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The Shadow of Color / Sombra di Koló

Sombra di Koló – The Shadow of Color is a taboo-breaking documentary on race and skin color in Dutch Caribbean island Curaçao. Mixed-race anthropologist Angela Roe traveled across the island to ask thirty Curaçaoans of all ages and all walks of life to share what “race” and “skin color” mean to them today.

  • Angela Roe
  • Selwyn de Wind
    Anti Xchange (2011), Tula su Kosecha (2010)
  • Hester Jonkhout
    Viking in de Tropen (2014) , De Qi van China (2013), AGO-Rumbo pa Futuro (2013), DARE – The Danzarte Rainforest Experience (2012)
  • Angela Roe
  • Angela Roe
    United by Music (2009)
  • Selwyn de Wind
    Mi Kulpa (2013), Anti Xchange (2011), Tula su Kosecha (2010)
  • Selwyn de Wind
    Anti Xchange (2011), Tula su Kosecha (2010)
  • Hester Jonkhout
    Viking in de Tropen (2014) , De Qi van China (2013), AGO-Rumbo pa Futuro (2013), DARE – The Danzarte Rainforest Experience (2012)
  • Project Type:
  • Runtime:
    1 hour 12 minutes
  • Completion Date:
    September 23, 2014
  • Production Budget:
    100,000 USD
  • Country of Origin:
  • Country of Filming:
  • Language:
  • Shooting Format:
  • Film Color:
  • First-time Filmmaker:
  • Student Project:
  • African Diaspora International Festival 2014
    New York
    December 5, 2014
    North American Premiere
    Top Ten Film
  • Muestra Caribe Festival - Traveling Caribbean Film Showcase
    June 11, 2015
    Cuban Premiere
  • World Cinema Amsterdam 2015
    August 17, 2015
    Dutch Premiere
  • Boeli van Leeuwen National Award Curaçao 2015
  • Caribbean Cinematic Festival
    Syracuse, NY
    United States
    February 4, 2016
  • Dutch Filmweek Havana
    March 23, 2016
Distribution Information
  • Warwarú Productions
    Country: Curaçao
Director Biography - Angela Roe, Selwyn de Wind, Hester Jonkhout

Angela E. Roe is an anthropologist, writer and filmmaker of Curaçaoan, Surinamese and Dutch descent. In 2003 Roe earned her MA degree in Cultural Anthropology at the Free University of Amsterdam, with additional specializations in Literature Studies and Caribbean Studies. Currently she is finishing her PhD in Comparative Sociology and Cultural Anthropology at the Global and Sociocultural Studies program at Florida International University in Miami.

Being born and raised in the Netherlands of a white Dutch father and a black Surinamese-Curaçaoan mother set the tone for her academic interests, which revolve around race relations, identity, the performativity of blackness, colonial heritage, and the abundant dynamics of the Caribbean and the African Diaspora.

In spite of her academic path, Roe’s drive has always been to spread the knowledge she gained to as big an audience she could find. Therefore, after obtaining her MA degree she moved to Curacao, where she worked for several years with Norman de Palm at his theater Teatro Luna Blou, developing various theatrical and performance art programs. In 2012 she launched production company Warwarú Productions, through which Roe participated in various commercial and artistic film and video projects, works as a copy writer and copy editor, gives lectures and trainings regarding constructively addressing race and racism, and produced her first feature documentary, The Shadow of Color - Sombra di Koló.

In the spring of 2012 Roe teamed up with Curaçaoan filmmakers Selwyn de Wind and Hester Jonkhout to start filming. The Shadow of Color is a documentary on race relations in Curaçao today. With this documentary Roe broke Curaçao’s old and pervasive taboo on addressing racism, and made available the findings of her dissertation research to a large (inter)national audience. Shadow of Color premiered in Curaçao in September 2014, and has since then been screened almost 100 times, to local audiences, and to audiences in the Netherlands, the United States, Cuba, Puerto Rico, Colombia, Barbados, St. John, Antigua and Barbuda, Belize, Panama, the Cayman Islands, Trinidad and Tobago, the Dominican Republic, Granada, Venezuela, St. Kitts & Nevis and Mexico. In 2015 Roe won the prestigious Curaçaoan Boeli van Leeuwen Award, which is granted to outstanding academic work that reaches non-academic audiences.

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Director Statement

Willemstad, Curaçao May 23rd 2016

The Shadow of Color started many years ago, when I visited the island for the first time without my parents. I had only been to my mother's island twice before in my life, when I was 6 and 18. Now I was 23, and I could not wait to get back to this small sliver of Caribbean rock, which in my mind had become a paradise of colors faded by the sun, the clearest sea ever, brown skinned women, and smells that I would recognize on occasion in my Dutch world -or at least I thought I did.

My cousin picked me up from the airport. Driving home in his old pickup I was beyond thrilled. This was a sort of homecoming. After all, I had lived in this space all my life, even if it was only in my imagination.

I was so happy to see my aunt, my uncle, my other cousins. My aunt showed me to my room, and I quickly dropped my stuff. My other cousin and I had big plans to go dancing: salsa, ritme kombiná, on the old terrace of hacienda Brievengat. Before I dashed out my aunt summoned me on the porch. She wanted to explain the rules of her household to me, she said. So I sat down. "You can do anything you like," she said. "Just don't come home with a black man."

The world stopped in its tracks. Was she for real? Never in my life had I heard such overt racist talk. Never in my life had I expected to hear it from my own family. But there it was. I was so confused that I decided that she must have made a joke.

I had almost forgotten about it, when a fortnight later I went on a date, with a young man who happened to be very dark skinned. When he picked me up at home my aunt asked him in for lemonade. She then invited him to sit down on a chair on the porch, sat herself down on the armrest of another chair, so she was higher up than he was, cocked her head back and launched her 20 questions. “What neighborhood are you from? What car do you drive? What school did you go to? What is your job?” On and on it went. I watched in great horror – I realized that she was dead serious. My brown skinned aunty, the sister of my brown skinned mother, asking all those questions in order to determine what kind of “black” person this young man was, rich or poor.

I was livid. But even though I wanted to, I could not share my thoughts with her. I was too shocked, didn't know where to start. Still, the event kept festering inside of me – it hurt. It festered even more when she tried to shame me through gossiping to other people about why I would be so interested in black men. The word came back to me that she was telling people that I like “them” for their penises, which in Curaçaoan lore are of equal mythical proportions as elsewhere in the world. Her rule and her secret way of attempting to shame me into obedience were like sharp silver knives jammed straight into my heart. Up to then, I had adored my aunty. But this I could not brush off.

I have always been very resistant to social injustice. Anyone making that remark would have made my blood boil. But her racist comment pertained to my brown skinned mother also, her own sister, whom she loved so dearly, and to our whole lineage. Back then I did not yet know about our black great great grandmothers who had worked on Surinamese plantations. They had been erased from our family narrative. But nevertheless, it had always been evident that Africa was part of our family's roots, of all of us.

But I had a bigger worry. I had to know if this remark was just her way of looking at things. If so, I would put my aunt in the pile of people to stay away from. But my fear was that this anti-blackness was common to how Curaçaoans thought, lived and breathed, and that her comments were in fact an indication of a much larger problem, one which I had never before experienced so intimately and explicitly in the white world in which I was raised.

That summer became the start of this study, a plunge down the rabbit hole of Curaçao’s pigmentocracy. I never challenged my aunt openly, because I knew her well enough to know that she would deny anything that could ever be held against her. But I still could not remain silent. Instead, my indignation developed into an academic inquiry that after obtaining my MA degree has eventually led me to move to the States to pursue a Ph.D. After my coursework I moved to Curaçao, where I wrote, directed, and co-produced a documentary film, conducted a lengthy field study, and wrote my dissertation.

Sixteen years lie between that day in June, and the day of completing this work. But I got my answer, and in The Shadow of Color I gave my retort. And in spite of the horror embedded in my aunt's racist words, they ultimately brought relief to thousands of people, who felt the silence break and shared their own hushed stories after seeing the film.

Trust me, never in my life had I expected this to be the side effect of this personal vete, nor of my very first film ever. But I am triply blessed. That my aunt told be her bitter words. That I got to make this film, with such gifted filmmakers (Selwyn de Wind and Hester Jonkhout). And that breaking an old and thick silence was so well received by people from all over the African Diaspora.