Good Night Stories for Rebel Girls

  Today, November 12 2017, the well-known presentator Leila Prnjavorac read a great Good Night Story for Rebel Girls in a gigantic bed in the Public Library of Amsterdam. It was a great act to observe, especially at the moment that all the children imitate the ‘camouflage’ that Queen Nanny (1686 – 1733) taught the Marrons at Jamaica to protect themselves from the English ennemy. See and enjoy the youtube I produced about that particular story (in Dutch, click on the image):

The book Good Night Stories for Rebel Girls has now been translated for Dutch children under the title Bedtijdverhalen voor Rebelse Meisjes. The stories of 100 special women are described in a nice, easy-to-go way in combination with beautiful and colorful images.
Is it possible to be inspiring and practical on a simple page? Yes it is.
For example the book describes the story of an Irish girl who wanted to be a sailor and a pirate. When her father told her that her long read hair would get stuck in the ropes of the sails, she just cut her hair off, leaving her father no other choice than to take her onto the ship. Girls learn that there are solutions to problems they might face and that they can take action all by themselves. And they see what can be achieved. The Irish girl ended up being personal friends with the Queen of England she initially fought against. It is a joy to read the different stories of the book, with women from all over the world, from many cultures.
No shortcomings in this book then? Yes, but just one. The choice was made to describe also the stories of women still alive. That always comes with the risk that they might still do less heroic things after the story was written. For example Myanmarese Aung San Suu Kyi is in the book as a Nobel Price winning political hero. However at this very moment her Nobel Price is heavily discussed due to her negative role in the immense drama of ethnic cleansing of the Rohinya in Myanmar – not exactly the good night story one would choose for one’s kid to tell…
However, this is a minor shortcoming that still leaves 99/100 inspiring stories in the book. Therefor I warmly recommend it for all rebel girls >>> and their mothers!

Bedtijdverhalen voor Rebelse Meisjes
Geschreven door Elena Favilli en Francesca Cavallo
Uitgegeven 2017 door Rose Stories

Graveyards as symbol of ethnic conflict

graveyard symbol ethnic conflict

Graveyards have a role of their own in ethnic diverse regions. Remembering the dead in dignity is important, and almost symbolic when it comes to ethnic conflicts.
I have written about the bad state of the Greek-Cypriot graveyards in Northern Cyprus in 2011 and that drew the attention of M. Thorsten Kruse who works at the Institut für Interdisziplinäre Zypern-Studien at the Westfälische Wilhelms-Universität Münster. We exchanged information about the status of cemetaries in Cyprus. It is moving to see that M. Thorsten Kruse, a person with scientific ambitions has taken this heritage on as a subject.
Recently M. Thorsten Kruse has published his findings in his article “Zwischen Politik und Religion – Der Umgang mit den griechischen und muslimischen Grabstätten Zyperns nach der gewaltsamen Teilung der Insel 1974 [Between Politics and Religion – The handling of the Greek and Muslim Cemeteries in Cyprus after the Division of the Island in 1974]” in which he used photographs I made in Northern Cyprus. The article is publiced in this book: A. Berner, J.-M. Henke, A. Lichtenberger, B. Morstadt, A. Riedel (Hg.), Das Mittelmeer und der Tod – Mediterrane Mobilität und Sepulkralkultur, 2016. Please find the book at the publishing house. If you like to contact M. Thorsten Kruse directly, do so as he is willing to answer your questions!
One of the themes in his article is the fact that in the North of Cyprus (the Turkish side), the Greek graveyards may have been destroyed deliberately as they are all in a devastating state. The situation for Turkish cemetaries in the South of Cyprus (the Greek side) is different, he says. This raises questions about why this is the case and M. Thorsten Kruse comes – roughly – to conclusions as I formulated in a blog about the difference in approach of history and heritage between Greeks and Turks. The Turkish Cypriots were making up for a future in the North without the Greek Cypriots, leaving everything in the South behind with little care for Greek Cypriot heritage in the North while the Greek Cypriots were making up for a future where Turkish Cypriots will return and things will go back to the situation as it was before. This fundamental difference would lead to destruction of Greek graveyards in the North but maintenance of Turkish graveyards in the South.
I have to say here that the historic context as approached in this study mainly considers 1974 (when the Turks landed in Cyprus and took hold of the Northern part) as the turning point, while Turkish Cypriots would place that date much earlier (1963). There was destruction of Turkish Cypriot heritage in 1963. It is clear circumstances in Cyprus are very difficult to pursue a scientific study for his subject. Any choice made is not just a scientific choice but also a choice that might be seen as a cultural or political move, the expression of an opinion, a way to choose sides. This makes the job of M. Thorsten Kruse very challenging; however it is a necessary and important job. If you have ideas or funds to realize continuation, do not hesitate to contact him.graveyard symbol ethnic conflict

 

Kedi: movie about cats or humans?

kedi

The camera in the movie Kedi (Turkish for ‘cat’) follows many cats that walk in the streets of Istanbul/Turkey from the point of view these cats have of the city. This offers a great insight in their experiences. Overall in this movie, the camerawork is very special. Istanbul as a city and the inhabitants of Istanbul – especially the cat-loving inhabitants – are shown with warmth and beauty. Just the camerawork in itself makes the movie Kedi worth a visit.
But there is more to say. The core story shows us how cats conquer the people’s hearts. The cats choose who can love and feed them. And the people warmly respond to that wish. It is wonderful to see the different characters of the cats: from a clever thief to the psychopath of the neighbourhood, from the curious cat in the bag of organic tea at the market to the gentleman who never enters the place where he gets his food, but who simply scratches the window outside whenever he is hungry. The humans adapt to the cats; not the opposite. For cat lovers, watching Kedi is heaven!
And there is more to it. For those who love psychology and/or philosophy, Kedi has a lot to offer. People explain their relationships with the cats and come up with surprising remarks about what the cats mean for them: from finding money with the help of a cat to experiencing therapy by helping the cats. And what about these comments on the world:
– ‘cats absorb your redundant energy, just like earth does’
and:
– ‘cats know about God, dogs don’t. Dogs think that humans are God but cats know that humans are an instrument in the hand of God to feed them’.
Just two examples, there are many more.
One last thing I liked a lot and that made me think is a remark made about freedom. I have written about cats in Istanbul in 2012. The perspective that humans should not take cats inside to keep them there because in doing so, they will make cats forget how to be a cat, is new for me. This movie Kedi clearly shows what is meant with this perspective. Freedom is everything, even when it comes with disadvantages.
Maybe you don’t agree. Well, all I can say is: go see it yourself. There’s a lot more in Kedi then I can show here and you will not regret. Enjoy!

In Dutch cinemas from 24 August 2017
More info and a trailer at http://www.cinemadelicatessen.nl/film/kedi/

 

Travels with Herodotus

Travels with Herodotus by Ryszard Kapuscinski is an amazing book that was given to me as a second hand book by a friend already years ago. It ended up at a pile and stayed there for years. However since I travel a lot for my work in the Middle East these days, I am reading book by book through that pile while waiting at airports or flying in airplanes.
Travels with Herodotus is one of those books that I should have read earlier and that I couldn’t let go once I started reading. It is not a new book (published in Dutch in 2005 already) but who cares, nor is Herodotus who lived in the 5th century BC.
Kapuscinki proves that Herodotus has not lost any of his actuality in 2500 years for 2 main reasons:

1. He is the first known author to check and double check his stories, indicating for his readers how (im)probable the history he offers would be; that is tremendously interesting. His way of operating is amazing, checking stories in the 5th century BC cost him years but that didn’t stop him at all. He must have felt that he was not just writing for his contemporaries but for the entire humanity. So as readers in the 21st century we can follow pretty accurately the games of power of the ancient world.

2. Herodotus shows with facts the extreme cruelty of the rulers of his time – and of their advisers, family and the like. They make you think of some 20th century dictators; indeed not mankind has changed but the possibilities individuals get to apply their cruelty in daily reality. Herodotus describes the cities of Athens and Sparta as cities with a democracy where power was limited or should we say: diffuse, divided; no one was able to rule through fear and cruelty to the extent that it was found among Persians, Assyrians, Parths and many other people where the power was in the hands of one person or family. Somehow it is the system that allows humans to be cruel – or stops them. In the light of today’s debate about the value of democracy, these are intriguing thoughts.
The division of power leads to endless discussions, even on the battle field where the Greek leaders fight although the Persians are near. It is fun to read for those who have experience with democracy; nothing changed in the ‘way it is done’. And the surprise is that small Greek states without apparent unity win the war over well organized Persians who outnumber them and do not loose time in discussions about strategy. The book proves that it would have changed the course of history in Europe, had the Persians won the war. It is an encouragement to proceed on the way of checks and balances in the institution and execution of power!

Travels with Herodotus is not just about Herodotus, it is also about the author Ryszard Kapuscinski himself. He interwaves his personal story as travel journalist with Herodotus’ book Histories in an interesting and also meaningful way. I think Kapuscinski saw this book as his personal life story. On his first foreign trip that he undertook while he had always lived in closed communist Poland, Herodotus’ book accompanied him and did so on many other journeys that followed. It was not just a source of inspiration but also a method and a continuous challenge for reflection. Kapuscinski shares a lifetime outcome of that with his readers; this book has a depth that is rarely seen. It is a gift for humanity: buy it, in a second hand bookshop if no longer available, who cares.

Travels with Herodotus is a must-read for anybody who is interested in:
– (the development of) democracy versus dictatorship
– Asian and European ancient history
– travel journalism, both content/stories and methodology
– philosophy, politics, culture and anthropology.

Useful links:
https://www.theguardian.com/books/2007/jun/30/featuresreviews.guardianreview6
http://www.geschiedenis.nl/nieuws/artikel/912/reizen-met-herodotos (in Dutch)

De jacht op mijn vader / the hunt for my father

The hunt for my father is a very interesting documentary made by Gülsah Dogan. It is the second movie that I see from her and again I think her work is outstanding in many aspects.
In this documentary Gülsah Dogan follows the author Karin Amatmoekrim who is looking for her father Eric Lie in Suriname. Karin wants to write a book about her father; her mother left the country when she was still a baby and went to the Netherlands, apparently because she was not the only woman for Eric Lie. He as a famous Taekwondo champion and good looking man was popular among women. Thus Karin grew up without father far away, in the Netherlands and it is Gülsah’s quality to show the underlying feelings not by words, but in images. It is difficult not to feel some irritations during this documentary: in the title it is about the ‘hunt for her father’, however it is possible to conclude that it is more about the author herself than about the father.
The story takes place in the beautiful tropic context of Surinam and unfolds in interesting scenes and surprising pictures of the nature: from a cockridge defending itself against ants to trips on the river Marowijne.
Gülsah Dogan has produced another masterpiece after the outstanding documentary Naziha’s Spring. You can see it (in Dutch) Thursday 11 May 2017 at 22.55h on NPO2.

A link describing the documentary (in Dutch):
https://www.waterkant.net/suriname/2017/05/06/documentaire-jacht-op-vader-11-mei-op-npo2/

Diversiteit in Marokko en Tunesië

diversiteit inclusie marokko tunesie  Mijn ontdekkingstocht naar diversiteit & inclusie in Arabische landen gaat verder. Na de start in Jordanië (Jordanië blog 2 en Jordanië blog 1) ging ik aan de slag in Tunesië en Marokko met buitengewoon spannend verlopen trainingen. Niet alleen wisselt steeds de context, zowel nationaal als qua type bedrijven, ook is het bekijken van de wereld door de bril van diversiteit & inclusie een volkomen nieuw gegeven in die landen. Ik betreed dan ook met enige schroom de zaal waar de training plaats vindt. Gaat het programma voldoende passen in hun eigen context? Wat vinden ze ervan dat een Nederlander deze training komt geven? Hoe zal het ditmaal gaan met de taal? Want trainingen geven in het Engels en Frans betekent niet alleen voor mij werken in een tweede taal, ook de deelnemers hebben meestal een andere taal als moedertaal.
Het duurt gelukkig nog geen uur voordat we al helemaal aan elkaar gewend zijn. De inclusiviteit van de bedrijfsculturen die ik heb ervaren, helpt daar enorm bij. Diezelfde inclusiviteit leidt tot bovengemiddeld goede samenwerking als teamopdrachten moeten worden uitgevoerd. In Tunesië maakte ik bovendien discussies mee zoals ik ze zelden hoor bij trainingen in Nederland of Duitsland: de deelnemers waren heel open in het delen van ervaringen en vlogen elkaar hier en daar flink in de haren over de vraag hoe inclusief de organisatie nou werkelijk was > op een inclusieve manier, zonder elkaar te beoordelen of zuur te worden, wat in Noordwest-Europa bij al teveel openheid in bedrijven nog weleens het risico is. Ik was diep onder de indruk en, ook niet onbelangrijk, wat hebben we gelachen. Toen ik de documentaire Danny in Arabistan – Tunesië zag – een aanrader! – herkende ik datzelfde beeld.
diversiteit inclusie marokkoIn Marokko werd ik daarbij nog verrast door de grote persoonlijke warmte van de deelnemers. Hard werken ging er gemakkelijk samen met positieve emotionaliteit, Een deelneemster gaf me na afloop haar prachtige oorbellen mee, als aandenken namens de hele groep.
Wat is het ontzettend leuk om zo samen aan diversiteit & inclusie te werken.

fairversity in Vienna

fairversity1
Today I was at the fairversity in Vienna, as board member of idm (the international society for diversity management for those speaking German 🙂 and it was very interesting. Most people I spoke to think diversity is quite a new subject to most Austrians, especially when looking at the advantages diversity can bring to organisations and the economy. That concept found a fertile ground in Austria a few years ago and these visitors were happy about that development. Many of them were looking for more indepth information about diversity & inclusion. It was no surprise for them that competence is needed to profit from diversity. They were eager to know more about that competence. Maybe this sounds logical to you, my dear reader, but it is certainly not a generally accepted idea – in Germany and the Netherlands the approach of diversity can be more moralistic which means that having a good heart and an open mind is seen as the key asset, rather than competence.
fairversity viennaThere was another interesting experience. I had to do a 30-minutes presentation at the fairversity. Presentations were ongoing so I decided to make it interactive to prevent being boring, as number 9 in a row of presentations. That was a new approach. All presenters just said what they had to say and that was it. No questions asked, no comments given, no information provided by the public. If we think that the benefits of diversity come with a learning organisation – and I saw an Austrian publisher on fairversity who had books about it – we need more interaction and dialogue. The first fifteen minutes my public was staring at me in surprise but after that they started to enjoy it and came up with real good ideas. Austrians have a good sense of humour, also in diversity. They have a special word for that: Schmäh. I love it!

Ik kan vliegen: wow!

ik kan vliegen
Met vliegen heb ik niets, maar ik heb wel iets met Jeroen Komen. Dus toen ik zijn nieuwe boek Ik kan vliegen kreeg, met een mooie persoonlijke opdracht voorin geschreven, ging ik het lezen vanwege die persoonlijke band hoewel – ik geef het eerlijk toe – ik dacht dat ik er niet veel aan zou vinden. Nou, dat kan ik meteen rechtzetten: het is een spectaculair goed boek. Ik heb het van a tot z gelezen en dat was alleen maar een genoegen.
Daar heb ik een tijdje over nagedacht: wat maakt dit nou zo’n goed boek voor mij? Dat zijn verschillende elementen. Jeroen heeft er bijvoorbeeld een erg persoonlijk boek van gemaakt. Het is een boek over levenslessen in de brede zin des woords; allerlei aspecten van het leven passeren de revue. Jeroen neemt ons mee op de verkenningstocht van zijn eigen ontdekkingen, zijn twijfels en zijn doorzettingsvermogen. De schrijfstijl, mooi en zonder opsmuk, werkt daar versterkend bij. Dat op de eerste plaats maakt dat ik het ademloos gelezen heb. Andere kwaliteiten van het boek zijn de afwisseling: als vlieger komt Jeroen op allerlei plaatsen (lees: culturen, mijn grote hobby) wat superinteressant is en zeker een bron van goede anecdotes. En dan zijn er natuurlijk de prachtige foto’s die hij zelf vanuit zijn vliegtuig gemaakt heeft. Het meest intrigerend vond ik die op pagina 68-69 (koop het boek en kijk zelf) om de simpele reden dat ik me tot in mijn slaap afvroeg of het hier nu een openbaar zwembad betreft of niet.
Veel boeken hebben zeker kwaliteit maar die zit vaak in deelaspecten en is niet consistent. Ik kan vliegen is van begin tot einde ‘af’. Ik hoop dat Jeroen of de uitgever eraan gedacht heeft dit naar de Koninklijke Bibliotheek te sturen want een plaats binnen het nationale erfgoed is verdiend. Warm aanbevolen!

Diversiteit in Jordanië: business as usual (2)

diversiteit in jordanië

 

Onlangs gaf ik voor de tweede maal een training diversiteit in Jordanië, ditmaal bij een telecom bedrijf. Na de eerste training formuleerde ik een aantal hypotheses, zie de blog: Diversiteit in Jordanië (1) en die houden stand ook na deze nieuwe ervaring:
1. ‘de cultuur in Jordanië is conflictmijdend, mensen leren van jongsaf aan reacties in te schatten en confrontaties te vermijden en ontwikkelen daarom bijzondere antennes’: ja ja en ja. Zoiets is heel aangenaam in de dagelijkse omgangsvormen, zeker weten dat het ook NL-ers zou verrijken en verblijden! Mits het natuurlijk van twee kanten komt. Ook bespaart het tijd, niet alles hoeft expliciet uitgesproken te worden. Keerzijde is dat als iemand dan een keer iets uitspreekt, er een lang gesprek nodig is want de kwaliteit die in het NL poldermodel uitstekend ontwikkeld is – elkaar ergens halverwege tegemoet komen – is minder ontwikkeld.
2. ‘het zakenleven in Amman wordt niet, zoals te doen gebruikelijk in Nederland en Duitsland, geplaagd door schuldgevoel’. Blijft overeind. Jordaniërs zijn  praktisch, hoe werkt diversiteit & inclusie en hoe moet het werken of hoe willen we dat het werkt en wat gaan we daaraan doen. Zo’n houding is bevrijdend als je principiële en laten we wel wezen, soms oeverloze discussies gewend bent. Gewoon het gewenste resultaat bepalen en daarvoor gaan, heerlijk!
3. ‘de waardering voor objectieve kennis is groot, er is minder ‘mening’ en meer waardering voor bevindingen uit wetenschap’, was mijn hypothese. Daaraan voeg ik nu toe: en aan ervaringen van elders, om daarvan te leren. En aan kennis over wat de wereldwijde transitie naar een nieuwe economie en governance van ons vraagt. Het lijkt wel of Nederland te maken heeft met de ‘wet van de remmende voorsprong: Nederland loopt voor en lijkt het dus beter te weten, is arroganter. Jordanië loopt evident niet voor en is zeer ambitieus om wel degelijk onderscheidend te zijn in het veld van diversity & inclusion. Heel interessant om mee te maken.
ammanDat Nederland of ‘het Westen’ iets kan leren van het Midden-Oosten staat voor mij inmiddels wel vast. De komende maanden onderzoek ik dit verder, al (samen)werkend in de praktijk, op weg naar vertaling voor westerse organisaties. En net als in de vorige blog, nodig ik graag  mensen met ervaring in die regio uit te reageren ter bevestiging, nuancering of ontkenning van mijn conclusies of aanvulling daarvan. Wordt vervolgd!

Forget about the rules. Be human.

forget about rules, be human in Amsterdam  Amsterdam keeps surprising me. I spent an interesting evening in a famous entrepreneurial location in Amsterdam Centre. When leaving, we had to wait for our coats at the wardrobe downstairs. In this club, coats are personally handed to all visitors. In front of us was a line of ‘foreign’ people. They appeared to be refugees who had been invited this evening by entrepreneurs who were willing to help them integrate and find a job. A great initiative.
The guy in the cloakroom was happy to help us Dutch entrepreneurs to put on our coats. ‘You can’t do that to them you know’, he said. To explain the ‘them’, he pointed to the refugees that stood in front of the location, talking a while in front of the entrance before they left like all people in Amsterdam do. He said some Syrians that were more ‘integrated’ than the newcomers in front of the door, warned him that his help to put on the coats would not be appreciated; ‘please do not try it, you will get trouble’. ‘You know’, he said, ‘they feel they submit to you when you help them with their coat. And you cannot touch the women. It would feel like you own them. So I just give their coats to them and that’s it’. ‘Well, you can help me’, one of the female entrepreneurs said I think to console him and it worked, he smiled and helped her to put on her coat.
Amsterdam is a modern, diverse and tolerant city. However there are moments that I think we are just retarded – this was one of these moments. Almost all my life I have been going out, working, discussing, learning, experiencing with people from the Middle East. How come I never had any problems with coats, handing coats, helping people into coats? Who invented a scheme where refugees ‘feel they submit’ in such cases? Not the refugees themselves, I am sure about that. Also I do not think anybody has bad intentions here. This is what happens when people are confronted with difference: they try to find rules how to behave or not behave. People want to do good and try to be on the safe side. The tragic is that they miss the point: the contact is in personal involvement and not in cultural rules.
The generally present inclination to follow rules is what I call ‘retarded’. I feel embarrassed when I meet with that in an entrepreneurial place in Amsterdam Centre. The good thing is: we talk about it. We talk about almost anything in Amsterdam. No borders to what we want to express. But also, when it comes to diversity: way to go… We need to have more confidence in our personal approach than in the supposed rules of intercultural contact. Forget about the rules. Be human. The refugees will love it…

 

Dheepan: an outstanding movie about refugees

dheepan movie Dheepan is somehow a ‘neutral’ movie about refugees as it concerns refugees from Sri Lanka; I worked with many of them in the ’90ties but today we concentrate on other regions as every reader knows. Technically this choice in the movie creates a healthy distance to emotions in actuality. And practically, it makes no difference. Refugees run for a reason, most often a quite serious one. And yes, they are surrounded by luck-seekers, criminals who have other reasons to flee and economic migrants. Making the difference between one and the other is an ideal but in practice not very easy. However the movie is not about asylum policies and dilemmas, it is about how people flee and become a refugee and how they experience the country in which they arrive.
In this movie, the Sri Lanka refugees find a house and a job in the banlieue of Paris, in one of the worst banlieues – I think the movie maker even wanted to point out that the refugees run from a war to end up in another one. It is as much a complaint against the ‘drugs in banlieue’ situation as about the refugee situation. Specifically, the total lack of law enforcement (no police or authorities at all) surprises the public.
I think the movie is brilliant in the way it depicts the refugees. I recognized every emotion, both in daily life and in the history of violence and resistence that refugees from war and conflict areas bring with them – not as a choice but as a fact. My experience with that is both friendship and work and I found the movie Dheepan shiveringly realistic and very strong in the way of showing the emotional side.
As a former French teacher, I regretted that the refugees end up in England – to their satisfaction – and not somewhere else in France, a country I love. This is, of course, a biased view 🙂 Anyway the movie ends well, which in a world of problems is nice and more encouraging to go and watch the movie than the opposite.
What surprised me is that nowadays every discussion and debate in the Netherlands is about refugees but we were only 8 spectators: 8! in a large cinema. Sometimes I wonder how much indepth knowledge people want about reality – I see loads of over-emotional people and few people able to handle the complexity that comes with refugee issues. Let’s face reality even when it is not simple. Go watch the Dheepan movie, warmly recommended!

Banana pancakes and the children of the sticky rice

banana pancakes and the children of the sticky rice Banana pancakes and the children of the sticky rice is a great documentary about two guys, or maybe an entire village in Laos in a period of starting tourism. The place is still ‘all natural’ and the first tourists arriving, mainly backpackers from France, Belgium and the Netherlands, are startled by the purity of the place. The village develops in many aspects and the two guys that are particularly followed in this documentary try to improve their life by offering touristic services. The road they go is so interesting!
The tourists themselves are also quite interesting, some of their conversations are recorded. They have their opinions about life in the village and how it develops and it does not seem to match a lot with the culture and desires of the villagers themselves. Although very sympathic, there was also a note of arrogance in their song.
From the point of view ‘image taking’ the documentary has quite some ‘vague’ moments, maybe nice as a hobby for the filmer but for spectators not always attractive I thought. Fortunately, many good and sharp moments offer enough compensation 😉 So go see this documentary now because usually this kind of movies do not stay long in the cinemas. More info: https://www.facebook.com/laosdocumentary