My neighbor has petroglyphs in her backyard

‘My neighbor has petroglyphs in her backyard’
Arubaans cultureel erfgoed in conflict met uitsterven bedreigde rotstekeningen in de Arubaanse achtertuinen 

Billy Zhao
Natusha Croes
Harold Kelly

Print & Lithography
Robstolk Amsterdam


From holy places to patios. Aruban cultural heritage in conflict.

Spread over five years, artist Sjoerd Martens (1993, Nijmegen) studied the petroglyphs, rock drawings, made on Aruba around the year 1000 by the Caquetio, the indigenous people who were among the earliest inhabitants of the Caribbean island. Where petroglyphs are now, there used to be presumably sacred sites. Today, petroglyphs are often found in the patios of houses. Here, petroglyphs are combined with contemporary graffiti and love messages. They are in places where no one cares about them. 'In the most tragic cases, they are in danger of being destroyed,' says Martens. That is why he decided to immortalize this heritage for future generations. Thus was born his enigmatic documentary photographs and photorealistic collages.

Martens shows the petroglyphs both in their present context - as a bizarre document - and in a visualization of the future. The result is a colorful, visually sparkling, almost magical book that the artist hopes will contribute to raising awareness about and thus preserving, these extraordinary remnants of Aruba's cultural heritage.

Accompanied with texts in Papiamento and English by Billy Zhao, performance curator and writer at Marina Abramovic Institute, poetry by Aruban performance artist Natusha Croes and a scientific in-depth by Harold Kelly, archaeologist at National Archaeological Museum Aruba. Graphic design by De Vormforensen.


Het fotoboek is verkrijgbaar bij o.a. Architectura & Natura (Amsterdam) Athenaeum Boekhandel Zuidoost (Amsterdam) Athenaeum Spui (Amsterdam) Boekhandel Dominicanen (Maastricht) Boekhandel Hijman Ongerijmd (Arnhem) Boekhandel Roelants (Nijmegen) De Utrechtse Boekenbar (Utrecht) DeWit & VanDorp (Oranjestad) Rijksmuseum van Oudheden (Leiden) Erasmus Bookstore (International library supplier, Amsterdam) Eye Filmmuseum (Amsterdam) Foam (Amsterdam) Huis Marseille, Museum for Photography (Amsterdam) Museum Arnhem (Arnhem) National Archaeological Museum Aruba (Oranjestad) Nederlands Fotomuseum (Rotterdam) San Serriffe (Amsterdam) Scheltema (Amsterdam) Stedelijk Museum (Amsterdam) Vide Books (Rotterdam)


About Sjoerd Martens

Sjoerd Martens (b. 1993, Nijmegen, The Netherlands) lives and works in Amsterdam. "We are constantly leaving traces of our existence behind in our surroundings but we also have the urge to erase them as quickly as possible. They normally do not capture our attention, either because of their everydayness or perceived ugliness. The hidden beauty and purity of the human traces are what I want to immortalize so that they can be experienced differently and infinitely. Consequently, the subjects are no longer taken for granted. It is thus reminiscent of archeology, but with a different purpose and an unconventional mean.

I see my work as a sculpture of our legacy. The areas I create are characterized by past human presence, current abandonedness and future uncertainty. The human traces as still life are brought to a new breathing environment through multidisciplinarity and atypical narrative techniques. The manipulated mise-en-scène forms a post-apocalyptic, semi-surreal microcosm that includes physical and non-physical signs of our mortality. This haven is solely palpable and is comparable to past childhood dreams, or dissociation from one’s environment or self."

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