Ira Kip, artistic producer, international speaker. Above all a creative, fascinating woman with a colorful Caribbean background. A proud daughter with a Surinamese father and a Curaçaoan Aruban mother. One in Amsterdam born, culturally rich woman who has built her life in New York, has lived there for 14 years and is still active to this day in Amsterdam. “But mostly I live in myself, my body is my home”
When I started studying theatre 14 years ago at the directing course The New School for Drama, I found my niche in New York and stayed there. Two brothers of my mother lived in New York, one of which unfortunately died just before I started living there. For me it felt like the right decision to start studying there. After the theatre-school in Amsterdam this was an organic decision to me. What drew me in the most, was the theatre in New York. There is so much happening in terms of art and culture in New York. As a child I remember being there often as a result of my family living there. This all together makes that made the conscious choice to further shape my career in New York.
Culture, roots and language
My mixed roots have been very present in my raising, especially the language component. I learned Papiamento at home, mostly through my mother. We did not really speak the Sranan Tongo, the Surinamese language. In Surinam the main language and teaching language has always been Dutch. My mother always thought that my Surinamese father was more colonized than herself with her Curaçaoan Aruban heritage. She was proud to be able to speak Papiamento. Her own language. At our home I received a lot from my cultural roots, the Christian religion, obviously the food, music and norms and values in relation to other people. In my culture I experience that many are in service of family and relatives, we are very family oriented. This continuously plays a huge part in my life. I find it important to seek for connection with other people but also how do you connect other people to each other. Eating and talking help. I also come from a politically engaged family. If you listen to the radio in Curaçao you will hear people talk about the situation on the island. This is typical for my family, we are used to talk about the government, politics and everything that is going on in the island. I consider this something cultural as well, something I truly grew up with. I have realized that this is the exact reason as to why I love current affairs and political developments and let this be reflected in the performances I make and the work process.
Family is a huge part of our lives. No matter where we are in the world, we always visit each other. Either they come to me or I come to the Netherlands. In New York I built my own family. I must admit it took its time. Only after 2 years I truly had a group of regular friends. They are also my family, we call each other sisters and brothers. You can connect with someone on such a deep level that it feels like family even though you are not related to each other. With Yahaire from the performance “Shrew her” I have this feeling. I call her my little sister and her mother is to me aunt Rinia. I do realize that this relates to me and not to everyone from my cultural background. Not every Curaçaoan, Aruban or Surinamese has this feeling, however, it shaped me through the way my parents gave shape to my cultural upbringing.
When she was 21, my mother was put on the airplane with a suitcase and $100 to the Netherlands. There she was. On Schiphol on her flip-flops at the beginning of winter. It was November 2nd and she had no clue as to where she was. This marks an important date in our family. On November 2nd my nephew was born, the son of my sister. She went to live with cousins in Amsterdam. My dad went from Surinam to Spain and eventually ended up living in Amsterdam as well. That is where my parents met on Januari second, also the day the first daughter of my sister was born. Very intriguing!
Being comfortable in the Netherlands was a difficult task for my mother. She always wanted to go back to Aruba, the island of her mother. Everything in Amsterdam was Aruba. Her group of friends, the language, the music. “Un dia mi ta bai bek”, or on one day I will go back, Until my 11th I lived with my parents in Amsterdam, then we left for one and a half year to Aruba. Once we went back to the Netherlands my mother changed a lot. We started traveling, eating different, exploring different cultural things. She is a different person now if compared to before we lived in Aruba.
I found it incredible to live in Aruba because we lived there with the entire family together. Except for a few cousins, my mother is the only one of her 10 brothers and 1 sister that went to the Netherlands. For the first time ever I was with my uncles and aunts. I knew them from New York and Amsterdam but it was special to experience how it was to live in the same surroundings as your family. The fact that I could simply go to my grandmother was something I never knew in the Netherlands. We eventually started living in the Netherlands for our education, this was not good in Aruba. My dad also played a huge part, he did not necessarily want to live in Aruba.
As a result of having lived and worked in so many different places I don’t feel connected to one place. I would consider myself to be more connected to people. I must say that this for me in my life is a search. I don’t know what is home. I am searching for a home internally, the house in myself and the connecting with people I feel at home with. I belong in both worlds, that is what makes me feel a part of everything. I am Curaçao, I am Aruba, I am Surinam, I am Amsterdam and I am New York. I am everything. I am looking for the home in myself by surrounding myself with people that make me feel happy, doing the work that makes me feel happy and finding peace and satisfaction in those.
I don’t identify myself as lesbian. The only reason I identify myself with the queer family is because boxes exist, made by others to put me in them. However, for me those boxes do not exist at all. I have had relationships with women for the past eight years but I might as well fall in love just as hard on a man and I have had past relationships with men. I am learning that my sexuality needs both energies. Both men and women. The only thing I can connect with is that I feel at home in the black queer community in New York. When I am there I see myself in others. They do not say sorry for who they are, they live life as themselves and are the way they are.