Influencer Sinuhe Oomen
Interview May 2021
Could you share with us some information of your family life?
I was born and raised in Curaçao and partially in Bonaire and for just a small part also in Amsterdam. My father was from Holland and he was a war survivor, that had experienced a turbulent youth. He experienced how a lot of Jewish friends, in the neighborhood where he grew up, were deported and killed during those years. He survived that period and the hunger winter of 1944, but his PTSD unfortunately he never overcame. He started his career in the marines, worked as an electrical engineer at the Hato airport. After a civil servant period, he became a lawyer in Bonaire and ended his career as a clinical surgeon. My mother was her whole life a teacher in primary and secondary school. Later she also taught at the then GOG (children under judicial supervision). Their life and careers had a tremendous impact on how we (our brothers and sisters) became adults, pursued our education and became much more committed to each other’s life.
Together we are 7 brothers and sisters, 3 of my fathers’ previous marriage and 1 sister of my mothers’ second marriage. Our youth was turbulent to say at least, but nevertheless adventurous. Mainly because of the spartan upbringing of our father, in which his traumatic war experience had much to do with it. Overcoming fear, not quitting, physical endurance, withstanding mental pressure, discipline in everything we do, sticking to the moral principles like integrity, loyalty but also accepting hurtful consequences for the choices you have made, were virtues he vigorously made our daily routine. His past war experience dictated that mankind has a thin layer of civility and sadly, looking back, he was right.
During my high school period, I have had two very important school teachers, who were also my life mentor. Roel Bruinsma encouraged me to pursue a study and career that should involve fine Arts and coached me all the way to the end of my school years. Besides his role in my study to get my ‘Onderwijs akte’, he particularly opened my eyes to the gem of our Arts & Culture of Curaçao. The other mentor was Michael Euphrosina, who was pivotal in the stability in my youth, dealing with my fears, pursuing my goals and lessons of life that is until today fundamental in my career. He later became a Cultural Diversity expert and his insights were the redline during my university years. So after obtaining my master’s degree in England, cum laude, in my speech I have dedicated this masters bull to those two gentlemen.
In short, after the MIL in Curaçao, and after getting a teachers’ diploma while I did my HAVO, my educational quest brought me to Holland: Industrial Design at the Akademie voor Industriele Vormgeving Eindhoven (today the Design Academy Eindhoven) followed by Interaction Design at the faculteit Kunst Media Technologie and later the Masters Interactive Multi-Media at the Portsmouth University in Great Brittan.
During my study, I have always worked. It was difficult and sometimes painful, the culture shock was severe and in many cases, I had to deal with discrimination. It made me resilient and made me understand, how to deal with it. It’s a reality of life. Be skillful in dealing with it, I would say.
A particular experience has widened my ambition and perspective on life & career. At the Design Academy Eindhoven, I noticed slick people frequenting a door somewhere in the hallway where I did my computer classes. It seemed that the “unused area” was an office for people not related to the academy. One day I just went over and entered the office, finding people staring at me and me staring at them. It happened to be the European Design Center working on programs envoyed by the European Union. They were very surprised by my curiosity and I came to know that they are a spin-off of the Academy. Since nobody said anything, I introduced myself to a man in a three-piece suit and asked him what he was doing here. Joao Menos de Matos was the director of that office and a great guy that could speak Italian, German, French, Portuguese, Spanish and an expert in developing innovative businesses. He was a go-getter. The EDC was studying new industrial techniques based on the intention to have all the European countries collaborate on an industrial level in order to compete with Japan, the USA, Taiwan and the Sowjet Union especially in the areas of the car industries, aeroplanes, telematics, architecture and computer software. The most intelligent of the European countries needed to collaborate to create synergies and this collaboration needed to be unique, effective. A small part of this program was the design department.
It was with the same Mena de Matos that I stroke a deal, to work for his organization as a full-time researcher and I asked only an internship compensation of NGL 550,-, in exchange for allowing me to finish my education. I knew it was something important and significant for Europe, but also for my island. I worked for 3 years for them. I collaborated in many research areas during these years including 3D modelling, distant collaboration, distant education and knowledge sharing and digitization of the design process. Those were also the subjects I did specialize in during my masters.
In 1995 I attended the Telecom 95 in Geneva with the European Design Center and this was a gigantic eye-opener. All new innovation on the Telecom was being presented as they would be presented on the market soon. The EDC was stationed in the European Union boot, presenting our research and prototyping results and showcased by Jacques Santer, the chair of the European Union. It was the “crème de la crème” on technology in Europe. To meet Nelson Mandela himself who was invited to the boot was a very special and privileged moment. I was allowed to introduce an overview of our innovations, but also made sure that he knew that I came from the tiny island of Curaçao. A year later (1996) I was honored with my first Art exhibition in Geneva titled “Les Femmes des Vi Coco” (The women of Vi Coco) at Gallery 2o curated by Mrs Ivana Vrbica. Those were the times I studied and worked at the same time and once a week studied 24 hours straight. It took me years to unlearn this bad habit because at one point it will wreck you.
My career in short: I have worked for the European Design Centre (digital research lab), Audax Tros Multimedia that later split into Antraciet and the infamous World Online (Online technology & arts). Followed by the consultancy companies Arthur Anderson and Escador in digital technology. The tech bubble brought me to the coffee commerce, from tasting and product development to sales, but also the machinery involved in espresso-making in wholesale and retail. The last few years in Holland was dedicated to hardcore ICT for the electronic medical dossier for very large clients with more the 10.000 employees.
I have experienced the heights and lows in Holland as I started working first with Bob Smit (Antraciet) who was a great mentor for me. He used to be the director of NOB-omroep, once a director of KPMG NL. He taught me to be “soft on the people and hard on the facts”.
We have known you to be interested in arts and an organizer of TEDxCuraçao, you used to be a board member of Ocan, you are the secretary of Greentown, the director of Bloemhof…am I forgetting something?
In 2011 I returned to Curaçao and joined Greentown Curaçao Foundation as vice president and later secretary. We were aiming to promote the sustainable industry in the Schottegat area as part of the GreenTown movement.
By working on different plans, we might have helped to at least for the moment allow other initiatives like TNO’s living lab and others to use the redundant area of the refinery terrain for alternative use.
In 2011 we founded the TEDxCuraçao Foundation with Jacob Geltdekker and he wanted to create a framework for local young professionals by presenting them inspiring people from our own region and elsewhere in the world. TEDxCuraçao has organized several successful events. We expect to start soon again in 2022.
For 5,5 years I had the honour to serve as a General Manager at Landhuis Bloemhof, an Art & Culture institute where I had to level up the existing program, but also create more value and revenue income with the exploitation of the estate assets. My expertise in Fine Art has deepened so did the passion. It is thrilling to be involved in projects for Arts valuation and advisory. I do believe we, Curaçao, have an international value to propose, not only in the creation of art but also in the trade and value creation of creative products. Currently, I am involved as interim director for ailing companies, helping them out dealing with the crisis, whether to save them as a whole, split or reduce them into smaller core activities or re-design their business activities.
How did you end working in OCAN (Overleg Orgaan Caribische Nederlanders)?
I have always been involved in organizations that supported the Antillean students in Eindhoven among them the Antillean Student Committee. I did this for three years, helping new students to find their way when they arrive in Holland. That was where I afterwards got involved in OCaN as a board member. OCaN’s role is an advocate for the Antillean minorities in Holland as their interests are not always represented in the Dutch parliament. There is where I learned a lot about politics on the front stage and definitely on that backstage…the paperwork. I learned how to deal with the Dutch civil servants and their ways and means. Yes, I welcomed Glenn Helberg to become the chairperson of OCaN as he was articulate, diplomatic and a terrific negotiator. He had a tremendous influence on me and was in a way also a mentor for me just like Bob Smits was, who was once my boss in my early career and an experienced people manager. He was a former director of among other N.O.B. (Nederlandse Omroep Bedrijf).
Another role model for me was the late Brigitha Meyer Cratsz who has taught me the basic principles of diplomacy, negotiating conventions in conflicting issues and basic human respect. Brigitha Meyer Cratsz had an extensive career in social wellbeing in organisations as Oxfam Novib.
She once told her story of how she was dealing with political refugees that had to flee from Chili after the coup by Pinochet. I had ties with Chili through my grandmother that had investments in Chile, and they lost everything in the post-Allende era.
Btw when we had meeting on Vision Curaçao 2030 a month ago you were very knowledgeable on the infrastructure of the agricultural sector that was build by the former minister of GMN Suzy Romer, can you expand on that a little?
The philosophy of former Minister Suzy Camelia Romer was that you can lower the deficit on the balance of payment by producing local produce to replace the import of products. The sector where this can be done rather easy is the agricultural sector, where the skills and knowledge levels needed is rather low and plenty available in Curaçao. Traditional agriculture has low productivity and there are not many people willing to work in that sector. But if you talk biotech, that is a different story. Via IPE there are courses being offered in hydroponics, aquaponics to create a skilled labor force and entrepreneurs. The projected success of her philosophy is not far-fetched, because Holland is the biggest producer and market leader in the world based on these farming technologies. The idea is to first produce local fresh greens, lower the import of agricultural products, and then grow to even export those products. As I was doing this study I gained a lot of insights and information regarding the policy needed for the whole production processes, market development and marketing of the green products. I am not unfamiliar with those processes, as we used to grow up practically at Plantage Hato.
What is your BIG WHY or driving motivation to be whom you are right now?
Being a sensitive and empathic person is something you start to understand later in life. This understanding comes with pain but also with a new perception of yourself towards the environment you’ve created and of course, will reshape.
I want to help to change this world, especially by focussing on those that are in socially and environmentally disadvantaged situations. It reflexes the flaws we as humans have created.
What is a next project that you are working on now and when do you consider that you have been successful in your personal and business/professional life?
My next projects are Arts, where I am involved in, Industrial Design; BlockChain & Crypto; the IT part of the Media; modern agriculture.
Where do you want to be, let us say 5 years from now?
A situation where I have a stable income for my family’s sake, a place with very good friends, a period of inspirational vibes and hope. I don’t want my children to go through what we’ve gone through.
What are the challenges that you are dealing with? And how are you dealing with these different challenges you confront?
My personal challenge is my mental development that wants to keep growing, my spiritual development that is so hungry. I have a hunger for knowledge, not only knowledge about my areas of expertise but also the knowledge that makes the “Homo Universalis”. I deeply respect Leonardo da Vinci and Michelangelo as they were so multidimensional in their way to gain knowledge.
Do you use your inner voice to evaluate when dilemma’s show up? How does that work for you?
I use my intuition and gut feeling a lot. We as human beings have such a great ability within us that we are not sufficiently aware of and using enough. Everything that I can’t grasp with ratio, I need to complement that with my intuition and gut feeling. Everything that I can’t feel emotionally, I need my ratio to understand this for me.
How are you trying also to keep up with your personal knowledge and skills levels?
I read everything that comes into my hands, and whenever I have a moment or two to read. My telephone is a great source of information. I exchange a lot of excerpts and titles of books with my brothers, where we tell each other the quintessence or previews of what we have read. I meet and engage with people that can teach me something better or new. And I particularly despise those who show disdain towards others..even if they are an expert. Because knowledge is not an only ratio, but also spiritual, the thing that makes you ‘mensch’.
What are your strengths?
Empathy, creative, holistic, pragmatic and unconventional in solutions. Big dreamer.
Do you have hobbies or interests that you are also passionate about?
Well, my hobbies are a moving target, but mainly it concentrates on practice Fine Arts, practice and teaching the Tango dance, but also study art history, political and social history in Europe, Middle East and of course of Latin America especially the pre-historic times and the decolonization period.
If you as Sinuhe would meet a stranger in the bus (let say in Italy) and they would ask you to introduce yourself, what would you answer?
I would tell them my name, where I come from, what I do and tell them something about my passion…with a smile and an espresso!
How would you describe Sinuhe in one word or one sentence?
Multi facetted! I can work in so many areas separate or combined like in arts & culture, digital technology, business development. Having done 4 separate studies on the bachelor and masters level has led to this. But actually, it is my hunger for figuring things out, trying to understand the problem and mitigate it with an (unusual) solution that has always been the founding layer to this definition.
One of the 250 Influencers of Curaçao
Sinuhe Oomen is a passionate, curious (always been an avid reader), multifaceted, highly energetic, empathic, creative, holistic, pragmatic business owner and arts consultant, that is unconventional in his solutions. During his infant year’s his father wanted him to develop grit and that is exactly what he developed during his primary school and high school years. This has given him a big head start, once he got in Holland to study and later on during the different phases of his life where he continued to experience some challenging high and lows of what life can throw at a person. But this has never let him “give in”, making him all a more defiant person that is by nature an optimist. As a very sensitive person Sinuhe is very empathic especially for those that are socially disadvantaged. Improving their situations is his biggest driver, be it directly or through policymaking, wherever usefulness his multiple abilities can offer. Because of his continuous involvement in multiple ventures, his relentless effort to learn and gain more insight in people that can teach him new things, his deep respect of human beings in general, Sinuhe is creating and will continue to create big waves in Curacao and that is why we dearly love and deeply respect Sinuhe Oomen. We consider him part of the 250 Influencers of the island representing the sector Arts and Culture.