Written by: Marlous Vlasblom-Molendijk
This interview has been made possible by Prins Bernhard Cultuurfonds Caribisch Gebied

This visual artist is best known to the general public for the Tula monument: the large white statue of a first holding a broken chain. On the roundabout at Zegu his work can also be seen, a large gate and iguana. Since 2012, the roundabout has been given his full name: Pleinchi di tráfico Hubert M. Kirindongo “Yubi”. In the Cathedral of Thorns another impressive piece of art by him can be admired, namely the Conqueror, or the Conquistador.

Napoleon’s hat, accentuating the Cathedral’s conquest of the sky, with its endless array of thorns. Sometimes it is precisely those sharp edges of life that hurts the most, which as a result, pushes one’s self-imposed limitations. 

A portrait of this artist on the cathedral’s website is therefore certainly appropriate. We would like to introduce you to this Curaçao born visual artist with an entire life behind him. A life as an outcast, boxer and nurse. A man now famous for the fantastic works he creates and who finds his peace and inspiration on his native island.

Artist Yubi Kirindongo lives and works close to Hato International Airport, the airport of Curaçao. In the Souax district is his home, studio, workshop and own museum. I am greeted by a herd of Chihuahuas that bark at me enthusiastically. We soon become friends and I can look for their owner, for whom I am here after all.

Yubi and I get to know each other, he is pleasantly surprised that I speak Papiamentu and in the first half hour he takes me into his workshop, where it is a display of different materials, dogs and an old timer. If you didn’t know that this is an artist’s workshop, it would be hard to place where you have ended up. In 10 years he built the adjacent house himself. In all those years he lived without water and electricity in a hut on the terrain, next to the house under construction. His beautiful house is presently finished and also contains his museum. In the museum there are a lot of works from Yubi himself but you will also find work from other artists. When entering Yubi’s museum, you will immediately notice a number of large, hanging iron objects. That is the astrological zodiac he tells me, and asks me if I can guess which object represents each astrological sign. It became evident that this was not my strong suit. Suddenly, a doll on a chair catches my attention. The doll intrigues me as it does not fit well with the rest of Yubi’s collection. The doll differs in matter, art form and style. Curiosity gets the best of me and I have to ask Yubi what this object means to him. He tells me, visibly moved, that I am the first person to ask him this in all those years. He tells me that this is his spiritual father and an explanation of how and why follows. The explanation is almost inimitable for me and I then ask Yubi about his physical father. It turns out that he never, or at least not consciously, has met him.

We continue to the garden. This is not solely a garden, it is a museum garden with a considerable amount of works of Yubi. Most works are rusted but that is the intention. Yubi explains to me that rust is also a color. The eyecatcher in the garden is an extensive parasol made of crates. They have asked Yubi in the Netherlands to build a parasol like that there too, but he is not interested. Thankfully they stopped asking him this, that way he doesn’t have to say no. He is fine where he is now and has no desire to go to the Netherlands. The time that he lived in Europe and the Netherlands was beautiful but he is staying in Curaçao. It strikes me that he has a characteristic personality, but above all that he is a man with a large emotional world. A world that he expresses in his artwork, always with materials he finds on the island. He makes a series of works for each type of material, this series consists of a minimum of 10 objects.

Yubi and I have a good connection with each other and after the tour in his museum garden we take a seat at the place where Yubi gives workshops. The view is breathtaking and while I am looking at Yubi, I have a marvelous view over Curacao. I could not wish for a more beautiful setting for a valuable conversation with this intriguing man.

Although Yubi is not a talker, he tells me a lot. About the fire in his home in the late 1970s, his 2 divorces and the death of his ex-wife. How to impact of the fire was nothing compared to the pain of breaking up with someone you hold dear. Although these events are in the past, he remains visibly emotional about it.

Yubi is constantly working with his hands. He also mentions this several times. “My hands have to be in motion all the time. I always have to hold something and fiddle with it.” Although I can talk to this man for many more hours, I have to start wrapping up this conversation slowly. Every now and then we are disturbed by Chubi, the car mechanic who is working on the old timer. After our conversation, Yubi wants to show me one more thing. We walk to the back of the garden and he points to a cave with a fence around it, “that is my other pet, her name is Wazo and she is 31 years old”. I look in the cave and see a crocodile. Now I know for sure, this man is full of surprises.

Cathedral of Thorns - Yubi