Waarheen moet ik gaan? Where shall I go?

Waarheen moet ik gaan is an outstanding book about the recent history of a Jewish family, written by John Dunkelgrün. It starts in the 2nd half of the 19th century and leads us through 2 World Wars, lots of joy of life and loads of antisemitism. It is an exciting book, showing the power of optimism and entrepreneurship, but also a story of loss and the reality of evil. Many familymembers described in this book did not survive the holocaust. Waarheen moet ik gaan makes very clear what happened; it can not answer the question why… Nevertheless, because of the special skills of the writer, Waarheen moet ik gaan grabs your attention in every chapter.

John Dunkelgrün follows his family lines from father’s and mother’s side. He is a master storyteller with a good sense of humor. Personally, I found especially the international aspect of this book very intriguing – it left me as a reader full of admiration about the way his family members were open to new cultures and experiences. Also it gives lots of indepth information about Jewish life in different countries. Three characteristics are always there: trade and entrepreneurship – being Jewish and a minority that is constantly met with prejudices – openness to others, whoever they are in background, wealth, etnicity and the like.

In the line of his father the adventure goes through Poland, Germany, Palestine, Belgium, the Netherlands. In the line of his mother, the story starts in Roumania, Russia, Hungaria and Austria passes via Hamburg to the United States, continues in the Netherlands, Persia and London. All these travellings are described in detail in the first two parts of the book; the author makes you look around and really see all those places.

Waarheen moet ik gaan is a very special chronicle of a family history in a turbulent century. Sometimes, the writer intervenes, explaining what he knows or what he could not find in his research. Rather then disturb the reader, it gives this book an extra dimension – the reader is aware that Waarheen moet ik gaan is not ‘just a book’ but that there is an author behind who wants to show some things and is willing to be accountable for what one reads.

Waarheen moet ik gaan is also the story of starting over and over again. The writers’ grandfather is unsafe in Poland and leaves a good business behind, to start another one in Germany. Some years later, he is unsafe again and moves with his family to the Netherlands, where he starts a new business again. But then, in WW2, he is unsafe again and this time he and his family have to run without a sure place to go. His other grandfather grows up in extreme poverty and runs away from home at the age of 13 or 14. What follows, looks like a story of a fairy tale. You will not be bored for a minute when reading this adventure, as an amazing, almost incredible story is told by a master storyteller.

In the 3rd part of the book, it is war time WW2. Slowly by slowly the situation deteriorates and both families have to run, almost too late. Borders have closed, administrations disencourage refugees especially the Jewish ones, many try to profit financially from the situation of refugees. This part of Waarheen moet ik gaan is deeply oppressive and dramatic. The loneliness in the continuous threat, the need to survive in an environment that is probably hostile… the family makes it into France but they do not know who can be trusted. Betrayal is everywhere, as well as greed. Eventually part of the family arrives in Switzerland where the writer is born.

waarheen moet ik gaan
I love this picture of the baby author!

Life is described in detail including life in camps full of hardship in France and Switzerland. The end of WW2 does not just mean to ‘start again’, it means also dealing with what happened during the holocaust in a context that is not welcoming or facilitating, on the contrary. The scars of the survivors are enormous and lasting. However, immediately there is life again, full of business and humorous anecdotes. So much energy and resilience.

Is there nothing that could be done better in this book? Well yeah, there are so many names that a register to explain who is who would help the reader. There is an existing register explaining many words, Jiddisch, Hebrew, German, Hungarian that I found very helpful. Waarheen moet ik gaan is in Dutch but deserves a much larger, international public.

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Musée National Luxembourg

Reconstruction of Gallic house (1st century BD – based on Oppidum Titelberg)

Musée National Luxembourg offers 5 floors of archaeology, presented in a beautiful way. The collection is rich and a visit feels like a discovery of old times. Also children can have a great time in this museum; there is plenty of space, interaction and objects presentations that can attract their full attention.

skull rhinoceros musée national luxembourg
Skull of prehistoric rhinoceros

Musée National Luxembourg was built in the rocks: when you enter in the ground floor, there is a nationalistic presentation about Luxembourg: since when is it a country and how does it develop it’s own identity. Then you walk to floor -1 to find yourself in the first ages of our era. You can go down by stairs or slope (wheelchair accessible). and each floor you go back in time, to end on floor -5 with the oldest known history of Luxembourg. Here and there I lost my way through the logic of the route but that didn’t matter, it just added to the joy of the discovery.

mosaic floor from villa Vichten, Musée National Luxembourg
Mosaic floor with the Muses, found in Gallo-Roman villa in Vichten

The mosaic floor that was found in Vichten is a striking beauty – in reality better than in the picture above (difficult to photograph because of the specific lights above the floor). It depicts the 9 Muses in an impressive way. The complete floor is ca. 6 x 10 meters! You can read in this (French) article how it was found and unearthed, an interesting story. Other pieces from that period that drew my attention are the altars with indigenous fertility godesses; they have fruit baskets on their lap and small animals or children on their side. They made me think of the altar findings at the coast in the Netherlands (see the blog: Meet Nehalennia!).

Indigenous fertility goddess, most probably a home altar

Apparently there was an exposition in the Henan Museum in Zhengzhou, China, under the title ‘Luxembourg: small country, rich history’. Indeed Luxembourg is small compared to China. In lots of vitrines, like here in the midst of special glasswork (left photo) and wonderful accessories from the 1st-4rd century AD (right photo), there were signs of objects gone to China. Very nice to see this special cultural exchange!

There is a lot more to tell about Musée National Luxembourg, I will limit it here to 2 more items – just go there yourself to see and live it all! 1, I did like this piece of glasswork from 40-50AD, found in graves ‘Hellange – Belsaker’:

glasswork musée national luxembourg

2. Finally, real amazing, the facial reconstruction of ‘the man of Loschbour’ based on a skeleton that dates from about 6000 BC, called the Mesolithic Period – these are the oldest finding of humans on Luxembourg’s soil – Loschbour is a small stream in Heffingen – Müllerthal, in the east of Luxembourg. These kind of video’s next to the representation of original findings make the neutral past so much more alive and close to our own lives. Well done, Musée National Luxembourg!

Celtic graveyard at Bourdange

celtic graveyard at bourdange

A Celtic graveyard can be found at Bourdange, Nospelt, at walking distance from a gallo-roman villa complex. To be fair, there is not a lot to see at the former Celtic graveyard itself: all pieces that were found there in archaeological research – and there were many – are exhibited in the National Museum of History and Art in Luxembourg City. However, the 0,5 kilometer walk towards this Celtic graveyard is nice. Moreover, arriving on the spot after a small path through the woods gives a good look and feel of the place. The Celts were amazing in finding spots for mystic purposes. Please follow 2 minutes of my path to the Celtic graveyard in this happy video-recording July 2022.

The Celtic graveyard was used during a few centuries, from the 1st century BD till problably the 3rd century AD. Archaeologists suppose that this graveyard belonged to the inhabitants of the nearby gallo-roman villa complex. All the objects were dug up by volunteers who were able to reconstruct especially the 5 large tumulus: the last resting place of 4 men and 1 woman, all of them probably in powerful positions. Both the men and the woman received the same kind of attributes in their tumulus: lots of pottery, weaponry and horse equipment. Apart from that, there was a mirror for the woman and 2 special statues of mother figures. On the photograph of the information board at Bourdange, you can see these statues lying in spot 1 and spot 2, somehow in the middle of a number of objects.

celtic graveyard at bourdange - statues of mother figures

On the other picture, you can see the statues in the permanent exposition of the National Museum of History and Art in Luxembourg.

2 statues found in celtic graveyard at bourdange

Around the grave of the Celtic woman, many coins were found and also specific bones. Apparently people worshipped her after her death. From the date of the coins, we know that the worship lasted over 150 years! She must have been very important and maybe one day we will know more about her. In the picture below you can see the presentation of the grave gifts in the Museum: it was a rich treasure that was donated to her in her tumulus in the Celtic graveyard. The Museum also shows the gifts given to the men.

woman's grave in celtic graveyard at bourdange

One thing puzzled me, apparently there is a museum in Nospelt where findings of the Celtic graveyard and the gallo-roman villa are exposed. I went to Nospelt and indeed there is a house-like building with a sign that it is a museum, but nothing shows when it is opened or how it can be visited. That is a pity because all on the site indicates that such a museum would have a story. Fortunately there is the Museum in Luxembourg.  Maybe the future will also bring volunteers for the Nospelt Museum (or the marketing of it).

Anyway, the Celtic graveyard in combination with the gallo-roman villa will give you a very nice experience; worth the trip!

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Gallo-roman villa at Bourdange

gallo-roman villa at bourdange

The site of the gallo-roman villa at Bourdange (Nospelt, Luxembourg) is very interesting. Clearly there is a lot of care both for the findings of the gallo-roman (celtic-roman) villa and the information given to visitors. It is a pleasure to go and see around.

In the woods at the verge of Bourdange, Nospelt, lies a most interesting Celtic site. The road signs call it a ‘Roman villa’, locals call it ‘Miecher’. Anyway it dates from the period where Celts were adapting more and more to Roman laws and lifestyle (‘gallo-roman period’). What you see is a group of foundations, scattered around in field and forest, remnants from a large villa with many side-buildings. The foundations were dug up and made accessible so that you easily have an overview and a good impression of the extent of the wealth here in the first centuries AD. Also you can see the traces of wooden fences, made in the 3rd and 4rd century when German tribes attacked Roman sites.

gallo-roman villa at bourdange

Volunteers have run this project that the local pastor Kayser started in 1964. Pastor Kayser followed up on the local rumors that there was a lot to find in the forest. There were talks about a hidden treasure. Together with the locals, he started the first serious archaeological search, with success. What happened before when following up on local memories, happened here again: a real hidden treasure was found! Imagine to find a pot filled with 2772 ‘antonian’ coins! Alas it is not on the site of the gallo-roman villa in Bourdange but in the National Museum of History and Art in Luxembourg city. The treasure stood within a wall in one of the side building – maybe the administrator of the property? There is no side note on the owner or the meaning of this treasure so that is one of the secrets of history.

gallo-roman villa at bourdange - treasure

His initiative was the basis of a large archaeological movement in the region that is remarkable and that obtained government recognition and permission as per 1991. What an achievement! Every year, more than 10.000 volunteer hours are spent in ancient sites. They also do projects with young people to increase interest and love for archaeology. You can feel that when you visit. Not only were several people working there to clean the site and make it more perfect, also the proof of regular research activity is visible on several spots. The information boards are excellent – I could follow every step of the project and it is exciting. There is way to much information to mention here so go there yourself and take your time.

gallo-roman villa at bourdange - information boards

Most of the foundations at the gallo-roman villa of Bourdange were former houses or buildings, except for 2 structures: 1 is a small temple, I loved that: to have your own temple next to the house! This, of course, was only for the very rich. 2 is a former monument for the death, a small round tower. The fact that the monument was situated at the doorstep of the house, means that ancestors and death have been very present for the living.

gallo-roman villa at bourdange - temple

When you visit the gallo-roman villa at Bourdange, it is just a short walk to go to the Celtic graves further into the woods. I went there and will tell more about them in the next blog.

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Rijksmuseum van Oudheden – Meet Nehalennia!

nehalennia rijksmuseum van oudheden

Rijksmuseum van Oudheden is the Dutch National Museum of Antiquities in the city of Leiden. I always thought that our country, the Netherlands, only had antiquities from foreign countries like Greece or Egypt, and that Dutch findings were rather recent. So I visited many archaeological museums especially in the Middle East (see below). How could I be so ignorant? Rijksmuseum van Oudheden has spectacular, really ancient findings from Dutch soil. Also I learned about local gods that I never heard about before. So nice!

The altars shown above are dedicated to the goddess Nehalennia. Many merchants who crossed the sea from the Netherlands to London from 150 – 250 AD erected an altar to thank her for a safe journey. People completely forgot about her until a temple and many altars were discovered in the dunes of Domburg in 1647 AD. Nehalennia is a goddess of fertility, often pictured with fruits and/or a dog, but also with (elements of) a ship. Her origin should be Germanic or Celtic. If you also never heard about her, that in itself makes it worth a visit to Rijksmuseum van Oudheden!

Rijksmuseum van Oudheden has a large collection with antiquities from many countries. It’s easy to spend many hours there! In this blog, I concentrate on the Dutch ones. Things I particularly liked:

bandkeramiek uit Elsloo - rijksmuseum van oudheden

Pottery from a settlement at the river Meuse in the south, dating from 5000BC.

ommerschans zwaard en jutphaas zwaard

The Ommerschans Sword and the Jutphaas Sword, unique pieces of bronze casting from 1500BC. The museum calls them ‘exceptional artefacts’. They were used as gifts in sacrifices. Center and northeast of the Netherlands (that didn’t exist as a country in that time yet).

bronzen nekringen - rijksmuseum van oudheden

Both men and women wore bronze neck rings. These date from the early iron age, 800-500BC. Found in the center of the country but most probably imported. Also used as offers. I particularly liked the twisted one.

This woodcarved figure was probably a ritual object. It was found in a well in Oss in the south and dates from 400BC. It is rare to find wooden antiquities. This one is in oak.

rijksmuseum van oudheden - speer

Spearhead, put in wooden shaft and then thrown to the enemy, apparently a real killer. Dating from
1-300BC, found in Alblasserdam, middle-west of the country. A masterpiece!

gouden helm de peel

The golden helmet found by turf-cutters in the Peel (southeast), dating from 320AD. More precious objects were found but there is no info about context (owner, offering?). An absolute wow-piece!

viking schat - rijksmuseum van oudheden

The Viking Hoard of Wieringen, north-west of the country, 850AD. 1,6 kilo of silver, most probably from a Danish owner. It was buried in spring. So maybe the owner was hiding it when he left and he never came back…

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Musée d’Art et d’Archaeologie d’Orléans
Muséum of Art and Archaeology Périgord
Saint Barnabas Icon and Archaeological Museum

Musée d’Histoire et d’Archéologie in Orléans

The Musée d’Histoire et d’Archéologie in Orléans houses the great bronze treasure of Neuvy-en-Sullias – 33 art pieces from the gallic and gallo-roman period in the begin of our era. There is much more to see in this museum but the bronze treasure alone is already worth your visit.

bronze treasure neuvy-en-sullias wild boar Musée d'Histoire et d'Archéologie Orleans

Top pieces in the Musée d’Histoire et d’Archéologie in Orléans are the horse (54 kilos without the bronze pedestal) and the wild boar (125 cm long). You better bring a chair to sit in front of them for a while and admire this art that is unique in Europe. Let the refined craft work and the beauty sink in…

Musée d'Histoire et d'Archéologie in Orleans
trésor bronze neuvy-en-sullias horse

The bronze artefacts were found 1861 in Neuvy-en-Sullias in a hidden place next to the Loire river – most probably an offer to celtic gods like Rudiobus. Recent studies reveal that they were partly restaured at that time and not always in the right way.

Probably the top of this wild boar was placed on the wrong animal and must have belonged to the other wild boar. The rings on the pedestal of the horse, that probably served to carry the horse around in religious ceremonies, might not be the right ones but the other 4 ones in the showcase…

Amazing is also the series of small figurines: with gestures and movement and mostly nude. They do not look like roman art and their signification is unknown. One assumption is that they represent the naked dancing that came with gallic carnaval.

Musée d'Histoire et d'Archéologie in Orléans bronze figurines gallic period

A guide in the Musée d’Histoire et d’Archéologie in Orléans was very enthusiastic about the treasure himself and most willing to show all the details. He also gave me the website address of JF Bradu who made scientific studies about the artefacts and published his findings. It made my visit even more interesting.

There is some more to see, first of all the Hôtel Cabu that houses the Musée d’Histoire et d’Archéologie in Orléans: built in 1548 in renaissance style.

Some objects in other parts of the museum I liked:

bishop eveque saint denis

The intriguing statue of Saint Denis, the first bishop of France who was sent by pope Clemens to convert the Gauls and was decapitated by the Romans in 205. The story tells that he made it all the way from Montmartre to Saint Denis while carrying his decapitated head in his hands.

Nice plagues – very different in style and theme.

monster wild animal Musée d'Histoire et d'Archéologie in Orléans

The drawing of a wild animal that wreaked havoc around Orléans, with a poem-like text next to it. An intriguing story, what kind of animal was that? When you stand there you can feel the fear people had for the cruelty of nature.

alexandre joseph caboche painted by mademoiselle schmitt Musée d'Histoire et d'Archéologie in Orléans

The Loire had tremendous inundations in the past. Signs in the city remind people to that: nothing new in nowadays high waters, showing that we are not yet on the level of the old days. In 1846 Alexandre Joseph Caboche saved paintress Mlle Schmitt from the flood and she painted his portrait with the cross of the Légion d’Honneur that he received.

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Huis van Hilde / Hilde’s House

Museum van Loon Amsterdam

Portrait of Wilhelmine and Henriette van Loon 1826, by A.j. Dubois-Drahonet
Portrait of Wilhelmine and Henriette van Loon, by A.j. Dubois-Drahonet 1826

Museum Van Loon is a special canal house in Amsterdam built in 1672 and owned by the Van Loon family since 1884. The visit is a mixed experience of beauty, amazing details and an overdose of portraits. Did people actually live here, is a question coming up when walking around.

museum van loon

Many rooms are beautiful in Museum Van Loon. This photograph is the Blue Saloon on the ground floor. The woman with the red dress is Thora van Loon-Egidius who worked for Queen Wilhelmina. The museum shows more royal connections of the Van Loon family during the ages.

More recently, President Obama had dinner in the dining room of Museum van Loon when he visited Amsterdam. These kind of high profile contacts are clearly very important for the Van Loon family, but they do not communicate why. This leaves the visitor with the impression that it is about ‘belonging’, being part of societal circles as a value in itself.

museum van loon insignia

Intriguing is the fact that the insignia of Van Loon has 2 black heads in it and they do not know where that came from. Ancestor Willem van Loon was one of the co-founders of the VOC in 1602. The black heads were added later to the original 15ht century insignia of the three crosses (‘mill irons’) and suggest a link with slavery and colonialism.

But a fundamental explanation has not been found yet. Museum Van Loon is open about the family’s connections with slavery in the 18th and 19th century and had a big project on the subject – keeping the details for an online visit here: https://www.museumvanloon.nl/programma/archief/120.

When I entered the sleeping room – the Sheep Room – I felt cosiness and private life for the first time. Much of the canal house is beautiful but impersonal. The Sheep Room is different; a place where humans live and enjoy themselves – maybe also because of the bookshelves and the fact that chaos is more dominant than order there.

Some particular highlights I like to show you here:

museum van loon red saloon

The Red Saloon, an amazing room full of portraits.

The most recent portraits of women in the family – they chose a different style, very nice.

museum van loon kitchen

The kitchen – just adorable

museum van loon garden

The garden, at the ‘back side’ of the canal house.

museum van loon koets

The char-à-bancs from the begin of the 20th century that was used for pleasure drives. Imagine that you sit in there or maybe even drive it yourself over the romantic canals of Amsterdam!

museum van loon stairwell

The stairwell that has its own particular charm.

All in all, I am not sure what to think of Museum Van Loon and that is maybe why I recommend a visit; it is intriguing, an elitist impression in an egalitarian city, a place where human touch has a challenge to break through the stiff upperlip while all seem to mean well.

Are Jews White?

are jews white?

Are Jews White?, is the name of a new exposition in the Jewish Historical Museum in Amsterdam. As an expert in diversity and inclusion, I went there almost immediately after the opening. Are Jews White? is an interesting and also a bit disappointing exposition. I explain you my mixed feelings in this blog.

When you enter the expo, there are a number of signs on walls and pillars, and a short introducton video. After that, you arrive in a former synagogue which is the religious part of the Jewish Historical Museum. I was surprised: was that all? Indeed it wasn’t. After the religious part, the exposition Are Jews White? continues. Video has a central place. The exposition makers have interviewed around ten persons with different background who reflect on the theme Are Jews White?. After some nice cutting and pasting, they produced a good series of interesting comments on the subject: many aspects of the theme are thus covered from different perspectives. A disadvantage however is that this production does not elevate the theme above the average ‘circus of opinions’. I could not discover where Are Jews White? rises above existing concepts. Are Jews White? rather shows how deeply we are imprisoned in boxes, unable to liberate ourselves from them.

To me, the concept of black and white is evidently not applicable to Jews (and many others). I remember how I visited a camp with Jews from Ethiopia in Tel Aviv who newly arrived, somewhere in the begin of this century. They had been health care workers in Ethiopia and were preparing for a similar job in Israel. They had a good selfconfidence of what they had to offer to Israeli Jews – for example, more respect for the elderly – but many of them felt underestimated and discriminated upon. Therefor I wondered how the exposition would work this out. Are Jews White? failed to do so, but shows clearly that the concept of black and white has strong limits and serves rather as a concept to divide people more than to unite them.

Professor Gloria Wekker is one of the persons interviewed in the video. Her concept of intersectionality has no answer to the Are Jews White? issue. Intersectionality (in my view) was an original concept encouraging us to leave a dualistic world and enter the multifaceted one. Especially when Gloria Wekker just started as a professor and called her concept ‘kruispuntdenken’ (crossroad thinking), it was much more open to the dynamics of diversity. Something went wrong during the years along the intersectional road. Not only did intersectionality create more boxes, these boxes are also more oppressive, there is no escape from them.

are jews white? zijn joden wit?

The result, and that is very clear in Are Jews White?, is that Jews would be called black or white for political reasons, or for the opinion people have about them, or that they have about themselves. The tragedy is that this limits Jews to be who they are. And indeed this may be true for all of us: the concept of black and white limits us all. Of course I understand that the concept of black and white serves to explain the construction of society but let’s be fair: watching the video in the exposition, it is clear that the concept of black and white is more than a methodology. It serves the need of many to be part of a group or to see others as such. It provides a safe world of boxes where skin color and other aspects are all well set and clear and can be explained in predictable terms. The exposition fails to explain this need at a deeper level: why do we need to put people into categories? Why do we get upset when Jews do not fit in?

Maybe the ambition to have more answers is too high. I remember my last visit to Israel when I discussed with a scientist in the Holocaust Museum: why is there antisemitism, and why does it seem to be always there? He admitted that as a scientist, he can prove it is there and describe it, but he can not explain it scientifically.

My guess is that the Jewish Historical Museum created Are Jews White? to open the discussion about (useless) boxes and to prevent that we lock ourselves in and that we try to lock Jews in. We have to live with a rather misty and multi-interpretable reality for ourselves and for others, even though that comes with uncertainties. All-in all, I recommend the exposition. For your notice, it is totally bilingual (English and Dutch).

benjamin en chaila cohen
kaatje cohen

And don’t forget to walk by the paintings I show on the picture here, that I adored above every object in the museum, especially the woman’s dress: Benjamin and Chaile (Kaatje) Cohen from the 18th century. There’s more info about them but you will find that when you visit…

Ribbius Peletier-penning 2021

Ribbius Peletier-penning

Toen ik het persbericht van de provincie Noord-Holland las, kon ik mijn ogen niet geloven: Sylvana Simons krijgt Ribbius Peletier-penning 2021.

De jury is van oordeel dat Sylvana Simons een onderscheiding verdient omdat zij een voorbeeld is voor de volgende generatie vrouwen” meldt het persbericht “en omdat zij zich publiekelijk uitspreekt over de combinatie van seksisme en racisme en zo sociale onveiligheid in de politiek bespreekbaar maakt. De bewustwording waar zij aan bijdraagt is belangrijk. Want de verharding van het politieke debat die we de afgelopen jaren zien, kan vrouwen afschrikken om deel te nemen aan de politiek.”

Met de uitreiking van een onderscheiding wil je naar mijn mening een bepaald gedrag en een bepaalde beweging stimuleren. Door deze toekenning werkt de provincie Noord-Holland mee aan wat het handelsmerk van Simons is: polarisering brengen en doen of het normaal is om altijd en overal eerst te denken in termen van kleur – waarbij wit ook een kleur is – en in termen van groepen. Daarom neem ik al statenlid nadrukkelijk afstand van deze toekenning. Ik licht dat hier toe.

Simons is een vrouwelijke Wilders, een sterke debater die haar punt weet te maken over de groepsindeling van mensen in de vorm van identiteitspolitiek. Door de kracht van herhaling weet ook zij een verrassend groot aantal mensen te overtuigen van haar visie, dat vooral kleur en tevens sekse allesbepalende factoren zijn in relaties tussen mensen en in de inrichting van de samenleving: factoren waar geen ontsnappen aan is. Dat dit haar persoonlijke ervaring is, vormt geen probleem – het probleem start bij de veralgemenisering van die ervaring, en de vele aanvaringen die ontstaan in haar contacten met mensen die blijven hechten aan hun eigen ervaring. Simons raakt verwikkeld in het ene conflict na het andere en draagt net als Wilders bij aan de polarisatie in de samenleving. Dat mag, maar het is geen voorbeeld.

Ons democratisch stelsel biedt gelukkig ruimte aan opvattingen in een zeer breed spectrum: Wilders heeft zijn plek in dat stelsel net zoals Simons dat heeft. Wilders wordt al vele jaren zwaar beveiligd en ook Simons heeft een enorme lading aan bedreigingen, racisme en seksisme over zich heen gehad. Dat is een zeer donkere kant in onze democratie waar we ons met kracht tegen moeten verzetten. Het is dieptriest dat volksvertegenwoordigers beveiliging nodig hebben om hun werk te kunnen doen. Alle middelen die daarvoor maatschappelijk ter bescherming worden aangewend, zijn terecht evenals educatie die ons hopelijk verder brengt in het kunnen omgaan met meningsverschillen – ook als het om uitersten gaat.

Simons heeft recht op haar aanpak, echter, dat is iets heel anders dan een officiële provincieprijs aan haar gaan uitreiken als voorbeeldvrouw. De regels voor de uitreiking van de penning behelzen immers de voorwaarde dat betrokkenen van onbesproken gedrag zijn. Dat is hier niet het geval. Een dergelijke toekenning van de Ribbius Peletier-penning maakt de provincie Noord-Holland tot een actievoerend orgaan: zijn mensen die het conflict en de polarisatie opzoeken, het voorbeeld dat wij als provincie willen stellen? Blijkbaar wel. Als Statenlid neem ik daar nadrukkelijk afstand van.

Wie moeten we dan nomineren? Ik weet wel iemand: Wil van Soest. Een vrouw die geboren en opgegroeid is in de tijd dat je als vrouw in dit land nog geen eigen verantwoordelijkheid mocht dragen. Als je een bankrekening wilde openen, moest je toestemming van je man hebben en als je ging trouwen, gaf de overheid je ontslag. Een vrouw die zich daardoor niet liet ontmoedigen, die nu over de tachtig jaar oud is en nog steeds politiek actief. Die anderen heeft gestimuleerd hetzelfde te doen, ongeacht hun afkomst of kleur, en dat nog steeds doet. Zie hier de 1 minuut-video van de ‘onderscheiding’ voor deze vrouw, haar toegekend door Simons: https://youtu.be/OGGvzHRPC0Q .

Ons’ Lieve Heer op Solder

Ons' lieve heer op solder altar

Ons’ Lieve Heer op Solder is a special and well hidden treasure in the oldest part of Amsterdam. Ever seen a church in the attic of a canalhouse? For that unique experience, this museum should be on your wish list!

canal house ons' lieve heer op solder

Museum Ons’ Lieve Heer op Solder (Our Lord in the Attic) surprises the visitor who starts his tour in a ‘normal’ canal house and suddenly arrives in a church that can host quite a few visitors. You don’t feel that coming and that was exactly the point for this catholic church. In 17th century, the Dutch Golden Age, the religious war between roman-catholics and protestants was won by protestants in Amsterdam. Catholicism was officially banned but in the meantime, many catholics could still go to hidden churches all over the city – as long as they wouldn’t be visible, they would not be bothered.

At that time, accepting in silence that people would not give up their faith and letting them to worship according to their own rules and wishes was seen as a strong sign of tolerance. Thus Ons’ Lieve Heer op Solder is a museum that shows the roots of tolerance in an intolerant world, a characteristic that was very strong in 17th century Amsterdam that also opened the door for many Jews.

Your visit to Ons’ Lieve Heer op Solder starts in the canalhouse, with rooms like the kitchen here on the right, with stairs leading up and down in the narrowness that is usual in canalhouses in Amsterdam. I loved the stairs maybe even more than the rooms. Pottery is shown that was found in a cesspool, as well as the bedroom of the canalhouse owner.

There is also a room with 18th or 19th century classical design to give you an idea how people lived there at the time. I particularly liked the painted ceiling that you can see at the photograph. After this look into canalhouse-life, you can climb another staircase and boff, there you are, in a church that is not at all visible from the outside.

ons lieve heer op solder organ

The colour surprised me. The guard at the entrance knew all about Ons’ Lieve Heer op Solder and answered many questions, also the one on the pink paint in the museum. The church is in it’s original, 19th century state, a Victorian period where this colour was popular. Moreover there are many details and artefacts that are older, like the painting of Jacob de Wit at the altar (first half 18th century) and the organ (1794)

As you can see in the picture, the church has several floors and you can walk downstairs or go to the first floor. The church was founded by a rich German merchant, Jan Hartman in 1663.

peter parmentier priester ons' lieve heer op solder

Next to the church is the room where the priest lived: Peter Parmentier. He dedicated already decades of his life to the conversion of Amsterdam so probably it was logical that he got the job…
While making your tour through the canal house, do not forget to look out of the windows – the view on the canal is beautiful, and at one point also the tower of the Old Church can be spotted!

Ons’ Lieve Heer op Solder is living difficult times (summer 2020) as it seems to loose it’s financial support from the government. I am sure a solution will be found as this is among the oldest museums of Amsterdam and a more than unique reflection of the religiously diverse history of Amsterdam. However, you can contribute yourself by paying a visit to Ons’ Lieve Heer op Solder and/or fund them with your donation. Warmly recommended!

Other places to visit in Amsterdam:
Hermitage Amsterdam
Anne Frank Huis
Adam Tower

Another very interesting museum about the 17th century, the Dutch Golden Age:
Westfries Museum Hoorn

Musée d’Angoulême: beautiful!

Celtic helmet, 4th century BC, bronze, gold, silver, coral, spectacular finding 1981 Cave of Perrats (Agris)

Musée d’Angoulême has a fine collection worth visiting, with the golden Celtic helmet as a unique masterpiece. It is a mixture of archaeology, ethnography and fine arts, presented with care and good guidance.

musée d'angoulême entrance next to cathedral saint pierre

Looking for the archaeological museum of Angoulême, find the Musée d’Angoulême on the backside of the cathedral Saint Pierre. I had some struggle finding it. There are few signs indicating where the museum is. Once arrived, you go through a beautiful entrance. The 12th century roman tower of the cathedral looks down upon the visitors in all its magnificence.

musée d'angoulême bronze age presentation

Entrance is only 5 euro (in 2020) and I was told the ticket gives me a 50% reduction for the Paper Museum that I never heard of. Angoulême still has some work to do to attract interested visitors… This also goes for the language: everything is in French only. The information given is great, thorough and lively – if you speak the language. See the image here on the right about objects found in this region deriving from the Bronze Age.

musée d'angoulême prehistorical animal

The archaeological collection is on the ground floor. The website gave the warning that most of the older archaeological findings of this region are in other museums but I must say the Musée d’Angoulême presents very well what they do have. Even prehistorical items took my immediate attention. Prehistory is a period that I usually skip because I prefer the period from 10.000BC until the Romans, but not in Musée d’Angoulême.

musée d'angoulême wall with rests of dynasaure

The rock that the Musée d’Angoulême placed against the wall to show the findings of a dinosaure skeleton is very special! Moreover, the findings of the Neanderthaler and Cromagnon Humans are local: it is here that they lived. That, in combination with an excellent presentation, makes it special.

musée d'angoulême vitrin and wall prehistory

I liked a movie about the dolmen, telling that originally there was much more to the structure than just the big rocks that are left over. As the dolmen are older that the pyramids in Egypt, the Musée d’Angoulême calls them the ‘oldest architectural structure in the world’. But that is incorrect: the – presumed – temples of Göbekli Tepe are much older. Nevertheless it was new for me that dolmen were at the center of bigger constructions. The movie gives great images of what they must have looked like.

There are many nice objects, I show 3 of them here that I particularly liked:

heads of jarnac musée d'angoulême
  1. The Heads of Jarnac, images meant to keep ancestors close. The faces have their own individuality. West-Celtic (Gaule de l’Ouest) dating 1st or 2nd Century BC.

bronze age bowl musée d'angoulême

2. One of those ‘simple’ but very beautiful pieces to be found in Bronze Age collections. The fine art work on top would seduce me to buy it, if available in shops today…

chess and trictrac pieces from the Xth century, musée d'angoulême

3. Chess came to Western Europe from India via the Arab world in the 10th century. These are among the oldest pieces ever found. Trictrac was also a known game. Both were played with dice at the time.

On the first floor, a large collection of ethnography can be visited, mostly from Oceania, the Maghreb and some African countries. No opinion on that from my side. I paid a visit to the second floor for the ‘fine arts’ of the Musée d’Angoulême. It appears to be a mixture of art objects like porcelain and many paintings, some valuable, some not worth to be put into a museum. 3 paintings took my attention:

rosa bonheur jeune taureau sautant la barrière painting

Jeune taureau sautant la barrière, by Rosa Bonheur (19th century). Rosa Bonheur lived in a time where women were not allowed to go to art schools, however she found a way to learn how to paint. She made a great reputation with paintings of horses and cows. To go to animal markets and slaughter houses, she dressed up like a man to have access – just like the contemporary female writer George Sand was doing to be accepted. Rosa Bonheur was the first woman to be decorated with the great cross of the Legion d’Honneur.

van der helst painting of young gentleman and woman

Amid the many paintings of very different value, suddenly a real 17th century Van Der Helst painting. It is called ‘Portrait of a young Dutch gentleman and his wife‘ , not sure if this was the description or the real title. Anyway a surprising work of art in the collection.

And last but ot least, an intriguing piece of work by Pierre Auguste Vafflard, made in 1804: Young et sa fille. This is an incredible story about the English poet Edward Young who went to France with his daughter while she was ill, in the hope to get her cured. Helas, she dies at the age of 18 in Lyon. Being protestant in a catholic country, he is only allowed to bury here at night in the graveyard of the Swiss colony – and he has to do it himself. So here is the painting where he carries his deceased daughter to her grave at night. A true masterpiece – with apologies for the imperfect photograph.

edward young burrying his daughter at night, painting by Pierre Auguste Vafflard

Other places to visit in this region:
Vesunna Museum Périgueux
Museum of Art and Archaeology of the Périgord
Aubeterre Underground Church

Un Divan à Tunis – being human

Un Divan à Tunis is a great movie that combines fun with food for thought. Selma moves from Paris to Tunis where she was born because Paris has many psychologists and Tunis has none. She wants to be meaningful in her job and Tunisians need her. But… issues occur from unexpected angles…

Tunisia won my heart after I went there to give diversity trainings in several companies. The Dutch are called ‘direct’ in their communication style but hey, nothing beats the Tunisians in their directness. Un Divan à Tunis is certainly no exception to that: on the level of society, there is secretive behaviour but not in the interpersonal contacts. Relations develop in an unexpected way, as well as the plot. This movie is a joy to watch, you won’t be bored!

Selma is a psychoanalist who decides to start a practice in Tunis. In Paris, people can find psychological help at every corner of the street but in Tunis, it is new. Family members think she is crazy to want this, and they think her customers might be crazy too – so they do not want her to have the divan at the rooftop of their house but Selma insists and becomes successful at a short notice. However, life is not that easy for her.

Un Divan à Tunis shows step by step the complexity of Tunisian society. How the Jews are a common ennemy, even though some know nothing about Jews at all. How homosexuality and transgenderism are oppressed at the level of society – and might be accepted at individual level. How a man and a woman cannot be in the same room because it is against morals. Nevertheless Un Divan à Tunis shows several moments where this rule is broken, not because of sexuality but, very interesting, because they help each other, because they want to interact, listen, communicate, show empathy. Being human in this movie is stronger than all the societal rules.

This strong wish to be human, whatever societal problems occur, is what I remember from my visits to Tunisia. It can also be found is this great documentary Danny in Arabistan – Tunisia (in Dutch). I highly recommend Un Divan à Tunis, because it is a funny movie that gives good food for thought while you laugh.