Oni Magazine

In conversation with Jowy: The Caribbean misfit

Oni Magazine
In conversation with Jowy: The Caribbean misfit


Some may say in the new century that there is no such thing as originality. Whatever is being done now is something that has already been done before. And to a certain extent it might be true, but I believe the reason why it has become a true statement is because no one dares to try. But this woman who I came across on instagram (isn't the internet a beautiful thing) is someone who is truly original with regards to the art she produces. I had to get to know her better and I hope with this interview you all will know who she is too.

Introduce yourself (name, age, background, etc)

Name: Jowy Maasdamme
Age: 35
Background: Curacao (/mother/grandmother ), Aruba(father), Venezuela( grandfather), Colombia ( grandmother) Suriname (grandfather)

I was born in the Netherlands and went to high school in Aruba.

What was it like growing up in a Caribbean household? 

Growing up in a Caribbean household to me was like: growing up with awesome wholesome food, healthy and fatty and very very tasty. It was an extremely creative household: our house was filled with art, music, and magick, my mom was always making something or painting( aquarel), crystals everywhere. There was a sense of community: family first. There were very strict rules: school was utmost important and I was not allowed to go out or hang out with friends outside of school unless it was during ballet lessons or something educational. girls and boys are not raised the same, I was told I couldn't do certain things or be a certain way because I'm a girl. And although I didn't agree with my parents most of the time I have always felt loved, they always tried their best to take care of me and my sister, our minds and thoughts were just not the same ya know. In my Caribbean household, I have always felt like the other.

What was it like growing up in the Netherlands? Compared to Aruba?

Just different, more so of the phases of life than of the demographics. I don't know if that makes sense. but I lived in the Netherlands from birth till I was twelve, I was a kid, my childhood in the Netherlands I remember from a kid's perspective. When we moved to Aruba I was a teenager, so as a teenager everything I experienced was from a more dramatic perspective. I love the island Aruba, but it was difficult living in such a small place where people love sameness so much, Arubians live in packs, they move in groups, and I was always more of a loner, I loved my solitude and going against the grain.

Would you say those restrictions growing up is why most of the subjects in your work are women?

Maybe, it could be, women are magical, that's the main reason why I draw them so much.

What are your inspirations?

- misfits
- geeks and freaks
- queerness
- otherness
- maladjusted-ness
- fashion
- art
- taboos
- human body and behavior
- mortal imperfection

Fashion seems to be the theme of most your work, how do you feel about the fashion scene today?

- I don't get it.  I don't get the ideas of what women should look like and I sure don't get the response of fashion brands that just deliver copies of copies of copies. Where's the imagination/fantasy, authenticity? Am I missing something? There's a  lack of confidence in our ability to think for ourselves. Now, don't get me wrong I like fashion- I have always loved fashion, I just don't get it.

I know what you mean about the lack of originality in fashion today. I'm especially disillusioned by because I'm the antithesis of what is "fashion" today (I'm fat and black). What would you say sparked your desire to portray otherness in your work? 

My drawings are very personal to me so I think portraying otherness is the most authentic and organic thing I can portray because I have always felt like the other. It is such an intrinsic part of who I am.

How did you cultivate your current drawing style?
organically, I was pretty naive when I started drawing, I didn't really look at other artists/designers or whatever, I just drew and the style flew from within.  I do come from a very stylish and creative family though. My mom is this incredibly elegant Caribbean lady with fierce style who designs jewelry. We always used to watch fashion shows together. And my dad too, he has a very outspoken style in the way he dresses and especially in the way he furnishes his home. My younger sister is the same, if I'm not sure about a drawing I always show it to her, because I'll follow her blindly, she knows what's up, she has a nose for the style.

Would you say your background influenced your work?

- Yeah, I think more so in the fact that I rebelled against it. There's a lot of taboo's in a Caribbean household - lots of things, you just don't discuss or talk about: sex, mental health, homophobia, sadness, depression, anxiety, etc. So drawing was always this outlet for things that were kept silent, it still is. And as a Caribbean woman, I'm extremely passionate, I have fire inside of me and that fire flows through my drawings

How would you describe your style?

I’m an innate illustrator. My style is best described by how it moves and flows and my style flows from my gut and from my gut only.

I think your work is very freeing. free from conventions that have alienated a lot of women color. Your work pushes the boundaries of what is beautiful. Is that your goal with your work?

I don't feel like I have a certain goal with my work other than to nurse my own (in)sanity but of course, my work is drenched with my beliefs and I do believe that it's very important to create your own definition of beauty. it's essential and even primal to create your own, be your own, so you can't and will not be owned by the definitions of the masses.

When you think of the word beautiful what does it conjure up?
my family.

Describe yourself in 3 words?

I can't, I think only other people can describe me in words. the feeling that comes closest to describing my inner-self is when I experience thunder and lightening. I adore lightening, it feels like coming home.