In his work Willem de Rooij (*1969 in Beverwijk, NL) reflects on the genealogy and reception of images, through artistic research and appropriation. He understands images as constructed connotative complexes, both in their modes of representation and in how they are perceived. De Rooij has been teaching extensively since the late 1990s and has been a Professor of Fine Art at the Städelschule in Frankfurt am Main since 2006.

The core of the installation Pierre Verger in Suriname is a suite of 257 images that were made by French photographer and ethnologist Pierre Verger (1902, Paris–1996, Salvador da Bahia) during his eight-day trip to Suriname in 1948. Verger began working as a photojournalist in the 1930s. During his journeys he became interested in the relationship between the cultures of the African Diaspora and those of West Africa. When he settled in Salvador da Bahia in the late 1940s, he began to focus especially on Afro-Brazilian culture.

Verger traveled to Suriname with his friend, Swiss ethnographer Alfred Métraux (1902–1963). They visited the capital Paramaribo, where Verger photographed the city and diverse groups that make up Suriname’s population: Amerindian, Creole, Hindustani, Javanese, Chinese, and European. They then spent time in the village of Wanhatti, home to the Ndyuka, a Maroon people descending from West Africans who had escaped the plantations where they had been enslaved. Verger spent several days photographing Wanhatti’s inhabitants in their daily lives. He particularly concentrated on the practice of religious rites, an interest that would eventually become the focus of his life’s work. Today these 257 images are archived in the Pierre Verger Foundation in Salvador da Bahia, which is housed in Verger’s former residence.

De Rooij’s work Pierre Verger in Suriname now makes this particular group of photographs accessible to a wider audience for the first time, through a new installation at Portikus and an accompanying publication.

In the framework of his exhibition Pierre Verger in Suriname Willem de Rooij invites the artists Razia Barsatie, Ansuya Blom, Ruben Cabenda, and Xavier Robles de Medina to show their works on the Portikus website. With the program Flux and Reflux: A Selection of Moving Images Portikus' audience is introduced to moving image made by four contemporary artists who have a relationship to Suriname. The video works will be online for two weeks at a time: Link

Curated by Christina Lehnert and Philippe Pirotte


Pierre Verger in Suriname is made possible by major support from Dr. Marschner Stiftung and the Mondriaan Fund. Significant support is provided by the Adolf und Lisa Haeuser-Stiftung für Kunst und Kulturpflege. Additional support provided by Galerie Chantal Crousel and Sonsbeek & State of Fashion Foundation.