Bocas News

An Artist from the Start

An Artist from the Start

March 24, 2014

Bocas Del Toro is a melting pot of cultures and unique individuals who bring their own beliefs, traditions and passions to the island chain and create the life they envisioned for themselves. has been spotlighting a few of these people in our series Bocas VIPs (Very Interesting People). This installment of the series focuses on a renaissance man. A person who has been all around the world, doing a little of this and a bit of that on his journey through life and has stopped in Bocas for good. He has decided to make Isla Colon his permanent home for many reasons, including the feelings of inspiration and belonging that he gets from being here.

Filiberto Bonaventure was born in Italy. He spent a part of his childhood there, but moved to Venezuela when he was still a boy. His father was a consulate in the Italian Embassy in Venezuela and the family lived very well. His father was the type who wanted big things for his son, perhaps a career in law or something similar. But Filiberto’s heart was filled with art. He poured through the art books in his father’s library over and over. It was a hidden passion for years, his father did not approve of such things, but it was never far from the boys mind. He did all the things the son of a government man was supposed to do. He went to a catholic school and studied. He joined the swim team, and eventually, became a Venezuelan National Champion. He went to the University for a while in Venezuela and his thoughts of art were fostered by the math he was learning there. He told me that in some ways, art for him and math go hand in hand. He saw a masterpiece in the numbers. The proportions and shapes almost spoke to him. In math he saw an absolute order, perfection and even now he relates art and numbers. He kept up the façade of not being an artist as long as he could, but when he went to the United States everything changed.

He was allowed to go to the United States to study. He would attend Syracuse University studying what his family deemed appropriate. But Syracuse University has an incredible art program and he was drawn to it. He would only be allowed to change his academic path with the permission of his father. He faked his father’s signature and joined the art department. It was there that he began to define his style, or styles (he has many). He learned to draw and his favorite class was when they were taught to draw the human body, and the nude models were his favorite and he was amazing at it! He followed the life of an artist and eventually left the university. He did odd jobs and traveled different places in the US all the time his family not knowing the budding artist that Filiberto was becoming. He was teaching dance in New Orleans when he was asked to leave the United States. He was returned to Rome, felt a bit ashamed, and did not want his family to know. He lived for a couple of years on the streets, but learned valuable lessons and was still finding the motivation to be creative.

Eventually his life calmed down and he matured. He decided to make Venezuela his home. He found his path and was creating his dream, however he began to distrust and disagree with the government and their practices. He wanted away from the corruption and destruction that were occurring on a regular basis. Filiberto developed an affinity for the sea and traveling by boat. He sailed the Atlantic 4 times. He had wanderlust. He visited different places. He took pictures and sketched and created art in one form or another every step of his travels. Appreciating the art of different cultures and taking inspiration from the places he would see. It was during one of these trips, one of the pit stops in life that he discovered Bocas Del Toro in the colorful Caribbean Sea.

“I immediately knew it was home” Filiberto told me when we sat down to talk. With a peaceful look in his eyes and a tone that seemed relaxed and joyful he said, “Of all the island in the Caribbean there are none like Bocas. It is still perfect.” He has big dreams for himself as an artist as well as his family here in the archipelago. He has created a beautiful place where he can enjoy the tranquility and be inspired to do what he does best, ART!

He has worked with all mediums and elements, he draws, he paints, and he has worked with wax and silver and most recently wood. His work, in all forms, is breathtaking. I had the opportunity to view many of his pieces in photographs and even in that form I got goose bumps. From the Narcissus silhouette mirror made from melted down Venezuelan coins and silver to the paintings of jungle creatures each very different from each other, they conjure unique emotions and visions for all who see them. Every piece he manifests begins the same, from a pencil drawing first, perhaps a connection to his time in the states when he learned to draw, but from there each piece takes on a life of its own. He uses everything and keeps alive some very ancient art forms in his work. He has spent nearly 4 years on a particular piece using the ancient method of tempera, true tempera painting, with beautiful intricate designs and varying color schemes. His work is currently being shown in four countries, with Bocas soon to come.

Filiberto is making a special space on Isla Colon, close to the jungle and steps from the sea to showcase his art. He has a vision for his place here in Bocas and his art will be available to all who want to share it. He loves the colors he sees here in everything, the sky, the sea, the plants, the animals, and the people, as well as the slower pace and unspoiled areas. He has dreams to build floating houses; it will be his next art form he told me, homes on the sea. The first one will be his of course; he has a special bond with the sea. After all it was the sea that led him to Bocas the place he now calls home!

Please look for Filiberto’s art when you visit Bocas. Talk with him if you get a chance he is the one with the tall hat cruising the streets of Bocas Del Toro and see for yourself the reason he is one of Bocas VIPs!