Foresee Foundation spearheads cultural trail linking St. Maarten/Saint Martin to Europe

Foresee Foundation spearheads cultural trail  linking St. Maarten/Saint Martin to Europe

PHILIPSBURG--As the saying goes in St. Maarten, “We are a little European and lots of Caribbean.” The importance of understanding each other has significant value

Foresee Foundation in collaboration with Stichting St. Maarten Utrecht (SMU) and theatre-maker Tjerk Ridder launched Roots en Route at the Cole Bay/Bellevue border point on Monday, January 8, 2024.

Roots en Route, funded by Fonds voor Cultuur Participatie and Prins Bernhard Culture Fund, is a project aimed at sharing the communities’ identities, commonalities and differences, while fostering understanding and respect. It seeks to celebrate their shared past, present, and future in a unique and meaningful manner. Roots en Route will build a tangible bridge between St. Maarten/St. Martin and Europe – a bridge built not just of physical trails but of shared stories and cultural understanding.

At the project’s core is a physical hiking journey, symbolised by the word “en” in “Roots en Route, beyond Sea, Sun and Sand”, which reflects the project’s plan to include local and European neighbours inclusively. This journey aims to acknowledge the roots of individuals, places and the impact of time to promote understanding and respect among diverse communities.

At the end of the roughly 14-day hike this project will create a Caribbean part of the already established European walking trail (St. Martin of Tours Route). The island’s trail will connect to the European Path of Saint Martin.

A gathering of stakeholders that included the heads of the culture departments of both sides of the island, Clara Reyes of the Dutch side and Claudine Lake of the French side, were there to signal the start of hiking that will feature Ridder walking with his local theatre-making counterparts Sjorensly Valies and King Vers walking with a local donkey called Marie-Louise.

In short remarks at the launch, Lake recognised the value of collaboration and promoting cultural awareness, the connections the island has to Europe and the importance of sharing unique perspectives of island heritage. She underscored the positive impact such a cultural programme can have on the island’s tourism product. She added that positive cultural celebrations of the island as a whole are something that her office will always support.

Reyes eloquently reflected on the importance of “The human factor. … This project reinforces the best in all of us and gives us an opportunity to inherit the beautiful legacies of unity, coming together and upliftment.”

She foresees that the culture of the island’s hospitality will take centre stage during this project and it will be highlighted by the fact that people from all over the world have made this island their home. She said, “I look forward to the unfolding of the humanity of us through the arts, the songs and dances, the experiences of meeting iconic storytellers and the people that make St. Maarten such a rich deep place of profundity.”

Local film-maker Valies said he is happy to be a part of this project which will foster a willingness to create connections through art.

Monday’s part of the start of the trail took Valies and Ridder from the Border Point over the Causeway Bridge to the Simpson Bay area.

One of the highlights of the hike was stopping at Sister Regina School to meet with the pupils. An enjoyment for many of the pupils was the chance to pet the donkey Marie-Louise, which revelled in the attention. An animal care policy is in place for the safety of Marie-Louise.

For Day Two, the team will venture into the Cole Bay area, where they will continue to meet with culturally-relevant persons and the general public.

The experiences of the “Roots en Route” journey will culminate in a performance on Saturday, January 27, at National Institute of Arts (NIA), which is also a partner in the establishment of this connection. The performance at NIA is not merely an artistic showcase, but a narrative taken from the communities encountered during the hiking trail.

Through a blend of film footage, storytelling, music, and dance, attendees will witness the interplay of Caribbean and European influences. Iconic storytellers and the vibrant people who make St. Maarten a rich mix of culture will take centre stage, offering a unique glimpse into the island's heritage.

Other partners in this project are Seagrape Tours and the nature and environmental organisation EPIC, which created the route for the hiking trail which will become the path of Saint Martin on the island of St. Maarten/Saint Martin.

The “Roots en Route” journey with Tjerk Ridder, Sjorensly Valies, King Verse and Marie-Louise can be followed via

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