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A conversation with Raquel van Haver

episode 20
Feb 18 2021

Raquel van Haver, Colombian-born painter and photographer, shares her inspirations, quest into the meaning of identity, and perspective on being a female artist

About our guest

Raquel van Haver was born in 1989 in Bogota, Colombia. She lives and works in Amsterdam, Netherlands. Solo exhibitions include ‘Spirits of the Soil’ at Stedelijk Museum Amsterdam, November 2018–April 2019. Her work has also been exhibited at the Dordrechts Museum, Netherlands and BOZAR Centre for Fine Art Brussels. She recently won the prestigious Dutch Royal Prize for Painting. Van Haver graduated from HKU, Fine Arts, Utrecht, in 2012.

*photo of Raquel courtesy Jack Bell Gallery

ARTCO Gallery
Jack Bell Gallery

Amo a la reina: La historia los pies cansados y sandalias huyendo de un monstruo comiendolos
270 x 310 x 40 cm
Oilpaint on burlap, hair, tar, chalk, gel, resin, homemade paint, ash, cigarettes, carton boxen, plastic caps, posters, paper, wood, fake flowers, red bricks

“Sometimes still, they cannot imagine I did that work”

Spirits of the Soil: We do not sleep as we parade all through the Night…
410 x 900 x 22 cm
Oil on burlap, hair, tar, chalk, gel, resin, homemade paint, ash, cigarettes, bottle caps, posters, paper, telephones

“We have to change the educational system”

A shrine of a deity: See igbadun, Shine your eye
diasec mounted print of photo collage
190 x 150 cm
Edition of 5 plus 1 artist's proof
Series: A shrine of deity

A shrine of a deity: Mothers of the soil
diasec mounted print of photo collage
190 x 150 cm
Edition of 5 plus 1 artist's proof
Series: A shrine of deity


I am so pleased to welcome Raquel van Haver, a Colombian-born painter and photographer who lives and works in Amsterdam. I discovered her work at the ARTCO Gallery in Berlin, and immediately fell in love with her large-scale paintings.

Raquel’s pieces are particularly captivating because she draws on a collection of source material she has gathered from all around the world, including West Africa and South America. These pieces frequently show gatherings of people, where multiple bodies come together in one space. 

“I always have a big fascination when it comes to groups, group pressure, the identity of the group,” Raquel says. “And it’s interesting to see, like, when you look at a group there’s always one who is the leader, there’s one who is taking care. There’s a pattern… and I love to portray them. When they mingle, it’s actually almost like a dance.”

Challenging the concept of identity

Identity, and what it is and what it means, is another element that plays a large role in her works. Raquel says that, because she was adopted into a white family and raised in a white society, she frequently had to adapt her own identity and sense of self to fit in.

“My work is very personal when it comes to that… when it comes to colonial thinking, about showcasing identity, changing identity,” she says.

Raquel says that the neighborhood where she lives now is very diverse, and her neighbors come from all around the world. But instead of seeing each other as different and threatening, everyone tries to learn about each other’s culture, traditions, and foods.

“We all bring something to the table. We don’t see it as a curse, we see it as a blessing,” she says.

“We Don’t Sleep As We Parade All Through The Night”

One of Raquel’s latest shows, “Spirits of the Soil” at the Stedelijk Museum in Amsterdam,  showcases women who are social leaders in Colombia and have been instrumental to improving life for the people after the Colombian civil war. But many of these women have been targeted by political opponents and killed, which is not being talked about on the global stage.

In an effort to highlight the story of these women’s lives, Raquel and her assistant spent five months in Colombia gathering source material.

“If you look at it [the show] and you don’t know the story it can be beautiful you still can see that there’s something very holy about it, but I think especially for the people in Colombia and the people I’ve met, it’s much more worth it.”

Experiences as a woman artist

Although Raquel feels like her overall experience as a woman artist is good, she still has the sense that it is harder to gain recognition and be paid the same as other male artists. She also thinks that people have certain perceptions about what she does as an artist, and that influences their respect for her and how much they’re willing to pay for her work.

“When I’m in the studio I’m painting at least twelve hours a day and I’m getting dirty. When they see me at openings, they see me when I’m wearing heels and my hair is done and pretty and … sometimes still they cannot imagine I did that work,” she says. “I don’t think people believe that it was me or something… or they think, ‘Ok it’s easily done… I don’t see her working hard so probably it’s easy.’”

But Raquel thinks that being aware of those perceptions, and of the ways in which society trains us to doubt and second-guess ourselves, goes a long way toward fixing the problem.

“We still have to overcome so many things and I think especially with these things, the questioning ourselves part, is we’re groomed to question ourselves, we’re groomed that we think we did something wrong,” Raquel says. “And as long as we’re aware of that we can get better and overcome this.”


next story ︎︎︎
Women’s Day Lives Series 2021

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Anne-Claire Bisch

General director of the
Geneva Free Ports and Warehouses Limited