The population of Suriname is blessed with people from all walks of life with an abundance of various talents.
But there is rarely an individual among us who was blessed as much as Soekidjan Irodikromo was. Irodikromo was born on the Pietersburg plantation in the Commewijne district in 1945 and known to everyone simply by the nickname; “Soeki.”
Although being blessed with mountains of talent at birth, this by any means does not guarantee further development of said talent. It took enormous perseverance and dedication to develop and grow his talent, especially because he came from humble rural beginnings. His love for the visual arts was stronger than any adversity he faced on this path.
The people of Suriname are descendants from those that came here, most of whom under unspeakable circumstances, from all corners of the world. Our original inhabitants (the indigenous people) consist of Caribs (Kaliña), Trios (Tirio), Wayana’s and Arowak (Lokono).The Afro-Surinamese descendants of slaves came mainly from West Africa. The descendants of groups from India, Indonesia (island of Java) and China were brought to Suriname as indentured servants. The rest of the country’s population consists of smaller groups from the Netherlands, Portugal, Lebanon and Brazil. Soeki was of Javanese descent and always proudly incorporated this in his work beautifully.
Soeki began his formal training in the visual arts at the Cultural Center Suriname (CCS) in Paramaribo after which he continued studying at the Academy of Visual Arts in Rotterdam, the Netherlands. Eventually he even mastered the art of batik at the ASRI (Academy Seni Rupa Indonesia) in Yogyakarta in Indonesia.
In addition to many exhibitions both solo and in the company of others, Soeki always participated in the National Art Fair. He tirelessly contributed in various ways to the development of visual art in Suriname. By teaching as a teacher, but also through his ceramist training academy. Through batik courses and by participating in the National Art Fair and by encouraging young artists to do the same.
Soeki has expressed his Javanese heritage with pride and skill in his paintings, ceramics and batik works. In addition he has also been accepting influences from the culture of the other groups around him (see a Hindu god below).
Soeki was very accepting of others teaching many different disciplines within the arts and incorporating the differences of others in his own work.
As the cultural divides slowly but surely cleared way for an integrated society so did Soeki’s art. Suriname is a formidable example of the so-called Melting Pot and Soeki helped shape the landscape of society through his art.
Soeki has always been constructively critical of the National Art Fair, with an emphasis on the potential he saw in this staple in the Surinamese community. Soeki fully subscribed to the importance of the National Art Fair and did not skip a single year, his participation was always guaranteed. Soeki was as we call it a real “stonfutu”.
Soeki has produced an enormous oeuvre of beautiful paintings, batik works and ceramics and was a great artist with a big heart. He loved his art and fully indulged himself in it. When asked about the inspiration and continuous development of his artworks he indicated that it came naturally, because it came from the heart.He was so happy to convey this passion for art to everyone.
His ‘Volksacademie’ is a testament to the next generation on how it can be done; develop your talents as an individual and give back to society! We are forever grateful to Soeki for everything we received from him. The Gunungan at Sana Budaya will guard against evil spirits and always be a guiding element for us and a reminder of Soeki.
One of Soeki’s first creations was a self-portrait. As a student attending the Dutch Art Academy he felt out of place like he didn’t belong. He felt uneasy and saw Demons.
In the eleventh hour of his life, while wheelchair bound and with trembling hands, he painted his last portrait also containing many demons.