Speech State Secretary Gunay Uslu
20 November 2023
[the spoken word applies]
Good evening everyone, and of course an extra warm welcome to you, dear Tania.
I feel like we already know each other well. And all because of that one little phone call, when I had the pleasure to congratulate you on winning the Johannes Vermeer Prize. Normally, a call like that takes about five minutes. With us, it was different. We spoke for half an hour.
I was immediately struck by your enthusiasm. Your drive. The sheer love for your art. You told me you were developing a theater in Curaçao. You talked about your passion for the island, which I totally share. And it was a delight to hear about all your other musical plans.
Marise and Ed have already listed some of your accomplishments. You have also won multiple awards along the way. But who you are, and everything you have achieved, cannot be expressed in awards alone.
Who you are is so much more, such as a role model for other creators. You have opened doors. And you continue to do so. Thanks to your non-stop dedication to music education in the Kingdom of the Netherlands. Your dedication puts the younger generation in touch with all the beauty and inspiration that music has to offer.
You bring people together. The jury praises your power to connect. Your production company isn’t called ‘Krossover’ for nothing. You build bridges, merge musical genres, introduce even more people to the magic of opera.
For you, that magic is second nature. In a recent NRC article, you said: ‘Opera arias are also just age-old songs, written to please the wide audiences I sing them for today.’
Dear Tania, you wouldn’t have it any other way. You live to sing those songs, to feel them, to pass them on. You keep them alive and give them fresh meaning for new generations. Nurtured by your Curaçaoan roots. Curaçao is music.A place where people make music you can feel in every cell of your body. Something I was lucky enough to experience when I stayed there.
You want to keep that spirit alive, Tania. And you have a plan: a brand-new theater on Curaçao. A safe haven where all the talent on the island can continue to grow. Ideally, you would like to get started today. Drive to the hardware store yourself, buy everything you need, and get down to work.
Tania, I hope your dream comes true. I have every confidence it will, because of something else I noticed during my time on Curaçao. The women there: they rule Curaçao. And you are a wonderful example of that power. The power to roll up your sleeves and make things happen. To believe in what you can do.
If you ask me, this runs in the family. Because in the same NRC interview, you talk about visiting your mother. She has Alzheimer’s and lives in a nursing home.
At the time, you still had to keep the news about the Johannes Vermeer Prize a secret, but you dared to tell your mother. Who then had a lucid moment. ‘Guess what, Mom,’ you said. ‘I’ve won the highest state award for culture!’ She looked at you for a moment and then yelled at the other patients: ‘You see! I told you my daughter is amazing!’
Dear Tania, I can only agree with your mother.
And it is my honor to present you with the Johannes Vermeer Prize 2023.