Juan Florencio Walter ("Dodo")
Juan Florencio Walter "Dodo" (G.
Nije-Statius van Eps)
|Born in 1889, Dodo was the son of a black cabinet maker
who had a small furniture store in the heart of old Otrobanda. Dodo
learned his craft from one of the de Windt brothers, a Dutch family who
were themselves sons of a well respected furniture maker. Such
cross-racial collaboration was not uncommon among Willemstad's furniture
makers and other artisans who lived and worked in Otrobanda's vibrant old
commercial district. Before opening his own store on Ijzerstraat in
Otrobanda Dodo went to sea, traveling extensively to different Caribbean
islands, where he learned English, and working as a ship's carpenter.
Like many of Curaçao's twentieth century cabinet makers, Dodo was
especially gifted in copying furniture from existing models, often
producing a piece that was
indistinguishable from the original. With assistance from an apprentice,
he could turn out a new cabinet in a month. In later years, he worked
primarily in restoration, responding to the changing character of the
trade. His name was well known among antique lovers and his expertise was
often sought out.
Like many of the island's humble black craftsmen, Dodo did not have an
easy life, laboring in a modest, cramped workshop in town and often
waiting months or longer to be paid for his work. By the time he retired
in 1980 at the age of 91 he had seen Otrobanda fall from a dynamic hub for
proud, independent black artisans such as himself to a decaying center of
crime, drugs and destitution. He died in 1988, at the age of 99, just as
serious efforts began to revitalize and renovate the area. No doubt he
would have appreciated seeing the same meticulous restoration and
attention to detail he was so well known for applied to the magnificent
old buildings of his beloved Otrobanda.
Curaçao Chamber of Commerce & Industry