The Struggle is Real

  • Amsterdam (NL), Marowijne (SR), Paramaribo (SR) & Moengo (SR)
  • January 2019January 2020
  • In collaboration with Axe & PorrigeCorridor Project SpaceKenny van GenderenPainting PlantsSuzanne BernhardSuzanne Bernhardt
  • Thanks to AGALABAGAlabAbessa AmoeferiKenny van GenderenKensliMaisonadiaMamboTinde van Andel
  • Supported by AFKAmsterdams Fonds voor de KunstThe Mondriaan Fund

In early 2019, during our stay in eastern Suriname, Suzanne Bernhardt and I noticed that the berry podosiri (better known as the açaí berry outside of Suriname) plays a huge part in daily life in the interior of Suriname. Eating the berry is extremely common, and whenever we mentioned anything at all about our health, we were told to eat more podosiri. In this part of Suriname, the berry is harvested in the wild of the jungle, on a small and local scale.

We were fascinated by this ‘alternative economy’, as it’s self-sufficient. There is no overproduction or export, and each link in the chain has a clear purpose (harvest, preperation, sales), with little competition or hierarchy. Additionally, we noticed that to these people, eating podosiri is part of their cultural identity.

Together, Suzanne and I researched podosiri thoroughy. Back in the Netherlands, during a research residency at Amsterdam’s AGA LAB, I transferred the photographs that I had taken in Suriname of the podosiri harvest and its complex preperation process, to photo etchings. In this process, I experimented with making ink from podosiri, in collaboration with artist collective Painting Plants.
Suzanne created ceramic bowls, using clay from Suriname and The Netherlands. This work reflects on the Dutch trend of mixing a small amount of açaí in a bowl with dairy and selling it as a health booster.

This research resulted in two exhibitions. In Amsterdam, at Corridor Project Space (2019), and in Paramaribo, at Maisonadia (2020).

The exhibitions tried to show the social, economic, and sociological aspects of eating podosiri, through photo etchings, ceramics, videos, collages, and an installation. During the openings in Amsterdam and Paramaribo, the audience received a thorough tour, as well as a four course dinner consisting of dishes that featured podosiri, specially curated by, respectively, creative chefs ‘Axe & Porridge’ and chef Paul Lisse. Additionally, in Paramaribo, the opening included a performance by Surinamese artist Kenny van Genderen.

Image 1/5 After extracting the pigment from the podosiri, in addition to etching ink, I also used it to create silk screening ink
Image 1/13 Our exhibition in Paramaribo took place in Maisonadia, where we collaborated with chef Paul Lisse and artist Kenny van Genderen
Image 1/24 The exhibition The Struggle is Real took place at Corridor Project Space in Amsterdam and lasted for two weeks
Image 1/15 The first test I did with podosiri ink was still in Suriname, where I combined podosiri with eggs and used a lino cut to print
Image 1/26 To get to the right place for podosiri picking, Kensli and Mambo travel down river
Image 1/1 Samples of the berry, branches, and leafs of the pina palm, the tree that produces podosiri berries
Image 1/9 The berries have to be soaked in warm water, because podosiri is so hard and dry