The Eagle Beach Driekiel

Leatherback sea-turtles are the largest and heaviest turtle species, and they are frequent guests to our sandy shores, where thanks to the decades-long vigilance of TurtugAruba, they are given some protection, and continue to lay eggs and ensure their species’ survival.

We now have a two-ton leatherback turtle on the roundabout next to Amsterdam Manor and its journey from the artist studio of Gilber Senchi, in Colombia, was long and involved many generous people and caring entities.

The idea to commission public art for our most prominent roundabouts along the Watty Vos Blvd — 25km, 13 rotondas, in 4 different designs – was suggested by the company entrusted with building the traffic artery and was supported by their accountants at Grant Thornton.

The local Museum Foundation, FMA, was then approached, pre pandemic, and while their funds were limited, curator Renwich Heronimo responded enthusiastically, and UNOCA scoured the bottom of their coffers to come up with the initial investment.

TurtugAruba lobbied hard and long for it to be an egg-laying Leatherback female and not a Shoco or another one of Aruba’s icons, and it won. The artist went to work, supported by ARTOPIA, a non-profit foundation funded by a number of sponsors, including Papiamento restaurant.

The artists presented a number of initial designs, and the creative juices were flowing, when, you guessed, the pandemic ground things to a halt.

Pieces of the Driekiel hung around the artist’s studio unclaimed, unfinished. The Museum Foundation closed during Covid and never reopened due to lack of funds, the project was almost abandoned, but friends of the artist visiting him in Colombia, when confronted by the half-finished bronze giant, did not want to let go, and started collecting grass-roots funds to finish the work.

Funds were collected by ARTopia, a Public Art Foundation, with producer Mirla Passchier, then several entities pitched in, the Aruba Tourism Authority, Divi Resorts, Boolchands, Noraima Pietersz, Farina & Tony van Veen, Papiamento Restaurant, the Tourism Product Enhancement Fund, TPEF, Amsterdam Manor Beach Resort, Manchebo Beach Resort, Costa Linda Beach Resort, Ewald Biemans, and the Aruba Hotel & Tourism Association.

Many others helped in many other ways. Fast delivery, with Gigi Helder at the helm, smoothly handled the transfer and transport of the giant from Cartagena Colombia by boat to Aruba. Many other companies turned down the challenge, but Fast Delivery came through.

Valentina Transport logistics were handled by the helpful Camila Terra; the department of public works, DOW, with Francis Gomez at the helm coordinated the works at the roundabout, paid for and executed by the Amsterdam Manor Beach Resort. Aruba’s police provided the escort for the safe transfer, from the harbor, and the Minister of Culture waved her magic wand to exempt the art piece from the 7% BBO at the border, which was a huge help.

The Driekiel was originally going on the roundabout at the entrance to Divi Resorts. The initiative was blessed by the late Managing Director Alex Nieuwmeyer. Then when Nieuwmeyer regretfully passed away, Bucuti & Tara Beach Resort donated the bronze shell, also by artist Gilbert Senchi, to grace the roundabout with its shiny presence, in honor of the late Nieuwmeyer. The shell was installed and inaugurated. The Driekiel was still in pieces in Colombia, at the foundry.

When efforts to revive the Driekiel seemed successful, an excellent alternative spot was identified, where it will be inaugurated officially, soon, and a plaque with the donors’ names revealed. There is talk about royalty, perhaps Princess Beatrix, a member of the Dutch royal house who reigned as Queen of the Netherlands, in 2013, will do the honors when visiting Aruba in the near future.

The first mini version of the Driekiel as already given to her granddaughter, Princess Catharina-Amalia Beatrix Carmen Victoria, Princess of Orange-Nassau, the heir apparent to the throne of the kingdom of the Netherlands, who was here on a recent visit, with her parents.

The Driekiel is almost ready to be admired, a few bronze eggs are still missing, but they are on the way.

Look forward for a festive inauguration.


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September 27, 2023
Rona Coster