Not only was my “Chichi®” one of my favorite souvenirs from Curaçao, a Caribbean island off the coast of Venezuela, it’s one of my favorite artifacts from all of my world travels.
Each one a hand-painted original, these voluptuous clay sculptures open their arms as if to draw you into a loving embrace. “Chichi,” in the Papiamento(indigenous language of Curaçao, means “an eldest daughter, sister, or female relative to whom younger family members would go to for advice or emotional support.”
Chichi® is the brainchild of Serena Janet Israel, a German artist, designer and restorer who settled in Curaçao in 2001 after spending two years traveling and sailing around the world.
When she first arrived in Curaçao, Serena painted the Chichi’s® herself; but as the sculptures grew in popularity, she expanded the enterprise to employ local women who shared her creative passion and welcomed the additional “chichi money” to supplement their incomes, pay bills or provide special treats for their families. The business snowballed from there, to the point where Serena opened her Art Factory and shops Curaçao in which to sell Chichi® and other works of art.
Each of the exaggerated female forms starts out in a mold, the original which was created by Serena. This makes it easier it easier to reproduce the figures, which can range in size from as tiny as an inch or two up to several feet. A larger-than-life Chichi® stands at the entrance to Serena’s Art Factory, located near Curaçao’s famous Ostrich farm.
After the Chichis® come out of the mold, many are transported to the homes of over fifty local, talented local women whose painting talents bring them to life. “The mold is just half the work. The painting by my crafts workers make her the dynamic woman she is,” Serena acknowledges. “My painters are a vital part of the finished product!”
Read the rest about Curacao Chichi® dolls in Travel Dreams Magazine, November 21, 2013.
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