Meet Curaçao's Chichi- Curacao Nights Magazine

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Art scene

Art scene

Meet Curaçao’s Chichi® by Susan Campbell A new colorful cast of characters has been cropping up all over Curaçao lately. You might have seen them as giant sculptures, or as souvenirs in craft shops, but one thing is certain, they are very hard to miss! They are called Chichis®, and they are a true island original.

You might have noticed buxom and ample-bottomed figurines decorated in eye-popping colors all over this island these days. That’s no surprise, because Chichis have recently taken Curaçao by storm and show no signs of slowing down. These unique artworks are the brainchild of Serena Janet Israel, a professional mold maker, designer, restaurateur, and artist of German origin who settled here after sailing around the world. She enlightens us about what inspired her to create these perky plaster sculptures. Serena says, “Chichi means big sister in the local language of Papiamentu. The name also represents a native Caribbean woman who is smart, strong, caring, cheerful, and a welcoming soul. I wanted to create a figurine that embodied those qualities to embrace the warm welcome

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Photo courtesy of Serena’s Art Factory

that I received on this island. But just like people, I wanted them to have their own personalities. So I hired and trained local artists to paint them from their own inspirations. We began small, with a few local women, and now we have over 50 female painters giving many women here an extra income and also empowering them with their own creativity!” Beyond striving to share her entrepreneurial spirit with others, Serena is a strong believer in helping the community through her art. She provides support to important local causes by creating and auctioning objects of art and custom-made souvenirs to help fund them. She also encourages her artists to become entrepreneurs and fundraisers themselves. The Chichi cottage industry has provided many with interesting work they can do from home. !

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Art scene At the Art Factory, Serena produces the larger-than-life art sculptures personally, but local professional craftsmen – experienced in both modern and traditional techniques – cast the smaller size figurines in silicon molds. The various materials used are plaster, epoxy, and concrete. Once ready, the figurines are transported to the painters’ homes. The artists are trained by Serena and her staff to ensure brand quality, but they also have license to imprint their own creativity on their work. Every Chichi has a number on its bottom that identifies which artist painted it. You can match your figurine to the painter and find out lots more about them online at the Chichi website and social media networks.

Art scene Paint your own Chichi®

One of the highlights of the Chichi model is that you can paint your very own version at Serena’s Art Factory. They make excellent keepsakes, and you can personalize them to your liking. Miami public relations executive Lisa Schwartz visits Curaçao often and always paints a Chichi when she’s here. She says, “Sitting in the backyard of Serena’s Art Factory painting Chichis is a truly therapeutic experience. The lovely natural landscape dotted with the unique art sets up such a pleasant environment.

And I love the way Serena and her team gently guides you through the painting process by providing hints and pointers, yet always encouraging you to tap into your own creative forces. And the way Serena speaks so passionately about her art and the women of Curaçao... you can’t help but feel part of something very special there.” Paint Your Own Chichi Walkin Workshops are organized on a regular basis; check their website for dates.

So much more than a souvenir

If you’d rather simply just buy a premade Chichi, there are many places to purchase them all over the island, and they come in so many sizes and designs you’re sure to find one that suits your style. And now there’s a male model too. His name is Bubu® and he looks like he’s ready to go dancing! Chichis are fast becoming Curaçao’s most iconic and recognized art pieces, but they are exclusively available for purchase here. So don’t leave the island without one of these truly unique dolls! "

Serena Janet Israel with one of her lovable and unique Chichis®

Serena’s Art Factory Located on the east side of Curaçao, on the road to the Ostrich Farm Jan Luis 87a, Santa Catharina, Banda Ariba Tel: 738-0648 • 40 Nights

Photos courtesy of Serena’s Art Factory, except bottom left photo by Sasha

Photos courtesy of Serena’s Art Factory

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