His Majesty King Willem-Alexander opened The Caribbean Netherlands Photography Expo simultaneously on Bonaire, St. Eustatius and Saba (BES) during his tour of the latter mentioned island on Saturday, November 16. Titled “This is the Place,” the exhibit features the selected works of “ordinary people with extraordinary perspectives” and highlights the unique character of each island as seen by residents. It is also a unique attempt to bridge the nation’s spatial disconnect through this visual medium focusing on people’s understanding of themselves within the larger cultural diversity of the nation. The CN Expo was specifically designed to create awareness about the BES islands in conjunction with the 200-year celebrations of the Kingdom of the Netherlands.
On Saba, the photo exhibit is hosted at the Eugenius Johnson Centre in Windwardside. Caribbean Netherlands Government Service (RCN) Communications Department linked Bonaire, St. Eustatius and Saba via video conferencing, streaming live images of the visiting king, Queen Maxima and the audiences on the three islands. Technical challenges prevented the audience on Saba from hearing His Majesty’s opening speech. This overshadowed the tremendous efforts went into coordinating the timely setting up of exhibits on the three islands.
Acting Lieutenant Governor Franklin Wilson commended the organisers’ attempt “to stimulate our young people to become involved in photography,” and thanked all participants who took part in the contest congratulating the winners, adding that “in the end, we are all winners.” While the message could not be delivered live, Wilson, on behalf of the people of Saba, wished to “thank His Majesty King Willem-Alexander for gracing us with his presence and for his willingness to declare this historic event ‘open’.”
Senior Communications Advisor Alida Francis remarked on the beautifully displayed works, thanking Saba Tourism Official Glenn Holm for his assistance, noting that RCN undertook this work with the assistance of BES tourism offices. She stressed that “the cooperation with Saba has been exemplary.” She thanked all the participants, noting the hard work of Gersh Geenty in framing of canvases and Bob Appleyard in installing the exposition panels. Francis apologised for the technical challenges and assured that “we will be evaluating this process and we hope to be able to do this every two or three years to stimulate people to become more involved, to look keenly at what is unique and special about their islands.”
Saba’s contest winners are Hemmie van Xanten, Jasper Oei, Martijn Schuuring, Hanneke Magree Quist, Alessandro Guido, Esmeralda Johnson, Frankelly Wilson, Olivia Johnson and Denicio Levenstone. Teenager Esmeralda Johnson explained that she took the selected photo of Saba’s tidal pools while hiking with her visiting cousin. The competition prompted her to reflect on the particularity of the island’s beauty, look back and actively think on what is genuinely unique and mesmerising about her homeland. She didn’t expect that her photo would be selected to represent Saba. The opening event continued with a courtyard reception and conversations with the contest participants and winners.