Photo by Art from the Heart - Aruba

Local Spotlight: Aruban Artists – Pride Edition

Greek philosophers theorized that the original humans – created by the gods – were two beings that were fused together. These beings fell into one of three categories, depending on their parentage. The children of the Sun were male, the children of the Earth were female and the union of the Earth and the Sun produced the androgyne: part male and part female.

These beings were powerful enough to present a threat to the gods and were separated as punishment – damning humans to spend their lives searching for their missing half. Therefore, the Greeks and their Roman successors had no problem recognizing homosexuality as a natural variation.

Photo by Worcestershire PrideApollo & Hyacinthus

Many indigenous cultures recognized several variations of human love under the umbrella term: Two Spirit, which encompasses every aspect of the LGBTQ community. It wasn’t until the spread of Christianity, during Colonial times, that heterosexuality was extolled as the only acceptable form of human love.

The Stonewall Riots of Greenwich Village, NY started a slow burning shift in consciousness regarding LGBTQ rights. In the years since, homosexuality has been decriminalized, removed from the Psychiatric Diagnosing Manual as a disorder and become widely accepted. It wasn’t an easy journey and, sadly, many people still hold onto archaic beliefs. Even in today’s society it can be difficult to come out.

We’re pleased to put the spotlight on two daughters of the Earth, who are changing the world.

Lislaine Bermudez

Photo by Art from the Heart – Aruba

Lislaine Bermudez is an Aruban through and through. She’s a gorgeous, young woman with curly hair and startlingly beautiful eyes. During her childhood, Lislaine’s mother struggled with the stress of making ends meet as a single parent. Coming from a big, religious, family, Lislaine had no shortage of family members coloring the background of her life. Lislaine was interested in art in her early childhood but she could have never imagined how it would, one day, shape her life.

Photo by Art from the Heart – Aruba

When she was about 10 years old, something happened that changed Lislaine’s perspective of the world. Her older cousin, living in Holland, married another woman – which was a bit of a family scandal at the time. It was then that Lislaine learned two things: she learned that it’s normal for some people to be attracted to those of the same sex; but she also learned that it wasn’t something that was always well accepted.

Photo by Art from the Heart – Aruba

From that moment on, Lislaine began to suspect that she, too, was gay. However, she really didn’t want to be. She spent her adolescent years “trying to be normal”. Every time she saw a boy she thought was cute, she’d try and convince herself that she was straight – though deep in her heart she knew that wasn’t true.

Photo by Art from the Heart – Aruba

Lislaine’s teenage years were especially trying. She’d lost her oldest brother, years earlier. The effect of his absence was absolutely devastating for her family. Lislaine’s passion for art grew out of her despair. She began writing poetry and developing the artistic side of herself – perhaps as a distraction or a way for her to express things she didn’t yet feel comfortable speaking about. She joined the workforce at 16 and soon discovered the heady thrill of walking into an art supply shop with a paycheck. She began experimenting with painting and other artistic mediums. Working on her art was the light on her darkest days.

Photo by Art from the Heart – Aruba

In time, Lislaine realized that she couldn’t paint over the truth. After much deliberation, she contacted her cousin in Holland and found the courage to confess her secret. That was when Lislaine took the first steps toward embracing herself and admitted that she’s gay. The news brought mixed reactions from those closest to her. Her brothers were incredibly supportive and rallied behind her. Some of her friends didn’t bat an eye at the news, some of them ran for the hills. During the days after she came out, Lislaine learned a lot about those closest to her.

Photo by Art from the Heart – Aruba

The struggles that Lislaine experienced in life could have made her bitter. They did not. They’ve allowed her to develop a keen sense of compassion for anyone who walks through life on a different path than most. All the while, she was honing her artistic talents. She began selling her paintings and giving lessons on the side. Most schools on the island don’t offer art classes, so when a teacher-friend asked her to give a painting lesson to her class – Lislaine jumped at the chance. That was when Lislaine discovered something else about herself – she’s just as passionate about teaching art as she is creating it.

Art From the Heart grew out of Lislaine’s desire to make the world a more beautiful and inclusive place. She gives lessons to children and has a class for children with special needs. Lislaine believes that inclusion is incredibly important and loves watching her students blossom with confidence as they paint penguins or build sand terrariums. She’s branched out recently and – with the help of generous sponsors – started making instructional videos for kids. Her fondest wish is to be the person that she needed in her youth: a compassionate, non judgemental ally.

Her message is quite simple, “The world needs people to love each other.”

Keep up with Lislaine on Facebook.

Rebecca Roos

Photo by Rebecca Roos Productions n.v.

Rebecca Roos was born in Holland but she spent her childhood on Aruba – her parents native home.At the age of 12, she returned to Holland to attend secondary school. Holland is more progressive than Aruba and her coming out tale is quite different than Lislaine’s. As a matter of fact, she doesn’t have one. Rebecca never felt the need to ‘come out of the closet’ because she never had to step into it in the first place. To her, admitting that she’s gay would have been strange. Straight people don’t have to make sweeping announcements regarding their sexuality – why should she?

Photo by Rebecca Roos Productions n.v.

Like Lislaine, Rebecca remembers a light bulb going off in her young brain when she realized that homosexuality was an option. However, that’s where the similarities of their stories end. Rebecca’s parents where very accepting of homosexuality – as a matter of fact, in her youth, Rebecca’s mother once told her that she probably wouldn’t have to worry about dealing with boys. The acceptance and support that Rebecca received at home allowed her the freedom to focus on her passion in life: film.

Photo by Rebecca Roos Productions n.v.

As a child Rebecca was most commonly found behind a camera lens. She loved the power to be able to convey emotion through an image. She thought she’d become a photographer until the day that she learned about another option in life: making movies. From that day forth, her path was clear – Rebecca Roos was destined to be a filmmaker.

Photo by Rebecca Roos Productions n.v.

After graduating from a prestigious high school in the Netherlands, Rebecca applied to film school. She remembers her interview very well. She was dressed neatly, conducted herself with grace and poise and was rejected in favor of students of a more avant garde nature.

Undeterred, Rebecca went on to the University of Amsterdam and earned double associate degrees in Art History and Archaeology, before getting a Master’s degree in Communications, specializing in Cultural Media Studies. Right after graduation, Rebecca landed a job working as an assistant for René Seegers of Hungry Eye Lowland. Under his tutelage she learned the ins and outs of the production side of the film industry. Rebecca’s career took off like an arrow shot at the sky, but something wasn’t quite right in her life – she was craving a change in her life. When an opportunity presented itself, in the way of a job in Aruba, Rebecca hopped on a plane and began the next phase of her life.

Photo by Rebecca Roos Productions n.v.

Rebecca made a triumphant return to the island in 1996 and was instrumental in building the island’s first independent television network: Aruba’s Broadcast Company before launching her own production company, Rebecca Roos Productions in 1998. Rebecca’s films are visually stunning masterpieces that touch on local social issues and speak of life and the history of the island. Being gay is a facet of Rebecca’s life but it doesn’t define her – her movies do.

Follow Rebecca on: Facebook, Instagram & Twitter  and check out her films