for Sylvanus

for Sylvanus

A Memorial for Sylvanus Tutu Donkor
* 09.04.1983 / Accra, GH
† 06.06.2009 / Amsterdam, NL

Ceremony at Begraafsplaats Buitenveldert
Amsterdam, NL

Ceremony in Accra, Ghana
Accra, GH

A Memorial for Sylvanus Tutu Donkor

“Sylvanus was a friend.
He used to study with me at Gerrit Rietveld Academie in Amsterdam.

When he suddenly passed away, he had almost completed his first year as a student. I remember the funeral vividly. His parents could not be present. Instead, one of the guests was holding an iPhone, which was connected via Skype to an internet caffe somewhere in Accra. His grieving mom could be heard through the phone line as it was lowered into the coffin to scan over Sylvanus' dead body. She watched her son being buried in Amsterdam through a computer screen in Africa.
During the following years some friends and me visited Sylvanus' grave quite frequently. We had to remember how to find it, because for years there was no tombstone, no plants, no candles - nothing at all to indicate that someone was buried here - only an empty rectangle of earth framed by concrete. Sometimes we left flowers, a candle or a can of beer.

But in September 2012, when Marianne Theunissen, our former professor and mentor during our first year at the Academy, had visited Silvanus' family in Ghana, I was asked by the Academy if wanted to design a gravestone for Sylvanus. I accepted. My initial idea was to make two stones, one for the grave where Sylvanus' body is buried, and one for the place in Ghana where he grew up. I wanted the stones to form sort of a meta-bridge between the two places, expressing both unity and separation at the same time:

One of the objects is slightly smaller than the other. They are both cast in resin and fit perfectly into each other. They are made to catch the sunlight and have a translucent look, like white glass that has been washed on the shore. Yet when they get wet, they become almost transparent. Depending on the weather conditions the letters can be seen as shadows inside the material. Each surface of both stones carries one or two short sentences, epitaphs taken from Sylvanus’ Facebook account, posted by friends after his death. On the top surface Sylvanus' name, one side carries the names of close family members, inside date of birth and when he passed away, his birthplace and the place where he died.

The placement ceremony in Amsterdam happened in November 2013. Only a few friends and people who were close to Sylvanus were present. Some gave short speeches, others performed music. Both stones were placed together on Sylvanus' grave, then the smaller piece was removed. Daniel Yeboah, Sylvanus' mentor and a close friend of his family, carried it to Ghana and handed it over to Sylvanus mother.”

Amsterdam, December 2013

for Sylvanus

10.11.2013, Ceremony at Begraafsplaats Buitenveldert, Amsterdam



10.11.2013 - inauguration of a memorial to Sylvanus Tutu Donkor

Concept, Design and Making: Daniel Vollmond

Initiative: Marianne Theunissen
Graphic Design: Paul Gangloff

With the support of: Karien Wielenga, Liesbeth Pallesem and Bas Oudt
Commissioned by: Gerrit Rietveld Academie Amsterdam

#Damage and Loss:

Works with this tag are about damage and loss, but also about hope and resilience.

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