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, 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.