Book Review: Shaved Ice and Wild Buses: Street Art in Suriname

Schaafijs en wilde bussen: Straatkunst in Suriname, by Chandra van Binnendijk , Paul Faber and Tammo Schuringa, KIT Publishers, 160 pages, 2010. ISBN 978-9-4602-2054-8. Dutch, soft cover, 19.50 euros

Shaved Ice and Wild Buses: Street Art in Suriname

Kit Pubishers, the same Dutch company behind African Signs, also crossed the ocean to document the decorated buses and snow cone stands of Surname, a former Dutch colony next to Guyana in South America.

Shaved Ice and Wild Buses: Street Art in Suriname, published in conjunction with exhibits in that country and the Netherlands, is an ideal coffee table book if you don’t happen to speak Dutch – you can just look at the photos without guilt.

The book documents a tradition of decorating small urban buses said to go back to the 1970s. Many of these images are more polished than the African signs in the previous books, and their scale is often small –medallions painted above the license plates that look to be just a foot or two square.

The shaved ice carts are much smaller than the buses yet seem more monumentally decorated, perhaps because the paintings tend to cover the entire carts. The style on the carts also seems more varied, in some cases similar to the bus images but in others more personal, with some being outright pornographic.

The explicit scenes aside, most of the paintings on both buses and carts show celebrities ranging from Bob Marley to Jessica Simpson, Britney Spears and a bevy of movie stars, both Hollywood and Bollywood varieties. Political figures also turn up, including Saddam Hussein, Osama bin Laden, Nelson Mandela and Mohandas Gandi. A particularly nice image shows George W. Bush, labeled the Boss, gesturing between two seated, almost angel-like, babes.

For good measure the book supplements the buses and carts with a number of wall paintings and concludes with biographies and photos of a number of artists, again unfortunately all in Dutch.

Click here to view a video of this material and artists producing it.

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *