top of page

tracing imaginary lines on the sea 

Samuel Sarmiento


If you want to build a ship, don’t drum up the men to gather wood, divide the work, and give orders. Instead, teach them to yearn for the vast and endless sea.
Antoine de Saint-Exupéry, Citadelle , 1944.

In 2013, I decided to move to Aruba. A year before, as if it were a premonitory preparation, I repeatedly read Tales from the South Seas by Jack London and La invención de Morel by Adolfo Bioy Casares. 

These readings helped me to perform two imaginative exercises. Through Jack London, I could see the relationship between human beings and the sea, and how a large body of water is able to condition people's lives. Actions such as traveling, fishing, trading and even smuggling and piracy are simple transits through a porous ecosystem where water is always a witness and never absent. 

South Sea Tales (1911) by Jack London.

La invención de Morel (1940) by Adolfo Bioy Casares.

On the other hand, Bioy Casares' story deals with themes such as immortality, the passage of time and the eternal return, on a small island filled with mysterious situations, narrative constructions that to this day, I continue associating with Aruba, as a fortuitous mirror.

Ten years ago, I started working on drawings and paintings inspired by activities related to human survival, such as hunting, breeding and gathering. Fishing and the figure of fishermen caught my attention, seeing how the action of fishing can be viewed as a mix between hunting and gathering, where chance is always present, but knowledge and expertise are required, as well as a series of preparations before each day, often bordering on the ritual.

Fisherman and his friends, Acrylic paint and pencil on paper, Aruba, 2009.

Inquiring into the figure of the fisherman, as well as other trades that require collaborative structures to transfer knowledge from generation to generation, I began to discover symbols, short stories, songs and a whole series of paraphernalia that enriched the way in which human beings fill their daily labors with colors, sounds and meanings, adorning the daily life with folklore and representations.

Fishermen gathering nets, watercolor and India ink on handmade paper, 2012.

Sometimes I see human history, in this case that of fishermen, as a panspermia marked by individual and collective needs, from which social experiences and interactions are born, which often tend to become codes of conduct or even archetypes of identity, as a result of social constructs and geographical limitations. Occasionally, these contacts, with the sea as a backdrop, give life to tales, myths and legends capable of shaping an intangible heritage; and from time to time, we are lucky to witness as they create pleasant stories such as Yukio Mishima's Shiosai (The Rumor of the Swell). 

The fisherman's daughter, Acrylic paint and pencil on paper, Aruba, 2009.

Today I am participating in 'Oda na e piscador', a collaborative art and community project in which, with the joint work of Stichting Rancho, Plataforma Aruba and the research support of Ana Maria Hernandez, I attempt to draw imaginary lines, connecting stories, people, places, coordinates, marine fauna, oral traditions, stars and planets, like someone trying to create a universe from scratch, but taking into account a latent past that always makes us question ourselves. This brief text is part of a group of ideas that I will gradually share as this project progresses. Until the next installment...

Ode to the Fishermen #1, Ceramics, Aruba, 2022.

bottom of page