The Nieuwe Kerk (New Church) was built because Amsterdam’s one church had gotten too crowded. (Yes, the first one is called the Old Church and you’ll be seeing it later.) Since its 1380 construction, the Nieuwe Kerk has seen important moments like the burial of playwright Joost van den Vondel, the inauguration of current King Willem-Alexander, and the 1593 marriage between an African dyer and an Amsterdam widow that is the earliest interracial marriage found in Dutch records. In 1984, the Nieuwe Kerk hosted a historic festival of art and artists from across the Dutch-speaking Caribbean called the Antilles Manifestation.
Nydia Ecury grew up in the capital city of Aruba, a Caribbean island that was a Dutch colony at the time and is now a country within the Kingdom of the Netherlands. When Nydia was still in high school, her elder brother Boy was a Resistance fighter in the Netherlands, one of many Black men who joined the Resistance despite the heightened risk they faced. He was part of some important Resistance actions before he was captured and executed by the Nazis when Nydia was 18.
Nydia left home to study English literature and journalism in Canada, then moved to Curacao, another former Dutch Caribbean colony. Nydia built a thriving career as a director and actor for theater, film, and commercials. She spoke several languages, which she would perform in throughout her career. Nydia was passionate about Papiamento, a creole language spoken across the Dutch Caribbean.
Nydia wrote impactful plays and poetry that played with the expressiveness and humor of Papiamento. She also translated famous plays by William Shakespeare, Tennessee Williams, Carlo Goldoni, and Jean Genet into Papiamento. Not only were these productions well-received, but the translations also helped reenergize the language in cultural spaces. Other artists started playing with Papiamento across media and trying new translations.
Nydia received many prestigious awards throughout her life, including the Gold Medal of Honor in the Order of Oranje-Nassau, which is given by the Dutch royal family. She spent years traveling across oceans to perform her work. When she was almost 60, Nydia performed poetry in four languages at the opening of the Antilles Manifestation at the Nieuwe Kerk for an enthusiastic audience that included Queen Beatrix. The Queen had recently attended another ceremony: the restoration of a monument to Nydia’s brother.
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