25 September 2013

Instituto Alsa Papiamentu pays homage to Prof. Dr. Frank Martinus Arion

Special to Overseas Territories Review

WILLEMSTAD — Professor Frank Martinus Arion received the award ‘Papiamentu Den Moveshon’ (Papiamentu in motion) in Curaçao from Instituto Alsa Papiamentu within the framework of a celebration of their 5th anniversary. 

This organization of teachers of Papiamentu in primary, secondary and tertiary education, strives to enhance the importance of Papiamentu as a mother tongue in education, government administration and other sectors of the community. The writer himself is an honorary member and professes that he cannot imagine people living in a world where they’re not taught in their mother tongue and be satisfied with that.

Dr. Enrique Muller, another honorary member, praised Arion in his introduction by mentioning his courage to go where no one dared venture and that he did it with excellent results. “He showed us the way and we will follow him finding new paths for future research and uses of our language.”

Several speakers elaborated on the impact of Arion on Papiamentu and Dutch literature and the emancipation of the Papiamentu language in general. According to Dr. Marta Dijkhoff, chairwoman of Instituto Alsa Papiamentu, who spoke of the author’s vision and role in the emancipation of Papiamentu, they think the world of the author in the Netherlands, while he is taken for granted on Curaçao.

He received several awards for his books in Dutch, including the Lucy B. and C.W. van der Hooft Award in 1974 for ‘Dubbelspel’ (which has been translated into English as Double Play, next to German and Danish); the ABC Award 1993 and the Cola Debrot Award 2001 for ‘De laatste vrijheid’ (The last freedom). In 2011 he was nominated for the Jan Hanlo Essay Award for the publication of ‘Intimiteiten van het schrijven’ (Intimacies of writing). In the same year Changá, the Papiamentu version of Dubbelspel became a reality.

Dijkhoff and Arion worked together at the Instituto Lingwístiko Antiano (ILA) on the spelling, standardization and structure of the Creole language on the Leeward Islands. The ILA also published several books of Papiamentu authors. Arion was also ahead of his time. In 1987, as Papiamentu was introduced as a subject at elementary school level, he started a school, Kolegio Erasmo with Papiamentu as the language of instruction. The government followed in 2011.

Dr. Ronnie Severing, director of Fundashon pa Planifikashon di Idioma (FPI), spoke about Arion’s career, and of moments when the two had met, from being a student in the Netherlands to professors at the University of Curacao.

Former minister Norman Girigorie, a nephew of the author, spoke about his political past. In 1988 Arion founded the political party KARA, ‘Kambio Rápido (immediate change)’ that later on (under the name of KARA NOBO) joined Pueblo Soberano, the only party that strives for the independence of Curaçao.

Jacqueline Cras showed the audience the personal side of Arion. Being a friend of the family, she exposed the soul of the author. Her speech was awarded with a standing ovation.

All ABC-Islands were represented at this event. The sister organization Lanta Papiamentu from Aruba who was represented by their chairwoman, Joyce Pereira, showed  their appraisal by presenting the Curaçao organization with an award on their 5th  year of struggle for a better position of the mother tongue at all levels of society.

A writer from Aruba, Munye Oduber – Winklaar dedicated a poem to Arion.

Several students of Skol Humanista na Papiamentu showed their talents of singing, reading and dancing, among them his daughter Margi, one of the very first students. The event was also accompanied by an exposition of the national library of Curacao (recently named after him) about his collective works in Dutch, English and Papiamentu.

The event took place at the NAAM (National Archaeological - Anthropological Memory Management Institute).

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