Meet Kurt Ikenberg, distant relative of the same generation as I. He was born six years prior to me. I’ve known him for eight years although he was only three years of age when he died. Seventy five years after his death I have been able to give him a face.
No photo of Kurt exists. I got to know him from the 1941-1943 correspondence between his mother Clara and her sister Friedel. Clara lived in Westerbork transit camp in The Netherlands, Friedel had fled Germany for Northern Ireland. Kurt had been born in July 1941 and grew up in the camp. In September 1944 he was deported to Theresienstadt, a month later to Auschwitz where he was murdered. My reconstruction of Kurt’s short life in Westerbork camp can be read here.
At my request, seven years ago the Amsterdam artist Marjolein Rothman created an image of Kurt in three paper collages. Marjolein used photographs of her little son and of me at Kurt’s age. She gave the child no face. Six years later I started following courses in ceramics taught by Lies van Huet. After my tiles project I wanted to model – but what, and who? Entirely unexpected, artist Helly Oestreicher gave words to an idea hidden deeply in me: give the child a face. And so I did.
I modelled Kurt’s portrait in the Autumn of 2019 in the studio of Lies van Huet (Lies Keramiek) in the Blokhuispoort in Leeuwarden, Friesland, The Netherlands. His head has been modelled in Sibelco Vingerling K129 clay and painted with coloured engobes. Subsequently transparent glazing has been applied (face: 4/5 AW011. 1/5 AW01, squirted) as well as BOTZ black for the hair (applied by brush).