Notes: Rahied Abdoel’s gearsticks

Monday, November 9, 2009

Excerpts from notes by artist Ellen Ligteringen on the 2009 National Art Fair in Paramaribo

7 November, 2009

Wooden gearsticks by Rahied Abdoel, installed at the 2009 Suriname National Art Fair; photo by Ellen Ligteringen

The young artist Rahied Abdoel is participating in the National Art Fair of Suriname for the first time this year. His work is in the first area I visit in the exhibition hall. In a split second, the piece on the right-hand side, an arrangements of wooden gearsticks, takes my full attention and it stays there for a while.

The piece does not tell exactly what it is. It could be a display of functional handmade objects, or a nice poem about movement, but it could also be an altar for all the victims of traffic accidents in Suriname, more than two deaths a week lately. Or is it a display of objects to show off the status symbol of a car? Or is it just functional? The piece refuses to be an explanation of a single thought.

Wood carvings and other works by Rahied Abdoel; photo by Ellen Ligteringen

The artist is standing next to me as I talk to myself, obviously a little too loudly. So he introduces himself. He is self-taught. In the art fair catalogue, Rahied is listed as a painter. His work is installed in the painting section of the exhibition hall. I ask him why. He tells me his work started with charcoal drawings. This year he started to make wooden pieces. He draws with wood and on wood, making sculptures, clocks, wall pieces with text, walking sticks, and gearsticks. Every work is well-polished and covered with a layer of two-component varnish. For Rahied, it is even important that the back side of a two-dimensional wooden wall piece is polished well too, even though no one may see it.

He says he develops an idea for a work in close harmony with his parents and younger brother. You could say the process is almost democratic. The religious background of the family plays a key role in what he makes. Most of the work refers to the Koran, to his Islamic faith. His favorite three-dimensional piece is an assemblage of prayers in wood, presenting a man who confesses his faith.

I ask him about the gearsticks. This was his idea. He knows about handmade wooden gear sticks for the luxury cars. Outside Suriname this is a very niche product. He displays them together with his walking sticks for aesthetic reasons, and he prefers to show his wooden objects on a red surface.

Rahied Abdoel; photo by Ellen Ligteringen

I ask him what kind of work he plans to make next, after the art fair. Rahied says he wants to show his personal environment in a different way, or to transform his environment.

I’m very touched by the display.