Seeing the Colors of Skalo, in the Heart of Willemstad

Category: | Published on: October 9, 2019 | By Jyona Jacobs

I had the profound opportunity to experience the authentic artistic center of Curaçao. Skalo, Willemstad, is an up-and-coming neighborhood hidden behind the iconic city center of Punda. Skalo is located under the Queen Julianabrug, right to the St Anna Bay, and behind the Movies Punda. This is a neighborhood that in the past has had a poor reputation and through the efforts of Hello Skalo has slowly become gentrified. The gentrification of the neighborhood has only been to the extent of cleaning up the neighborhood, but it remains truly authentic to its own culture.


Hello Skalo

Hello Skalo, is the company and family that is responsible for cleaning up Skalo around seven years ago. It began with the owner’s daughters who started creating her own lip balm, as her spending money was not enough to her satisfaction. Naturally, the lip balm she decided to make had to be organic and from local products, from there Hello Skalo began. They started to create more organic and locally produced products and set up shop in Skalo. Scharloo has a poor reputation amongst locals as it was where drug addicts and prostitutes use to roam and through Hello Skalo’s effort, the neighborhood was cleaned up. They fell in love with the neighborhood and set out to clean it up. Their walking tour, Colors of Skalo, is to bring attention to all that is great and what they fell in love with this neighborhood. Their entire mission is to Unite, unite locals and tourists with local artists, Celebrate, their success, Give Back, money generated from this tour is given back to the community through organizing events.

Arriving at Parke Leyba you can see this colorful fish made completely of what it seems of trash and across the park is a dark blue colonial building. Later our guide Ana told us the artwork was made by Roberto Tjon A Meeuw, a Suriname artist. The large fish is named ‘Piska’ and was inspired as a solution to the pollution plaguing our coastline. ‘Piska” is 9 meters long and made completely of recycled materials. Roberto, as he visited our island, left a piece of himself in Skalo like many other artists.


History of Scharloo Willemstad

Scharloo was the first Jewish neighborhood in Curaçao, they set up their business in Punda and then lived in Scharloo, behind Punda. This used to be the richest neighborhood in Curaçao, which can be seen in the several large villas and monuments or Dutch colonial buildings. As you walk through Scharloo, you will understand why Scharloo is considered the artistic center of Willemstad. Everywhere you wander you are surrounded by art and history of the old Dutch colonial buildings. Around the corner, there is a massive, vibrant painting that covers the entire building. It was painted by Francis Sling and named 3 O’clock Romance, as when Francis was painting this mural two love birds showed up at three in the afternoon. Francis Sling is a local artist that lives in Scharloo, he paints all around the world, and if you are in luck you might get the chance to enter this home. Take in the parking lot not far away from 3 O’clock Romance, you can see several murals painted all along this parking lot behind Villa Maria. One wall is managed by Street Art Skalo and every few months it’s painted white and that way they can start again. Take in the gorgeous works such as the Fisher Man with his son, painted by Sander Van Beusekom. The meaning behind this painting is to teach your child to fish instead of giving them the fish. Around Scharloo you can see up and coming businesses being set up by local entrepreneurs. Businesses such as Beyglz that make homemade and fresh food, as well, their signature bagel sandwiches.


Fleur de Marie

Fleur de Marie was once a daughter that used to live in Scharloo and the neighborhood behind Scharloo was named after her. Moreover, there is also a restaurant in Scharloo named Fleur de Marie. They have a garden instead, which they use for fresh ingredients in their homemade breakfasts and lunches. Fleur de Marie is open from Tuesdays to Saturdays (9 am) from 8 am till 3 pm. This tour shows you how the other side lives with the luxury villas in the front (Scharloo) and smaller homes in the back (Fleur de Marie). The streets of Fleur de Marie were named after the elders that lived on the street, the ones that had authority.

We were lucky that when we passed Francis Sling’s home that he was there. We got the chance to enter his home which is a work of art. I believe this is an artist’s dream home and workspace. The walls, ceiling, and even the floors were covered in art that was either displayed on or painted on. It was amazing to meet him and take in how he sees the world. He lives in his own world and believes that God is an artist and that we are all pieces of paint. That we need to find our spots, where we stand and belong. As we walk down the street, we can hear the stories of locals and hear them sing. The neighborhood is truly international full of Colombians, Jamaicans, Dominicans, and so much more. This is a true insight into Curaçao as this island’s entire history is the blending of different cultures from all around the world. Watch the neighborhood’s children chase after the guide, they greet her and call her ‘Tante”, aunt. Everyone knows each other in this neighborhood, here the residents of this neighborhood know their neighbors. Children play safely on the streets, the doors are left open, and here you are not just neighbors but a family here.

Colors of Skalo is a truly immersive local experience as you are in the local culture of Curaçao. With this tour, you get to experience and feel the true culture of Curaçao. This was an extraordinary experience and as a local it was eye-opening. I saw a different side to my island and got to see an entire neighborhood that we locals did not enter before become a walking, talking work of art.


Tips for my fellow wanders

  • There is a community center that serves the best fresh local food on the island around 11-1 every day. However, be sure to be on time as by noon it’s all gone.
  • Take part in the workshop offered by Hello Skalo and learn to make your own locally sourced products. Use all our senses to experience all they have to offer.
  • Be sure to smell the body scrubs and their products.
  • As this tour is on Thursdays be sure to go to Punda and experience Punda Vibes
  • Wear comfortable walking shoes
  • Bring a bottle of water
  • A must is to bring your camera

Related Tours