Buses in Paramaribo are privately operated, mostly by Hindustani owners. The buses are small, but still pack around 30 people. They are extensively decorated, mostly with movie heroes, crazy lettering, beautiful women, pop stars, slogans, patterns. In terms of themes, Bollywood seems to dominate the landscape.
The 2009 / 2010 SPAN project organised activities to stimulate conversation about contemporary art and visual culture in Suriname, about art practice in a particular location at a particular time. This was developed through meetings, a book, an exhibition, and a blog.
This blog post reports about a meeting between contemporary artists, street sign painters who paint advertisements on walls and bus painters. It mentions that “bus painters concentrate on stars and heroes, emblems of beauty, to attract people.” In itself that seems not too have changed that much since then, but an apparent change is the absence of hand painted imagery on buses. Most, if not all decoration is done using digital images, photo’s, computer designed typography, printed on self adhesive supports which are applied to the vehicle.
Mister Radjen operates a bus between Knuffelsgracht / Heiligenweg and Kwatta. His car is titled ‘Kwatta Pasie‘. The word ‘pasie’ being a brilliant mongrel between ‘passie’ the Dutch word for ‘passion’ and ‘pasi’ the Sranan word for road, or passage. I haven’t asked if this is a deliberate word play.
He recently had his van decorated and is very proud of the result. He loves the front and back slogans (NEVER GIVE UP IN LIFE, NEXT TIME) and the small commentaries that feature all over, such as the instruction on the petrol lid to use diesel (Na diesel im laai), the joke “All eyes on me”, and the driver side window that reads “Kijk en geniet” (watch and enjoy)
The phrases on the front and rear windows are an art in themselves. In the one minute I wait for the traffic lights on crossing Fred Derby and Sophie Redmondstraat, I see the following slogans racing by:
THE SICKNESS OF HONESTY
SALVATION OF GOD
LIEVELING (with a heart shape for a v)
GET RICH OR DIE TRYING
OFFY IS BACK
ALWAYS PLAYER FOR LIFE