Yesterday we were shocked by the death of 9 black people who were shot for the very reason of being black. This is the kind of tragedy that cannot be put into words – it is the downside of humanity, or should I say inhumanity. We cannot believe that it happened, but it did in Charleston, USA today. As a tribute to the victims, I re-publish a part of my diary about the international diversity conference in New Orleans 2006 (yes, shortly after hurricane Katrina). May the strength of people who were slaves, who protested against slavery and who protest against the remaining infections of that period, be blessed and reinforced. May their tears be dried by soulmates and friends.
Tomb unknown slave New Orleans
Building by remembering (New Orleans, June 11, 2006) By coincidence we walked into a church, just because the door was opened. It appeared to be the only door where in the time of slavery, banks were bought by free black people for slaves to sit upon. Outside of the church we find, unique in the USA, the grave of the unknown slave (the photo on top). A place that makes you silent. A sign of resistance, a sign of hope. It confirms the thesis of the Museum of Art, that the future is built by commemorating the past, not by forgetting it. The power to rebuilt a town like New Orleans can be found in that concept. Because it is sure that people will rebuild the town. And the question of the future is for whom they will rebuild the city (black or white).
I remember that we asked who was in the grave of the unknown slave. The answer was: no one in particular. So many slaves died here, they were buried all around so all of the ground in New Orleans is sacred, the church people said. This made me as silent as the Charleston murders did yesterday.
Look at Nicosia – Cyprus from above in these pictures and you can easily see 2 cities here: the Turkish one, in front and the Greek one, further away. Invisible here, inbetween the two city parts lies the Green Line, a 100 meter large strip where the UN rules since 40 years (!) to separate the Greek Cypriots from the Turkish Cypriots… Easy to understand how bored the UN-soldiers are here, they just ride around in expensive UN-cars as there is nothing else to do. The fighting has stopped long ago and the frontier is even ‘open’ since 2003 with small steps forward that symbolize progress like the abolishment of giving stamps every time a person crosses the transit point; this step was the first result of the new peace negotiations that started 2 weeks ago. It lead to quite some confusion especially at the Turkish side: the protocol had to change but Turkish officials love stamps – clearly that was really a thing to give up for them 🙂 Anyway the international community was investing here at least 30 years in vain, paying for useless UN-presence, boycoting the North / Turkish side without any result. For how long will we continue to do so? And why?
Nicosia could be a beautiful and flourishing city but it is not because it has no heart but a Green Line, a real wall in the middle of it: see the pictures, where we walk on the Greek side with theTurkish Cypriot and Turkish flags on the old city walls, and the walk on the Turkish side limited by a sudden wall to stop us going to the Greek side: no entrance, no photographs allowed either by the way.
I found the transit point at Ledra Palace the most sad one I have seen so far, although there are several peace seeking initiatives in the buildings there (and also the German Goethe Institut as if nothing happened, very funny). This transit point is at the Greek side surrounded by despair, no investment, no renovation, and even 40 year old remains of fighting (kept there deliberately?):
Coming from the city of Amsterdam where we love to restore houses and to let original beauty come out at the max, I have to say my hands were itching to take on the job. But well, there is certainly a reason for the non-investment and Nicosia will stay a city without a heart untill the political problems are solved – I hope: soon!
Yesterday I wrote about the street cats in Cyprus; that they are somehow loved, although the fact that they exist in such large numbers shows that the Cypriots do not deal enough with this problem: http://grethevangeffen.nl/2015/06/02/street-cats-in-cyprus/. In Adana, however, the situation is worse. It can be seen from the street cats’ behaviour, they are afraid. It was almost impossible to take pictures of street cats because they would run away immediately like this very small and sad kitten it really panicked, terrible; it did not think ‘hey here is a friend that will give me some food’. The only cat I could photograph quitely was a sick cat, also quite sad:
If we think that animal behaviour is an expression of local values, there is quite some development work to do in Adana – they can learn from Cyprus or from Istanbul where things have developed better already for street cats: http://grethevangeffen.nl/2012/03/03/istanbul-and-its-street-cats/. When cats are either afraid or ill, local values need reflection!
I was withholding my breath all the time while watching this movie: Loin des hommes. Algeria 1954, the colonial war or freedom war or however you want to call it, is about to begin. A teacher who’s school is in the middle of nowhere in the Atlas mountains gets involved. He is not looking for that but fate is looking for him. He ends up in several unexpected half war half peace situations. The mountains in the middle of nowhere are much more populated than you’d think: they are full of life, love and fights. Both the rebels and the French find their way over the invisible mountain paths. Will he have to give up his dream, to teach the children how to read? The teacher is also confronted with issues of culture, religion and identity. His parents were from Andalusia, he himself has always lived in Algeria and now others see him as French. There is so much actuality in this movie, it is not just a historical picture. And there is lots of deep warm friendship from man to man in this movie, too. The pictures are stunning. Go there, if you want to see something different!
Tonight I followed a workshop Fast Reading in a bookshop: De Nieuwe Boekhandel in Amsterdam Bos en Lommer. This bookshop is a great place, run by the inspiring owner Monique who has given a new meaning to the concept of a bookshop. Her bookshop, and the name nieuw/new is deliberate, is a place to meet. Book presentations, workshops, even your birthday party could take place in that shop. When my Diversity Shop edits new things, like we did this month with De karavaan en de kamelen: teams op het spoor (http://www.diversityshop.nl/nieuwe-producten/) we always have a presentation and a drink in De Nieuwe Boekhandel. So we have one on March 26th, please feel wellcome: http://www.diversityshop.nl/home-pm-27.html
I love Monique’s concept, it is vibrant and it has a great effect on the neighbourhood Bos en Lommer that can really do with some good entrepreneurs like Monique who invest in activities and relationships. What I like too is that De Nieuwe Boekhandel sells BoLo products, products that give Bos en Lommer an identity. Look in the left shelve of the picture and you see some of them.
Brandnew was the grey BoLo sweather so I bought one immediately. I wanted to show this sweater to you but first my Kater Aak sat on it (he liked it too) >>>
After a while. he let go and I could make a better picture showing the Amsterdam touch 🙂
Turist is a great movie with many layers and enough humour not to make this too serious a movie. The maker of this movie, Ruben Östlund, has thought a lot about the psychology and behaviour of survival in sudden extreme circumstances like disasters. Statistically, he says in an interview in Het Parool (Amsterdam newspaper) 18/2, most men run away and do not save the women and children. Still, we stay with the myth of heroism in extreme circumstances. It interests Östlund why we do that and we can see that in this brilliant movie Turist. The difference between the myth of heroism we believe in and the confrontation with reality is a fundamental theme in the movie: how to face, how to deal with that reality?
We follow a Swedish model family on their ski holidays in France. Confronted with an avalanche, the father of the family runs away leaving his wife and two children behind. Lots of stories arise from that split second. You won’t be bored. The pictures in Turist are very beautiful. You won’t be disappointed there either. Also, you will learn why to never fly your drone inside the house.
Like most tourists I walked in the streets of Warsaw-Center and visited shops like a souvenirshop and a antiquitiesshop. Well, that was quite a surprise.
In the souvenirshop it was possible to buy magnets with symbols of Poland, like one finds magnets with canalhouses, tulips and wooden shoes in Amsterdam. One magnet was a yellow ‘Jewish’ star that mentioned ‘ghetto Warsaw’. I couldn’t believe my eyes, stood there thinking for some time considering whether I should buy it as proof. But I did not want to buy and thus encourage such souvenirs so I ended making a secret (and not well succeeded) photograph. I am sure that this yellow star would not be sold in the Netherlands but maybe this had a different meaning for the Polish people. I asked in the Jewish museum, showing the pictures but they reacted in a very neutral way, telling that they couldn’t read that it said ‘ghetto Warsaw’ which was true of course 🙂
In the antiquitiesshop it was possible to find all kind of symbols and pamphlets from the last century: communist and anti-communist posters, lots of stuff. I even found a poster in Dutch mentioning ‘Indonesië moet bevrijd worden’ showing an Indonesian guy in chains resisting against a Japanese soldier. As said it was in Dutch and not in Indonesian, this is a real historic thing as Indonesia was freed from the Japanese but then subject to a colonial war with the Netherlands, this poster maybe symbolized that already. The shop also offered Nazi objects. The picture on top and the one below were made secretly in this shop. Maybe it was not necessary to make them secretly, I didn’t know; as a Dutch person I had the feeling that it was a risk to take those pictures but maybe it wasn’t in the Polish context.
All together this tourist street gave me many reflections about the context of the new and beautiful Jewish museum in Warsaw, Poland.
Creating a completely new museum comes with lots of opportunities (that the Museum for the history of Jews in Poland discovered well) and also with dilemma’s. From my visit to this museum I remember two of them.
1. How do you present your history when it has got possibly unfavourable elements? Especially in the light of a history where others have tried many times to present your people as bad people and that this had fatal consequences. The first image of the Jews in Poland happens to be one that connects them to trade of slaves. It was by the way for the first time for me that I learned that the word ‘slave’ is actually connected to the Slavic people, that they were the slaves of the Middle Ages. The image shows Jews trading slaves and a bishop protesting against it; not because he was against slavery as such but because he was against the trade of Christians as slaves. Slavic people were already Christians by that time. Jews are recognizable with a 2-pointed hat. Could this image make actual prejudices increase? Is a scientific approach ‘this is the very first image and thus reality’ the correct one or should the museum be more careful and avoid a possibly bad image? The museum chose to show the 12nd century reality…
2. During war, the Polish were the only people to have an organizational structure to help Jews and this shows their heroic side. Opinions differ on the scale of effectiveness of the organisation. How small or large should that part of Polish resistance take in the presentation of the 2nd world war part of the museum? You can imagine the discussions…
Most probably there were many more decisions to take that were a dilemma. What I like about this museum is that the makers are not afraid of decision making and also not of discussing the decisions made afterwards.They are transparent and they are accountable; a great sign of modernity that one can only appreciate!
28 October 2014 Warsaw could open the doors of the brandnew Museum of the History of Polish Jews and for certain, that museum is a beauty. First of all it is a beauty from the point of view architecture:
The size of the museum is enormous which offers opportunities for spectacular projects like: telling the story of the Jews coming to Poland 1000 years ago with moving images on glass walls; rebuilding an old wooden synagogue with all its special paintings; and redesigning a street in a Warsaw Jewish neighbourhood in the 19th/20th century with all its cultural and political activities, see these 3 pictures for an impression.
Apart from the special projects you can find interactive expositions for all centuries (I loved the medieval ones), and learn a lot about Polish history in general, too. The way the partition of Poland among other countries in the 18th/19th century was symbolised by a big and empty throne, overlooked by foreign rulers is impressive. Of course many people like to have their picture taken at the throne so it is never empty for a long time. The museum allows this kind of jokes and activities which is very nice.
This is a museum that deserves your time, wandering from one room to another through 10 centuries of history. It is different from other museums: it is an impression, not an explanation. It is an atmosphere and a way to live the lifes the Jews in Poland lived since the Middle Ages. If you visit Warsaw, remember to go there!
Some cities are good at special Chrismas lightning, soms are less good. Amsterdam for example is not so good, not very creative in Christmas street lightning, but they also have the Amsterdam Light Festival (which is not the ordinary street lightning but specific enlightened art objects) and that is rather spectacular. Warsaw in Poland has very good designers for Christmas lights; look at the beautiful pictures. It gives class and style to the city and makes it a real joy to walk around:
What amused me in Warsaw is that they also have this: Some wouldn’t call it class or style but the Polish citizens probably do. At least Warsaw is not afraid to combine these styles in the same street. And the children are happy with it!
It was a coincidence that I went to an IDFA documentary, I never have / take time for things like that but in this case the maker of the documentary was the daughter of a friend with whom I participate in a Turkish litterature club – yes, all Turkish spoken so you understand I do not speak a lot, however I do read all the books (in Turkish) while not every participant does 🙂
I have to say that Gülsah Dogan presented an outstanding documentary that should be obliged learning material for any organisation involved in the problems of Amsterdam-West families. She has succeeded to make an inside picture about one of the (former) most problematic Dutch-Moroccan families Amsterdam-West has known. And anyone in the public can recognize and feel the characters, the conflicts, the existentialist problems that occur in this story. It is very moving – there were many tears – and the complexity of extreme family situations is revealed. This is a documentary that deserves a price and I hope it will win.
See http://www.idfa.nl/industry/tags/project.aspx?id=5273991f-70a3-431d-836f-264b6b41bce6, for more info and also times to visit next wednesday, thursday and saturday 26/27/29 November. Don’t miss this one! For me, it will still be on my mind for many days; it is really, really impressive!
Puteaux: anger has risen in Puteaux, a suburb of Paris. In this city, the mayor provides school materials for the kids – in itself a most interesting fact. And he chose to give pink schoolbags to the girls, filled with jewelry stuff, and blue schoolbags to the boys with a constructable robot for the boys, thus inclenching a heavy debate: http://www.lexpress.fr/education/puteaux-cartable-rose-aux-filles-bleu-aux-garcons-l-opposition-voit-rouge_1572098.htmlThe year before, the bags were black and it seems the mayor wasn’t aware and was completely surprised by the national and even international comments he got. It is very funny to see how some people still live somewhere ‘outside’ of the developing world and great to see that reactions are allover the place and bring him back to the real world; although there is quite some politics in there, too.
Now that we speak of Puteaux, a little puzzle for all of you who like the French language: how do you call a person living in Puteaux? Un(e) Putéolien(ne)…