Mama Baranka

Nelson Carrilho

Sunday, August 20, 2023, marked the 40th anniversary of Kerwin Lucas Duinmeijer’s murder. The 15-year-old, Antillean Kerwin was stabbed in Damstraat by a neonazi. The murder and the perpetrator’s racist motives were widely read in the media and went through the country like a shock. A large-scale demonstration took place in the aftermath, and American human rights activist Jesse Jackson visited the grave. Curaçao-born artist Nelson Carrilho created the sculpture Mama Baranka, the first anti-racist sculpture in the city’s public space, in response to this event.

Instead of creating a bust or statue of Kerwin, the artist came up with his impression of Mama Baranka, which means Mother Rock, or Mother Earth. He wanted the sculpture to signify vigilance, solidity and eternity. The form, a rough, tactile structure with holes, refers to the rocks on Curaçao. Carrilho’s mother and Hillie Holband, a Surinamese spiritual woman and singer from the Bijlmer, were models for the sculpture. The woman stands with both feet on the ground rather than on a pedestal. The statue was unveiled on Aug. 25, 1984, during the first commemoration of Kerwin’s death. Below the statue reads the text (translated from Dutch):

Let Amsterdam, once bastion of tolerance
carry on the torch of tolerance
Because his skin color could not be tolerated
here a human child fell from intolerance.

Mama Baranka has now become an iconic statue in Amsterdam’s Vondelpark. The murder of Kerwin is commemorated here annually, and the statue is also the centerpiece of other commemorations. The Amsterdam Museum has an exhibition around the statue which runs September 2, 2023. With this exhibition, the museum wants to give the impact of Kerwin’s murder and the genesis of the first anti-racist statue in the city’s public space a place in the collection of the city of Amsterdam.

Image: Hans Homburg