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Art and history combine to tell beautiful stories

Posted: August 13, 2018

 Art and history combine to tell beautiful stories

As a loving husband and father, a proud Dutch immigrant and entrepreneur, 91-year-old Marten Posthumus has much that he’s passionate about. Family would top the list, but history and art fill him with a joy that has carried him since his days as a young boy in the Netherlands, as a soldier fighting for his country and then a new Canadian, working hard to make his way in his adopted homeland.
His love for preserving history is intertwined with his pen and he’s spent a lifetime sketching his view of the world. He recalled being a very young boy and drawing a farm in his home village, and being enamored with both the drawing and the subject.
His work will be on display at East St. Paul’s Centennial Plaza, and it’s an honour that humbles Posthumus, who moved to Canada in 1951 with his bride Sally and lived at former East St. Paul Reeve Gordon Scott’s home for a time. He and Sally moved to Winnipeg, but came back to East St. Paul and lived on Henderson Highway with their family for 30 years before Sally passed away in 2010 and Marten moved into North Kildonan.
"I got really involved in East St. Paul, I loved it,” Posthumus said.
"There was so much history there, a lot of Dutch people settled there and they had veggies that they sold. It really was a well-known place. It was awesome. The history there is really where we started.”
A baker by trade – he went to work in his home province of Friesland when he was just 13 – Posthumus would ride his bike from East St. Paul into Winnipeg to work at a bakery when he arrived in Canada.
After a few years he rented space and opened his own bakery and The Bake Oven is still open today, run by two of his sons.
Centennial Plaza marks the second time Posthumus and his work have been part of a milestone celebration. In 2000, Friesland province had a homecoming and tens of thousands of people from all around the world returned for the celebration. Posthumus was asked to put together a book of his drawings and his writings in Frisian.
He’d kept drawings he’d done as a child, so he had a ready stock. In fact, he’s kept most of his work and gives a conservative estimate of 800-plus drawings he’s done over his lifetime.
Each one is personal, and he can recall actually doing many of them. One, of a rural scene with a church and a stream, is vivid in his memory.
"When I came back from the war in Indonesia, after the war, the next day, I was so happy to be back in Friesland because in Friesland I can go and draw, sit in a field, you know?” he said.
"When I came back, I made that sketch. I slept on my bike and the next day I saw the little church there, the boat in the water and sure enough I made a sketch.”
His sketch of the fox tower in East St. Paul comes with a memory as well.
"The fox tower I found by the gravel pits. What I did always was I just drove around with my sketch book and then I’d see something, and I didn’t even know sometimes what it meant, but I found it interesting,” he said.
"I make a rough sketch. I love to sit there and make a sketch. As I make the sketch, I make remarks on it, what the sketch should have, like what kind of a roof cover, and things like that.
"Then I go home and I take the pen, I love to work with the pen, it’s a little clearer. Pencil can be beautiful too, but with pen you get a clearer picture.”
Posthumus has published several books of his artwork and they’re available at bookstores in Winnipeg. He looks forward to seeing everyone at the opening of Centennial Plaza on August 16. 

Picture:  Posthumus at his drawing board in his North Kildonan home.


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