, he feels that his best artistic years are about to come yet. He has learned his life lessons by going through “trials and errors of life”, but it has been his best education, making him a wise, spiritual, and driven man, eager to teach others the wisdom he has learned over the years. Over the years, he unraveled and dis-entangled the half-truths that he was brought up with, making him now a self-conscious, proud “African, that lives in Curaçao and a citizen of the world”. He is eager to share African wisdom with those interested, as he is a great admirer of African “Ubuntu” and “Restorative Justice” practices. His strong mind, made him resist strictness at an early age on, as he cherishes freedom and has always wanted to stay balanced, “real” and free. More than once in his life, this mindset made him decide to change the course of his life. In that, he shows resilience, and he is ready to deal with any new challenges that are still ahead of him.
For all these reasons, we deeply love and respect Selsio, as he uniquely models that inner peace that is so much more important than any other outside material thing or position. That is why we consider him one of the 250 influencers of the island representing the “Arts sector” Look at the list of the Influencers we have interviewed or reported on, up to now.