NIA Urges Public to Celebrate “Roots en Route” on Saturday

Roots ‘en’ Route planning committee during one of their many coordination sessions.


PHILIPSBURG, Sint Maarten — The National Institute of Arts (NIA) is calling on the public to join in celebrating the culmination of an extraordinary journey titled “Roots ”en’ Route,” a cultural collaboration that connects St. Maarten/St. Martin with Europe. This unique celebration will take the form of a community art event featuring social dance, cultural reflection, song, and performances by Total Theatre and the Youth Orchestra. The event is scheduled for Saturday, January 27, at the NIA John Larmonie Center and will commence promptly at 6:00 pm. Due to the inclusion of a special social dancing segment, attendees are encouraged to arrive at NIA by 5:45 pm to ensure they don’t miss out.

The “Roots ‘en’ Route” project, initiated by the Foresee Foundation in collaboration with Stichting St. Maarten Utrecht (SMU), has received funding from the Fund for Culture Participation and the Prince Bernhard Culture Fund Caribbean. This initiative aims to foster a deeper understanding and respect for our communities’ identities, commonalities, and differences, celebrating our shared past, present, and future in a unique and meaningful manner. Through “Roots ‘en’ Route,” a tangible bridge is being built between St. Maarten/St. Martin and Europe—not just a physical trail but also a shared narrative and cultural understanding.

At the heart of this project are Theater-maker Tjerk Ridder and local counterparts Sjorensly Valies and Darin ‘King Vers’ Hodge. They have been hiking around the island, documenting their findings and encounters through video, music, and connections. The upcoming performance at NIA is more than just an artistic showcase; it is a narrative derived from the communities encountered during their hiking trail. Attendees will experience a blend of film footage, storytelling, music, and dance, offering a unique glimpse into the interplay of Caribbean and European influences. The event will shine a spotlight on iconic storytellers and the vibrant people who contribute to St. Maarten’s rich cultural tapestry.

The project’s partners, including Seagrape Tours, Environmental Protection in the Caribbean (EPIC), and Seaside Nature Park, have been instrumental in creating the hiking trail, which will eventually become the path of Saint Martin on the island. This trail will be part of an official cultural-nature walking trail connecting the Dutch and French sides, incorporating cultural-historical points of interest from the European St. Martin trail.

Looking to the future, Tjerk Ridder plans to incorporate his St. Maarten/St. Martin experience in his performances in the Netherlands and beyond, creating a lasting Caribbean connection. Meanwhile, SMU is exploring the inclusion of the Caribbean St. Maarten/Saint Martin route in the Saint Martin of Tours Cultural Route of the European Council.