April 21, 2023
In conjunction with the exhibition Felix de Rooy—Apocalypse, art historian and curator Veerle Poupeye surveys De Rooy’s creative interconnections with artists and curators in the Caribbean during his early formative years. Her examination of this specific cultural background and De Rooy’s networks in printmaking and the graphic arts highlights the conceptual and thematic aspects of his work that would emerge in his later film and stage practices.
Any attempt at situating Felix de Rooy requires acknowledging that he has resisted and actively challenged the ascription of any fixed labels and locations. He articulated this powerfully some years ago:
As the hidden heir to the colonial orgasm, as the extramarital bastard exorcised from the European testament, I escape the prison of genetic and historical identity. I became a refugee in the mythical country of the mixed race, la race mélangée, the no man’s land of the mongrel race. The invisible race of creolité, who despite lips chained by oppression and fear, multiplies beyond all border lines with the heartbeat of anarchy.
By locating himself in this fluid, anarchic, and undefinable no man’s land, De Rooy however finds common cause, and common language, with those thinkers and creative producers from the Global Caribbean who have recognized and put to good use the liberating and generative potential of this open cultural space. It is also an inherently political, critical space which has produced some of the most probing and provocative decolonial challenges. The concept of the Global Caribbean—as a dynamic, open-ended globalized cultural sphere which transcends and indeed challenges fixed definitions of the Caribbean and its diaspora—is rooted in the same thinking.
Fig 1. Set photo Every Picture Tells a Story (1978). Photo: Carlos Tramm
Fig 2. Felix de Rooy, Carry On (1972). Courtesy of the artist
Fig 3. Felix de Rooy, The Magic Touch (1972). Courtesy of the artist
Fig 4. Colin Garland, Ezulie (undated). Courtesy of Felix de Rooy
Fig 5. Exhibition photograph from the Wit over Zwart (1989), Tropenmuseum, Amsterdam. Photo: Pierre Verhoeff
About the Author
Veerle Poupeye is a Belgium-born, Jamaica-based art historian, curator and critic specialized in art from the Caribbean, and the former Executive Director of the National Gallery of Jamaica. The second, revised and expanded edition of her foundational Caribbean Art, originally published in 1998, was published in 2022 in the World of Art series of Thames and Hudson.
 “Introduction” in Ego Documenta: The Testament of My Ego in the Museum of my Mind. Amsterdam: KIT Publishers, 2018, p. 7.
 The term “Global Caribbean” was first used by political scientists such as Robert Buddan to describe the globalized, borderless Caribbean politico-economic sphere. It was in 2009 applied to art by the Haitian-American artist and curator Edouard Duval-Carrie in his like-named exhibition series at the Little Haiti Cultural Center in Miami. The term is now commonly used to describe the globalized sphere of contemporary Caribbean art.
 See: Edouard Glissant. Caribbean Discourse: Selected Essays. Charlottesville: University of Virginia Press, 1989 (originally published in French in 1981), and Poetics of Relation. Ann Arbor: University of Michigan Press, 1997 (originally published in French in 1990); and: Aimé Césaire. Notebook of a Return to the Native Land. Middletown: Wesleyan University Press, 2001 (originally published in French in 1939)
 I moved to Jamaica in September 1984 and started as a semi-voluntary, part-time docent and curatorial assistant in the NGJ’s Education Department later that year. I became Assistant Curator in 1987.
 Another conduit for such unofficial Caribbean exchanges was the Olympia International Art Centre, also in Kingston, an initiative of the Jamaican art patron and collector A.D. Scott, who exhibited and collected Erwin de Vries from Suriname and Aubrey Williams from Guyana. Williams and de Vries were regular visitors to Jamaica and worked closely with Jamaican artists such as Barrington Watson and Eugene Hyde.
 CARIFESTA is a Caribbean-wide arts festival associated with the CARICOM union of Caribbean states. The first CARIFESTA was held in Guyana in 1972.
 The National Gallery of Jamaica was established in 1974. David Boxer joined the staff as Director/Curator in 1975 and later became Chief Curator, a position he held until 2013.
 The NGJ did not have the funding to borrow internationally for its own exhibitions, but the international scope of this exhibition was achieved by borrowing prints from local collections, including Boxer’s own, rapidly growing collection, which accounted for most of the examples from outside of the Caribbean. The only exception was a lithograph by Karel Appel which was owned by Thelma de Rooy.
 The term was adopted from the title of the New Images of Man exhibition at MoMA in 1959. Several of the artists Boxer subsequently included in The Print, such as Karel Appel, Leonard Baskin, and Willem de Kooning, had been featured in that exhibition.
 See fn 1 & 3.
 Sir Hans Sloane (1660-1753) was an Irish physician, naturalist and collector, who travelled to the Caribbean in 1687 to serve as the personal physician of the colonial Governor of Jamaica, the 2nd Duke of Albermarle. His account of his travel and collecting activities was published under the title A Voyage to the Islands Madera, Barbados, Nieves, S. Christophers and Jamaica was published in two volumes, in 1707 and 1725, respectively.
 The first edition was published in the World of Art series of Thames & Hudson in 1998; the second, revised and expanded edition in 2022, in the same series.
 Greenblatt, Stephen. “Resonance and Wonder.” In Exhibiting Cultures: The Poetics and Politics of
Museum Display, edited by Ivan Karp and Steven Lavine. Washington DC: Smithsonian Institution Press, 1991, p. 42.