Bilqiss: the chance to be the one I should have been

bilqissBilqiss is about regrets and hope for the chance to be the one you should have been. Living in a burqa is more than just having some inconvenient clothing; it is the expression of a patriarchal society where women live within the boundaries men grant them. Individual men have the right to totally suffocate the women they live with. You might be bored when I write it like this but reading Bilqiss will not bore you.

Bilqiss: resisting boundaries
Saphia Azzeddine is a very talented writer. The language she uses is beautiful, rich and harmonious: a pleasure to follow, to listen to with your soul. Her main character Bilqiss lives the reality of these boundaries from the moment she was born – and she resists. She has kept an independent mind. Her inner voice of self confidence never stopped. Whatever happened in her life, she reinvented herself and kept hope to ‘be someone’ at last (p.185). Bilqiss is a moving character who uses her strengt hand intelligence to be an individual, to learn and discover. She is a proud woman who refuses to be treated unequally, be it by men in her society or by Western women with their feelings of pity and compassion.

Bilqiss: challenging boundaries
Bilqiss has done the unthinkable: she as a woman has climbed up in the minaret of the mosque and woken the village by singing the morning prayer. While doing so, she added some tweaks in the way she as a true believer sees muslim faith. Her acts are received in the village with indignation and horror. She will be stoned to death as a punishment but before that, she will be heard in a courtcase. She defends herself without advocate in clear and eloquent wording. Many things happen during that period. The judge seems to listen and prolong the time of the courtcase. Meanwhile he starts visiting Bilqiss in prison every evening, probing her ideas and appreciating exactly that what society expects him to annihilate with his judgment. Just like Mandela once said, he is a prisoner of his own system and also unable to be what he should have been.

Bilqiss: a big cry to resist
Different views and perspectives on what happens to Bilqiss and why are intertwined naturally in the story and give it depth. More and more foreign attention is attracted as videos about the court case appear on youtube. An American-Jewish journalist, Leandra, comes over to follow from nearby what is happening. Leandra is welcomed the way people in the Middle East welcome their guests. It takes some time before Leandra finds out that this is not because the locals like Americans so much… However, she stands as a character and surprises with her calm and truthful reactions until the very end of the book. I found the end surprising and one big cry to continue resisting patriarchy and the form of islam that serves it.

Some quotes that you will find more meaningful in the full context of the book

> About the lost past of the Andalusian spirit of curiosity and learning for all
“Il était loin, le temps où la valeur spirituelle d’un musulman se mesurait à la quantité de livres qu’il possédait, où les bibliothèques champignonnaient comme des minarets, loin aussi le temps où les mosquées, au-delà des salles de prière, abritaient le savoir que les hommes et les femmes pouvaient venir goûter sans distinction” (p. 150)

> About being a subject in a book
“Leandra s’était jetée sur mon histoire pour l’écrire avec ses larmes teintées de mascara. Peut-être même que, un jour, je me retrouverais en tête de gondole dans les boutiques d’aéroports ou de gares au milieu d’autres best-sellers pour divertir ou émouvoir d’autres voyageurs des long-courriers selon qu’ils aiment les femmes ou détestent les musulmans. Je refusais d’être une intermittente de leur spectacle”. (p. 154)

> About denial of responsability
“Une vilaine habitude philologique de notre langue voulait que ce soit l’extérieur qui nous frappe et non l’inverse. Ainsi nous ne disions pas ‘J’ai attrapé froid’ mais ‘Le froid m’a frappé’, ‘la fenêtre m’a cogné’, ‘la soupe m’a brûlée’. Jamais nous n’étions responsables de ce qui nous arrivait”. (p. 160)

> About the gap between us
“J’aurais voulu être elle (Leandra) pour avoir une chance d’être celle que j’aurais dû être si j‘étais née ailleurs. Celle que j’aurais pu être si l’on ne m’avait privée dès le plus jeune âge de la plus infime liberté. J’aurais voulu être celle qui éprouvait de la pitié plutôt que celle qui en inspirait. Leandra n’y pouvait rien et c’était son plus grand tort”. (p. 176)

Useful links about this book and the author:
* https://fr.wikipedia.org/wiki/Saphia_Azzeddine
* https://nathavh49.blogspot.com/2016/08/bilqiss-saphia-azzaddine.html
* https://en.qantara.de/content/book-review-saphia-azzeddineʹs-bilqiss-just-being-born-a-woman-is-a-provocation

Find other books to read in these blogs
* ‘Why are people like this?’ Boualem Sansal
* Simone Veil: une vie
* Portrait du décolonisé

Beyond the Difference

beyond the differenceBeyond the Difference – the Importance of Inclusive Leadership is the title of my new book, published this week by Common Ground – USA. It is a great honor to have my book published for a worldwide audience and I hope it will inspire many readers!

Ideas and instruments deriving from the best practices in a variety of organisations now find their path to a world wide public. They show why inclusive leadership is essential and what scientific theories were developed. Globalisation and individualisation have considerably increased diversity at work. Organisations frequently face situations of (apparently) conflicting values. We urgently need leaders who understand how the dynamics of diversity impact daily business. We need leaders who are knowledgeable about these processes and who do not fear to address diversity issues that are not just easily solved. And there is enough to gain with these efforts!

A quote from Beyond the Difference (and yes, indeed, I quote my own words now, very funny): ‘Although we live in difficult times for diversity & inclusion, opportunities occur for organizations who think across silos and borders and who are strong in trade, customer relations and innovation. Inclusive leadership is of inestimable value for prosperity, both materially and immaterially’.

beyond the differenceAs I have been active in the field of culture, diversity and inclusion (through my company Seba), the book does not just offer some analytic observations but concrete methods and tools to implement the business case for diversity successfully along the three headlines of:
1. giving direction
2. role model behaviour
3. organising

If you compare my work to that of other experts in this field, you can see that I care less about what people think, about opinions and the like, and more about what people do, how they act. I notice that in most Western countries ‘having the right opinion about diversity’ often dominates the debate, while (Middle-)Eastern countries usually have a more pragmatic approach: they are looking for the most effective way to go forward. I find all those opinions about diversity often time-consuming with little effect on the business case. Therefore, consider Beyond the Difference as a working guide for leaders to make progress in a context of paradoxes, uncertainty and dilemmas.

Buy Beyond the difference at the publisher’s bookstore, or shops like Amazon.com.
For those who prefer to read in Dutch, buy Voorbij het Verschil

Blogs you may also like:
Perceptions of power
Investeer in jouw inclusief leiderschap!

 

 

 

Archaeological Museum Haarlem

archaeological museum haarlemArchaeological Museum Haarlem

This guy lived in the 14th century in Haarlem. The way he looks is estimated as 95% accurate. His bones were found in excavations at the Botermarkt in Haarlem; most probably the graveyard of a former hospital. From his bones it was clear that he suffered from severe diseases like infections and disorders of joints caused by hard labour. The idea is that he died in that hospital, only 34 years old. He was larger than I’d thought: 1 meter 84 which was the normal size for people in that period. A woman working with the police worked on the basis of his bones to bring him ‘back to life’, for us living in the 21st century to identify with and see who made all the things that we find in excavations.

Archaeological Museum Haarlem is a great museumarchaeological museum haarlem. I got all this information from a volunteer who started explaining stuff to me without asking, calmly and politely and very knowledgeable. Thanks to volunteers the Archaeological Museum Haarlem can open five times a week. It is not very big: the size of one room. Both history story lines and the objects are very well presented. Creative methods are used to get stories across and it is very child-friendly. History is in Dutch only – object names are also in English. I am sure a volunteer will be helpful for English speaking visitors. I show here some objects I particularly liked, but there are many more special pieces:

Flintstone arrowheads:
Life in the western part of the Netherlands is older than you maybe thought. There was no stable soil but findings witness that this did not prevent humans from living, chasing, working there.

 

Decorative pins:
The man on the horse is estimated 1500 AD, the round one 1575 -1600 AD. Very beautiful pieces made by real craftsmen.

 


Two jugs:
One is a traditional beardman jug that I saw a lot in museums. The jug with the pointed nose however (1425-1600 AD) is more rare I guess – or maybe I just never saw it. Apparently this type of jug is the beardman jugs’ predecessor. A very fine piece!

 

Ladies’ jug:
I absolutely adored this 14th century jug with the ladies depicted in them.

 

 

Container to collect dripping fat:
I found this one real fun, such a practical invention. It was catching the fat from the roast above the fire. It has a gutter on the right side to cast the fat in a smaller pan and can be hung to the wall through the eye on the right upper side. Someone thought about this before designing it…

Battle for Haarlem:
Not only the museum offers loads of superinteresting info about the battle for Haarlem (against the Spanish, 1572-1573), including the famous lady Kenau Hasselaer – a strong business woman as well as the fighter she is merely known for. They also show it in pictures and a model of the city walls.


Children’s book about 16th century Haarlem:
This idea deserves a price! The objects shown in one of the showcases are also depicted in the book – an excellent integrated approach to make history come alive. Great applause!!!

 

Archaeological Museum Haarlem is small, compared to similar musea in the Middle East but it is special and worth your visit.

Other blogs about archaeological museums you might like:
* Archaeological Museum Amman: caring for 6500 year old child
* Archaeological Museum Gaziantep: ‘just local stuff’
* Stockholm National Historical Museum
* Musée de l’Art et de l’Archéologie du Périgord

 

 

‘Why are people like this?’ Boualem Sansal


Since I went to Tunis two years ago, I became a fan of Arab-French literature again. This started as a student of French many years ago and got lost during the years… until I found the brilliant bookshop in Tunis, simply named Al Kitab. It has a diversified collection that reminds more or less the inspiration of Al Andalus: the time when cultures and religions lived next to each other and arts and science flourished. Al Kitab made me discover the Algerian writer Boualem Sansal. The first book I bought was Le serment des barbares (see a short note in this blog), and on my return to Tunis I found 2084 and Le village de l’Allemand in the shelves.
Boualem Sansal is a unique writer. When he wrote his first book Le serment des barbares, he was still working in a high position of Algerian industry. Boualem Sansal is an engineer and an economist. Since he started writing, he won many prices: many French ones, but also this German price. His books are not easy to read or light lecture. He is writing about the sharpest sides of humanity: the massive violence, cruelty, corruption, treason and dictatorship. Free thought and free speech are continuously in danger, as well as sincerity, trust and integrity. His books have a theme and an agenda. Boualem Sansal, although rather pessimist in his books, is a strong defender of enlightened mankind and for that he uses magnificent language skills.

Le serment des barbares (1999)
(The oath of the barbarians > only translated into Spanish?)
This was Boualem Sansal’s first book that brought him several prices. Boualem Sansal shows here the power and richness of his language skills in describing his country, Algeria, in decline. Thirty years after the independance of Algeria, the wounds of the fierce war they fought are still there. Factions of the army for freedom FLN, islamists and maffia-type politicians lead the country into a downward spiral of poverty and corruption while distrust shapes the day-to-day relations.
The leading story is about detective Larbi who starts the investigation of the murder of a poor guy, Abdallah. While doing so, step by step the actual way of life and the status of Rouiba, once the prosperous industrial suburb of Algiers, is revealed as if you walked there yourself. Le serment des barbares does not end well and that is a logical consequence of the story. When religious fanatism, anger, madness and greed reign, there is no hope.
Links you might want to read:
https://www.babelio.com/livres/Sansal-Le-serment-des-barbares/30900
https://www.lexpress.fr/culture/livre/le-serment-des-barbares_804680.html

Le village de l’Allemand, ou le journal des frères Schiller (2008)
In English: The German Mujahid
I found this a very good book, I could not stop reading. It is less descriptive than the other two and the plot is impressive. Malrich Schiller lives in a banlieu in France. His brother committed suicide six months earlier and left him a journal. The book develops over the gradual lecture of the journal. There is a lot to discover. Malrich finds out that his parents who lived in a village in the south of Algeria, were killed in one of the terrible raids of GIA islamists.
His father, a German, was a hero who fought with the FLN (freedom army) against the French for independance but was killed with all the others in their village. Then he finds out that his father was a former Nazi; his brother who had to clear the house of the parents, describes in the journal how he found multiple objects and memories of that period. Their father never destroyed them but hid them in a safe corner. This comes with so much guilt and also identity problems; who was my father? who am I? And it comes with resistance and anger as islamists are already active in the banlieu and are organised to take over. And with despair about the ever repeted cruelty and the mass killings: ‘My God, why have you created mankind like this? Who can save them?’ This book is the dark history of mankind made personal – and reverse.
Links you might want to read:
http://eveyeshe.canalblog.com/archives/2015/12/01/33008684.html
https://vmesny.wordpress.com/horizons/romans-contemporains/le-village-de-l’allemand-boualem-sansal/
https://www.goodreads.com/book/show/6570427-the-german-mujahid

2084 La fin du monde (2015)
In English: 2084 The End of the world
2084 is very descriptive. It tells about L’Abistan, a world that is stable and closed in itself. Religion is dominant in every aspect of daily life. To instaur the system, the past where this religion was not dominant has to be forgotten and free thought is seen as a major threat to the system. So there are many ways to check and control what people think and do. Every answer is given to the people. There is no reason for them to ask questions. However the book’s main character Ati got somehow ‘enlightened’ during a sick leave where he had time to think and to meet different people than usual. From that moment he is in constant danger.
I found the story of the book slow to go, too slow actually but I did continue reading because I wanted to know how it would end. Especially when Ati discovers a ghetto where life is more free, it becomes interesting. Step by step Ati finds out that l’Abistan is not the entire world as it pretends to be. And he does find his way out. I like books with a good ending and I did not persevere in vain, there is hope in the end.
https://la-plume-francophone.com/2015/11/02/boualem-sansal-2084/
https://www.theguardian.com/books/2017/feb/10/2084-boualem-sansal-review-timely-tribute-george-orwell
https://www.thenational.ae/arts-culture/book-review-boualem-sansal-s-2084-the-bestselling-novel-where-isil-is-in-charge-1.90285

You might also like this blog about Albert Memmi: Portrait du décolonisé
Or this movie, playing in Algeria: Loin des hommes

Simone Veil: une vie

 

I found Simone Veil’s autobiography Une Vie while buying groceries in the Super-U. In France, culture and quality can be found everywhere, a characteristic that I adore in that country. It is a breathtaking book about a life that started in an ordinary, middle-class way and got heavily interrupted by the Second World War, went through the Nazi death camps and then on to government positions at the highest level of France and Europe. Compared to the intensity of that life, the book is short (343 pages Livre de Poche). There are many chapters where the reader would like to know more because her experiences are unique and give insights one rarely gets.
Simone Veil was a Holocaust survivor and she was also a major player in France’s after-war period. Une Vie tells a lot about the things she did, but her influence went much further than that because of who she was, a woman with clear principles that she followed in any function she would fulfill: ‘le sens de la justice, le respect de l’homme, la vigilance face à l’evolution de la société‘ (p. 262).
She says she liked politics but not the political game and indeed in her book the description of such games are rarely found. It is about the goals Simone Veil was going for and about what she achieved. The reader can only wonder how she did that. The same goes for all the positions she got – it seems to be just the natural flow of her life and it would be so interesting to learn more how she got there. The political part of Une Vie shows little relations or emotions; if I may criticize Une Vie, the only point by the way: this is not about living a (political) life, it is too factually descriptive for that (though very interesting).
Anyway I highly recommend this book that was translated in many languages; (just) some parts of the book that I found breathtaking:

* the description of the Holocaust, an inside story. ‘l’enfer‘ (p.53-89)

* the question whether governments should have stayed or left their countries during the Second World War. France hat the Vichy-régime that collaborated with the Nazis. Simone Veil always thought that was wrong, until she met Queen Beatrix of the Netherlands who told her how heavily her mother Queen Wilhelmina was criticized for leaving to Canada and thus ‘abandonning her people’. ‘aucun événement historique, aucun choix politique des gouvernants, surtout dans des périodes aussi troubles, n’entraîne des conséquences uniformément blanches ou noires‘. (p.46)

* the letters she got when she fought as Minister of Health for the first Law on Abortion in 1975. The verbal abuse was so terrible that her staff destroyed some letters. Simone Veil regrets that because these letters are witnesses of a history of reform and should have formed study material by now to remember that changes come with pain. ‘il faut rappeler aux esprits angéliques que les réformes de société s’effectuent toujours dans la douleur‘. (p.165)

* in the beginning of her European period she expected that in twenty years countries would go beyond their national frame. She found out that it doesn’t work like that and that everybody looks for their roots. Thus nowadays she compares the EU more to the aggregate of Russian matrushka puppets than a monolithic building. (p. 190)

* her ideas about human rights that she supported all her life; how militant activists rarely bring peace and rather increase human rights violations because their approach is too one-sided; that there are no universal human rights when it comes to business and other modus vivendi. ‘Au fond, ce sont toujours aux faibles que l’on fait la morale, tandis qu’on finit par blanchir les puissants‘. (p.194)

* Simone Veil concludes that she has become more and more a fighter for women’s rights because equal chances for women are not naturally based in laws or in the rules of the game. ‘Les chances, pour les femmes, procèdent trop du hasard‘. (p.258)

Links:
https://www.theguardian.com/world/2018/jun/30/simone-veil-funeral-paris-pantheon
http://www.theheroinecollective.com/simone-veil/
https://www.editions-stock.fr/livres/essais-documents/une-vie-9782234058170
https://www.trouw.nl/cultuur/simone-veil-succesvol-omdat-ze-een-vrouw-is~abb3e42e/

Other blogs you might like:
Mikve Israel-Immanuel synagogue: religious pearl in orange-loving Willemstad
‘Why are people like this?’ Boualem Sansal
Perceptions of power

De inspirator: innemende en rake film

 

Een pareltje is het, deze in elk geval voor mij onbekende film De Inspirator die ik bij toeval tegenkwam in de filmagenda van het onvolprezen Amsterdamse Ketelhuis. Slechts een dag zou de film vertoond worden. Terwijl ik met toenemend plezier naar de film keek, verwonderde ik me daar steeds meer over. Waarom verdient deze film geen uitgebreidere presentatie en publiek?

Hoofdpersoon Gijs Schippers zet een buitengewoon rake schets neer van een bewogen managementgoeroe op het terrein van organisatieverandering, transities noemt hij het ook, en leiderschap. Zijn type is vanaf het eerste moment herkenbaar zonder dat het een karikatuur wordt.
Sowieso zit De Inspirator goed in elkaar. Je verveelt je geen moment, hier is een buitengewoon goede scenarioschrijver aan het werk geweest. Het verhaal zit vol verrassende wendingen en humoristische details – hoewel ik zoals wel vaker merkte dat ik erg moest lachen terwijl niemand in de zaal leek mee te lachen. Over wat grappig is. kun je van mening verschillen, dat is duidelijk.
Twee mensen die een bestaande relatie hebben, onderhouden samen een geheime relatie: de managementgoeroe Gijs zelf en zijn vriendin Judith. Hun partners blijven onderbelicht tot in het laatste deel van de film: dan krijgen zij plotseling vorm en kleur. Daarmee veranderen de verhoudingen en ontstaat er een diepgaander verhaal dan in het begin van de film als de partners slechts bijzaak lijken te zijn.
Je zou kunnen beweren dat De Inspirator gaat over zingeving. Of over de vraag wat je nu eigenlijk wilt in de spanning tussen carrière en liefdesleven. Of over het jezelf verliezen in succes of in de schaduw van succes. Eigenlijk doet dat er niet toe. De film is goed genoeg om er elke toeschouwer zijn eigen verhaal en betekenis in te laten vinden. En een geweldig leuke ervaring te krijgen.

Nergens heb ik kunnen opsporen waarom deze film is gemaakt en wat de makers beweegt; intrigerend want het is toch veel tijd en energie die men eraan besteedt en het lijkt alsof ze veel creativiteit moesten ontplooien om alles voor elkaar te krijgen. Hoe dan ook wil ik hier wel kwijt: goed gedaan! Het is een verrijking voor de Nederlandse film. De Inspirator verdient meer vertoningen en als je in de buurt bent van zo’n voorstelling: zeker gaan kijken.

Trailer De Inspiratorhttps://www.youtube.com/watch?v=ocv1VA9ZvmM

Other blogs about movies you might like:
Turist and the myth of heroism
Visages villages: the brilliance of the normal
The Van Waveren Tapes make you shiver

Or this blog: South Korean wisdom

Vesunna Museum in Périgueux

Such a fabulous museum, the Vesunna Gallo-Roman Museum in Périgueux! A complete villa (‘domus’) has been covered and integrated into a museum together with many very interesting Gallo-Roman objects found – and with a surrounding parc that shows the beautiful and quite well preserved Vesunna Tower. To do so was not just an ambitious idea, it has effectively been realized in an impressive way.
Vesunna or Vésone was a celtic (gallic) goddess that gave her name to the capital of the home of the Petrocorii, the ancient Gallo-Roman inhabitants of the actual Périgord region (in French: from Petricores to Périgordin). The first remains of Vesunna were uncovered in the ’60s already and it was step by step developed into the actual shape of the Vesunna Museum and its surroundings. Visiting it is an amazing experience. If you visit the Dordogne region, don’t miss out on this one. The price is 9 euro only for a combined ticket of both the Musée d’Art et Archaeology and the Vesunna Museum; and for a family ticket, 20 euro.

It was not my best day in taking photographs, alas. But I have a few objects here to show from the Vesunna Museum Périgueux that I liked most:

 

A taurobolic altar from the 2nd/3rd century. It remembers the sacrifice of a taurus to the mother of the gods Cybele. The four sides of the altar show the symbols and the accessories of the cult.

 

 

A figurine of the mother goddess who is breastfeeding two children. It was made in white terracotta. Copies of it can be bought in the museum shop.

 

A bit difficult to see on this picture but this is a
bronze balance weight with the head of Bacchus.
Very beautiful!

 

Interesting websites:
1. The Vesunna Museum in Périgueux itself has a wonderful website:  http://www.perigueux-vesunna.fr/
2. Also useful: https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Vesunna_Gallo-Roman_Museum
3. And this one about the Vesunna tower and practical info.

Other interesting blogs about archeology:
Archaeological Museum Amman: caring for 6500 year old child…
Who tells your history? And other questions in Stockholm
Archaeological Museum Gaziantep: ‘just’ local stuff

Museum of Art and Archaeology of the Périgord

museum of art and archaeology of the perigord
Archaeology in the Museum of Art and Archaeology of the Périgord in Périgueux, France, means prehistory. The Périgord is home to many caves with findings of prehistoric painting, like the famous Grottes de Lascaux and Font du Gaumuseum of art and archaeology of the perigordme and the prehistoric part of the museum reflects this period with very interesting findings. A dazzling collection of different stone hand axes is just the beginning. All kind of instruments useful in daily prehistoric work are presented in many shapes – and some beautiful pieces show craftmanswork like the pendant with a bison head (Magdalenien era, 15.000 BC, exact function unknown.

 

museum of art and archaeology of the perigordmuseum of art and archaeology of the perigord

Other nice presentations in the Museum of Art and Archaeology of the Périgord are a prehistoric burial ceremony on one side of the wall, while a real skeleton that was buried in that way is found on the other side. (Magdalenien era, 18.000 – 11.000 BC, skeleton of the man of Chancelade, Homo Sapiens). Both are made in a beautiful way.
museum of art and archaeology of the perigord
The rebuilding of a Magdalenien hut, as shown on the picture (left), also adds to the fun of the visitor. At that period mankind had already horses, the head you see on top of the tent is a horse skull. Nice to see, nice to visit.

The central part of the Museum of Art and Archaeology of the Périgord is a cloister (see first photo in this blog) where they seem to have stalled all pieces that are not prehistoric and not art. It is a very interesting mixture of mmuseum of art and archaeology of the perigordostly mediëval stuff, I highly recommend that you take a quiet walk through the cloister just to enjoy the many details in the pieces you see there. Also the rooms with art are very nice with a great variety of interesting art objects but I am not into art myself so this blog does not describe more than just the encouragement to visit.

At the entrance you can buy a combination ticket for this museum and the Vesunna site at a 10 or 15 minutes walking distance – I did, my next blog will describe the visit to Vesunna. Both museums are in itself worth a visit to Périgueux, if you can visit them both: do so!

Other blogs on this subject you may like:
Archaeological Museum Haarlem
Archaeological Museum Gaziantep: ‘just local stuff’
Archaeological Museum Amman: caring for 6500 year old child…

 

New Rembrandt in the Hermitage Amsterdam

It was an unexpected extra gift at a breakfast meeting of VNO-NCW entrepreneurs at the Hermitage Amsterdam: to see the new Rembrandt painting Portrait of a Young Gentleman exposed since a day in the museum. We were so happy that we could be part of this new joy! The new Rembrandt was discovered by Dutch art collector Jan Six on an auction in London where he bought it for 137.000 pounds only – as a 17th century specialist he knew rightaway that it was a real Rembrandt and he worked two years with several experts to prove it. He published his findings on May 16 as you can read in this NYT-article. The new Rembrandt is a spectacular finding that you can admire in the Hermitage Amsterdam until June 15.

Our meeting in the Hermitage proved us all about the benefits of the Art for Children program. Thousands of children in Amsterdam learn about art every year and some 140 talented kids follow a special program to develop their skills. All this is completely free of charge thanks to many generous donations. The approach is inclusive, children from all parts of the city participate.
   
I was impressed by the size and the quality of the program. Our meeting took place before the opening times of the museum and this is also the moment when children are free to visit 63 top pieces like the fantastic Dutch Masters, coming from the Hermitage St Petersburg and still to be seen in the Hermitage Amsterdam until May 27 (2018). They were watching, discussing, asking questions, making comments or just lying on the floor among top pieces to make their own drawings. I have not just fallen in love with the new Rembrandt but also with the Hermitage itself 🙂
Some specific paintings I like to mention here (it is impossible to describe 63 top pieces from the Dutch Golden Age):

 

Landscape with the prophet Elia
by Abraham Bloemaert (1583-1633)

 

 

 

Portrait of Cornelia Haringh
by Govert Flinck (1615-1660)

 

 

 

 

 

Birds in a parc 
by Melchior d’Hondecoeter (1636-1695)

 

 

 

 

Portrait of an Old Jew
by Rembrandt van Rijn (1606-1666)

 

 

 

 

Also in Amsterdam:
Anne Frank House
Amsterdam Heritage Days
Amsterdam Tower: a must-visit!

Heimatmuseum Borkum: variety, wealth, surprise


The Heimatmuseum Borkum
is larger and richer than you’d expect on a small island. Borkum is one of the Wadden islands in the north of Germany and houses just some thousands of inhabitants. The Heimatmuseum (Homeland museum) gives a very interesting overview of it’s history and socio-economic life. You learn about the history of whalers, find a full whale skeleton and of course the famous little seals, see a complete room, kitchen and laiterie like they had in the old times; but apart from that, there are many great, even amazing artefacts that tell you maybe even more about life in Borkum. This was a museum that gave me much more than I expected when I entered. It is impossible to resume, so I show you here the artefacts that impressed me most:

Unique sand collection: every little box contains sand from a different part of the world. The cupboard has two sides, filled with all colors and structures of sand. This exhibit changes your idea about sand forever…

 

A garland made out of the hair of the deceased… Elsewhere in the museum, jewelry made out of female hairs can be found. My mouth fell open; I find it a bit spooky but here it seems to be a piece of art. One thing is sure, the results are beautiful!

 

A 18th century cistern where water was collected both from the rain and from groundwater. It is big and covered with Dutch blue painted tiles who were valuable already in that era so the owner must have been very rich. The cistern kept the water cool and fresh. It is quite unique, no other cistern like this was found in the north of Germany.

 

A 19th century bucket that served to collect the household money. It hang at a beam in the kitchen. That is what attracted my attention; that there were times where people hang their money in a bucket in the kitchen…. I liked the idea that it was safe there, out in the open!

Last but not least, two things that particularly caught my attention: one not positive, one very positive. Let’s start with the difficult one: the museum shows several artefacts from the Nazi period: price winning objects with swastikas; a document about a given price (Kriegsverdienstkreuz), signed by Führer Hitler himself. It was exposed partly hidden behind binoculars (?) but clearly visible.
 

 
There might be reasons to expose this kind of artefacts but at least some explanation is needed. Nothing in this museum suggests that Borkum is not proud of this part of the past….
Now the positive artefact, it goes back to 1579 and was found at the beach of Borkum in 1971: a silver coin that was made in Hedel, the Netherlands which is….  the village where I was born. There is a long story to tell about coins from my native village Hedel … another time… For now: I was – happily – surprised to find this particular coin so far away from home. It proves that you will never know how far the things you make can reach, and that the extent to what it reached can be observed until centuries afterwards… so great!

As said, this is just a small selection of what the Heimatmuseum Borkum has to offer. If you go to that Island, do not leave without paying it a visit.

Other blogs you might like:
Who tells your history? and other questions
The vikings, did they really exist?
Lore: movie that silences the public

Keukenhof: 7 million spring-flowering bulbs


Millions visit the Keukenhof in the Netherlands; this year, I did what I wanted to do since many years, and visited it too. It is one of those strange things in life, that one travels the world to see amazing beauties in all kind of places and finds no time to visit the amazing beauties at home. Because beauty, that is definitely what the Keukenhof is about. It is a parc full of tulips presented in spectacular ways. And you will find many other flowers, in every imaginable combination. If you love flowers, this is your place. The beauty of nature and the compositions will give you a happy heart and mind. What you find in the Keukenhof is not to be found anywhere else in Europe!
I had some interesting contacts, too. It started at the entrance as for some reason or other I couldn’t succeed in opening my e-ticket on my mobile; they solved it in just a minute, their efficiency is faster than the speed of light. Then they added with a foreseeing knowledge: ‘remember you entered through the main entrance because we have several entrances and at the end of your visit you might worry where your car is’. How did they know I am exactly one of those people who can never find their car back because they do not remember where they came from? We laughed a lot.
I also spoke to visitors from Indonesia. They asked me to take their picture at the mill in the parc. Their camera was smaller than any camera I ever saw: the size of a match-box. I love that with people from South-East Asia; they always come up with fabulous gadgets, and they are cool enough to do as if it is completely normal. While I admired their camera, they admired our flower culture, and the mill of course.
It is a strong point anyway in the Keukenhof, that they created lots of logical, nice places for visitors to take pictures: little seats between flowers, wooden shoes they can stand it, even a wedding gown full of flowers to show yourself as a bride in white and flowers.
Absolutely remarkable in the Keukenhof is the show with the orchids; from white to red, from pink to yellow, from orange to blue (really!): small and big, familiar and unfamiliar. It shows how much the Netherlands progressed in the cultivation of orchids.
What I loved too, is the fields around the Keukenhof, where bulbs are produced – they are in full flowers now! If you go to the Keukenhof, do not forget to wander a bit around in that area: you’ll love it, no doubt about that.

Find all info about the Keukenhof at www.keukenhof.nl
About the history of the Keukenhof: https://keukenhof.nl/en/footer/about-keukenhof/

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Floriade 2012: splendid but with limited identity
Malawi Fever Tree: what do you see?

Apostolos Andreas Monastery – Northern Cyprus heritage (21)


The Apostolos Andreas Monastery lies in the Karpaz, the rather deserted and naturally beautiful northern peninsula of Cyprus. Historic sources tell that the Apostle Andrew landed here for a moment on one of his travelings through the Mediterranean. Since very old times this place was considered as a holy place and visited by many pilgrims. However, christians were not the first people to visit the Karpaz; not only remnants from the Roman period were found, also from the far earlier Iron Age. 
The actual Apostolos Andreas Monastery dates from 1867 and rest partly on walls of a 15th century chapel. The former cells for the monks lie empty around the complex that is guarded by one or two priests only. President Erdogan visited the region in 2011 and promised to cooperate for a UNDP project to renovate the church. Most of the work has already been done by a combination of Greek and Turkish Cypriots (or their companies), with nice results, worth a visit. Some adjacent buildings are still being restored.

Monastery in a divided island
Since Turkey took hold of the northern part of the Island, there has been a lot of hustle and bustle around this holy place. For the restoration, cooperation of both the Greek and Turkish Cypriot community did not come just by itself: UNDP had a strong role in that. Anyway it is the Greek-Cypriot hope to get back not just the monastery but the whole Karpaz peninsula once that peace negotations have finally proven successful. And the Turks do what they always do in areas that might be disputed. They keep investments low > the last part of the road to go to the monastery is the worst road of Northern Cyprus. And they show their power by calling the primary school of Dipkarpaz the ‘Recep Tayyip Erdogan School’ and the large square in front of the Apostolos Andreas Monastery the ‘Bülent Ecevit Square’; Ecevit was the Turkish Prime Minister in 1974 who decided to send the army into Cyprus to help the Turkish Cypriots. It is a strange pattern since over 40 years now of Greek Cypriots Always complaining as if they have no role whatsoever in what is happening, and the Turks showing muscles instead of empathy.

Useful links

Other blogs you might like:
Sourp Magar, Armenian monastery in Turkish Cyprus
Monastery Antiphonitis in Turkish Cyprus
Monastery Pandeleimon in Turkish Cyprus