World Nomads: Ilse of Water

Een poosje terug deed ik mee aan een schrijfwedstrijd van World Nomads. Niets gewonnen, maar ik kan jullie nu wel een kijkje geven in mijn allereerste duik avontuur in Indonesië. Mocht je ooit de kans krijgen; ga duiken!! Klik hier voor de originele post.

Gili air. An island as ever you’d imagine one.

Gili Air

I find myself on the side of a boat filled with oxygen tanks and fins. A cramped wet-suit protects my back from burning even more red. Nervous and sea-sick, I stoically repeat the lessons I learned in the swimming pool the days before.

Behind me the island is growing smaller. Its beaches filled with boats of all sizes, made with typical wide-spread pontoons. An hour-and-a-half walk took me around the island on my first night. Bamboo tents playing reggae music alternated with empty, pearly beaches. A welcome oasis after the smog-filled streets of Java. The touristy atmosphere of the tiny island is well compensated by its extremely hospitable natives, the absence of motor vehicles and laid back mood.

This is it then. A mixture of fear and excitement gathers in my stomach and soon races through the rest of my body. I take my seat on the edge of the boat, cross my legs, put one hand behind my head, the other over my regulator and let myself fall backwards into the sea. For a moment, up is down and vice versa.

During the descent, Joe, my instructor, looks me deep in the eyes. ‘Are you ok?’ I’m not. Half way down my ears hurt like crazy. Anxiety is getting to me. Without words, Joe tells me to stop being a pussy.

Complete weightlessness. I’m floating one foot above the bottom of the sea. Tiny, colorful fishes surround me and I cannot stop watching. I have to control my excitement: Deep, controlled breaths… The ocean’s surface is high above me like a glittery ceiling.  Visions of me as a five year old playing mermaid in the bathtub flash by. I’m on cloud nine.

It takes a while before I  establish the perfect amount of air in my jacket which makes me float gently in the soft current. There’s a reef dooming up in front of us. A whole new world is forming: vivid colors in an uncountable number of shapes, covered in thousands of the brightest fish in any color you can image. The first rule in diving, well ok, except for the safety rules preventing you from dying, is to NEVER TOUCH ANYTHING. Afraid to do so, I fly above the gorgeous scenes; breathless. Joe turns around with excited eyes, pointing out something in front of him: A turtle! Chill as can be it seems to enjoy the corraly delicacies. I cannot get enough.

With the first gap of fresh air in the world above, I realize I forgot about my ears completely, even though they still hurt like hell.


Sancta Ontcommer

Een poosje terug was ik in de Sint-Stevens kerk in Nijmegen waar een gepassioneerde gids ons vertelde over Sancta Ontcommer. Ontcommer was de mooie dochter van de koning van Portugal en Katholiek. Op jonge leeftijd werd ze uitgehuwelijkt aan een oude, heidense prins. Zij had een grote afkeer van deze man en bad tot God om een lelijk uiterlijk zodat zij maar niet met hem hoefde te trouwen. God luisterde en gaf haar een snor en baard om haar te beschermen. Zodra de prins deze verminking zag wilde hij niets meer van de prinses weten. De Portugese koning werd woest en liet zijn dochter kruisigen als straf. Sancta Ontcommer werd erkend als martelares en Katholieke heilige. Het geloof is dat wanneer zij wordt aangeroepen tijdens overlijden, het proces zonder al teveel pijn (kommer) verloopt.

Beeld van Sancta Ontcommer (Oostenrijk)

In de Sint Stevenskerk is een afbeelding te zien van Ontcommer die stamt uit het eind van de 15e eeuw. Een van de weinige afbeeldingen die nog te zien is in de kerk, omdat men tijdens de Beeldenstorm in 1566 veel verwoest heeft. Reliëfs van heiligen pronken zonder hoofd en rond het altaar vind je lege nissen waar ooit beelden stonden. Vele schilderingen zijn wit overschilderd, behalve een enkeling zoals die van Sancta Ontcommer.

Echter, bij het zien van de afbeelding zou je, ondanks het bovenschrift ‘Sancta Ontcommer’, eerder denken aan een veel bekender beeld. Een afbeelding van een heilige die uitsteigt boven alle anderen en veelvuldig gerepresenteerd wordt in de Katholieke kerk; Jezus Christus. Ookal zijn we in Nederland tegenwoordig voornamelijk gewend om Christus halfnaakt in een lendedoek aan het kruis te zien, het was tijdens de Middeleeuwen, zeker in Zuid-Europese landen zoals Italië en Spanje, normaal om hem volledig aangekleed af te beelden. Volgens de gids was de afbeelding in de St. Stevenskerk dan ook waarschijnlijk ooit bedoeld als een afbeelding van Christus.

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Sancta Ontcommer in de                          Afbeelding van Christus
St. Stevenskerk

Volgens het verhaal geloofden de protestanten wel degelijk dat de Katholieken op de schildering Sancta Ontcommer wilden aanduiden. Dat is ook de reden waarom de schildering bewaard is gebleven; als bewijs en herinnering dat de Katholieken de meest willekeurige heiligen verzonnen en vervolgens als waar erkenden.

Het is mij onduidelijk of de Katholieken, voor aanvang van de Beeldenstorm de schildering werkelijk als Sancta Ontcommer aanbaden. Het zou interessant zijn om te onderzoeken of het bovenschrift origineel is, of vlak voor de Beeldenstorm is toegevoegd. Als de Katholieken het opschrift later hebben toegevoegd, zou het een stiekeme overwinning kunnen zijn geweest op de Protestanten.

Commercialization of Culture: Paris

Just back from Paris, I am left wondering about the peculiar culture that I experienced there. Our hotel wasn’t far from Montmartre; the hill in Paris that used to be the epicentre of the bohemians. Artists such as Picasso and Van Gogh lived there at the end of the 19th century. It was a place of creativity, criticism and artistic collaboration. Works of, for example, André Gill, Suzanne Valadon and Renoir that came about ín Montmartre remind us of this. There are multiple places there, such as the Moulin de la Galette, the Montmartre vineyard and small cabaret theaters that you can still visit. You can imagine that, even being unaware to much of this information at that moment, I was excited to visist the hill.

After a day on the Montmartre hill I felt inspired, well-informed and surprised by everything we had seen. We had visited the Musée de Montmartre et Jardins Renoir; a really nice museum definitely worth a visit when you’re there. You learn about the history of Montmartre, everything about Le Chat noir and the artists that resided there in the bohemian era. Also, it is a quite place and it has beautifull gardens with a great view on Paris and the Montmartre vineyard.

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Montmartre Vineyard

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View on Paris 

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Really nice zinc bar that (supposedly) Renoir drank quite some liquor at. It was hidden in a cellar during the first world war so it wouldn’t be molded into munition or guns.

Apart from the nice things the museum offers, its tranquillity and peace in the middle of Montmartre are also a great asset. Namely, the thing that I should have known – and mentally prepare for in advance –  was the enormous amount of tourists we encountered.I felt like an ant in an anthill. Masses of people that seemed to come mainly from the US, Germany and the Netherlands and that all wanted to take a selfie with the Sacre Coeur in the back.

My imagination is well-developed so I can imagine that 130 years ago Montmartre must have been a fascinating, murmurring and, to me probably, excitingly scary place and there are still some hints to this when you really look for it. In all honesty though, the Place du Tetre, which was once a square where painters worked in peace, is now a place where two tourists per square meter are stocked and made a profile sketch of. The cute little bistro on the corner is now occupied by Starbucks and the small restaurants play Rihanna in the back ground.

As I said, I am left wondering. I myself was one of the ants on the hill. However, this commercialization of culture pained me somewhat. It seemed to me that most tourists were there ‘to have been there’ instead of to learn about the place and give meaning to their visit. The excessive amount of selfies contrasting with the quieteness of the museum directed me to believe so. The artists were there to profit from the tourists as much as possible, definitely not to drink absinth and discuss global problems. It made me think of why I wanted to go there myself. I guess the area fascinated me because of my theater- and arthistory lessons, the stories I had heard and – of course – the movies I had seen. I wanted to see it, experience it for myself and learn about what actually went on there. However, the Montmartre of today seems to be a tourist attraction more than an artistic epicentre. I would still recommend everybody to visit it; it is a nice place full of history. Moreover; I was only there for a day and could only háve a tourist experience. But in this experience I felt that the transistion of such an important area for Modern art to the commercialism it copes with today leaves only that; history.

Cultural Heritage

For the last two months I have been living in Tilburg. It feels like home, as I was born here and went to high school here. Generally, people don’t like Tilburg. It has the same notoriety as Rotterdam, of being an industrial city with hardly any charm. I used to say the same thing; “Tilburg is not a great city if you don’t know it”. Living here once again, however, I was confronted with the strong personality of the city and it’s coherent culture. It seemed that everywhere I went and the things I did were all in some way linked to the city’s cultural heritage; my cultural heritage.

Cultural heritage is a popular topic within cultural economics; tangible as well as intangible. According to researchers, cultural heritage can create multiple sorts of value such as historical, cultural and educational value (Throsby 2001; Snowball 2013) and, additionally, economic value; money. In their article ‘Cultural heritage and the attractiveness of cities: evidence from recreation trips’, van Loon, Gosens and Rouwendal (2014) argue that cultural heritage contributes to the attractiveness of cities. I agree with them, and want to contribute to Tilburg’s attractiveness by elaborating on its cultural heritage in this post.

The city of Tilburg is situated in the south of the Netherlands. During the industrialization in the early 19th century, the city expanded greatly because of its growing textile industry; a profession that had been practiced there at least since the middle of the 15th century. The city became an important factor in the fabrication of textile in the Netherlands. Most of the cities’ inhabitants worked in this industry, either at home or in a factory (Commandeur, et al., 1981). After the mechanization, the industry lost its importance for the city and in the 20th century, producing factories vanished from the city entirely. You can still recognize aspects of this history in the city.

Tilburg Kruikenzijker_Formaat wijzigen  Textielmuseum-Tilburg

The first picture shows a statue of a ‘kruikenzeiker’, which roughly translates as a jarleaker. People from Tilburg in the 17th century sold their pee to the factories that used it to clean and paint the wool. Households would have a jar in which the whole family would pee. After two centuries, people from Tilburg are still named ‘kruikenzeikers’, as this name came to be related to the Dutch carnival. The whole province knows who you mean by that name.
The second picture shows the Textile Museum of Tilburg. It exhibits the history of textile making and has evolved to a buzzing epicentre of textile manufacturing simultaneously. It is a museum in practice; offering exhibitions and educative programmes on heritage and contemporary design and art. In addition, it is the base of a knowledge-centre, which contains a workplace, laboratory and library where (inter)national designers, architects, artists and promising students are trained (Sauer, 2012) and, additionally, they host changing exhibitions of textile artists.

Next, until, let’s say, two generations ago, everybody in Tilburg used to be a Catholic. This is visible still in the many, many beautiful churches, chapels and convents in the city. Some of these are still in practice, others have been changed into elderly homes or student housing.

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I am sure that you have all had a taste of Abbey beer, and I can tell you with certainty that the best Abbey beer is made at Koningshoeven, on the country not far from Tilburg. Ever tasted La Trappe? This is where it’s made:

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It’s only a 15 minute bikeride from the city centre and definetely worth a visit. Munks still live in the convent and the beer is made in the brewery next to it. You can do tours and even eat beer bitterballen ^^. You can check opening hours at the Koningshoeven website.

This was merely a sneak peak in the nice heritage that Tilburg offers. There are still many things to discover for myself. I recently learned for example, about the characters that Tilburg used to have. Characters such as Rooie Stien and Zotte Joke. A generation ago they were the local fools more or less and everybody knew who they were. I had to do some research on Rooie Stien a while ago, and everybody in Tilburg seemed to have his or her own story on her; fascinating. I found this movie of her on the fun fair. You see her from 2.16 onwards.

It reminded me a lot of a guy that always walks around central station here asking for 50 cents. They call him 50cent, his real name is Jan Schellekes. He does no harm, but is simply always there and thus everybody knows him. I remember he even had his own ‘Hyves’ page (the Dutch variant of Facebook).

Finally, there are some particular aspects such as the Tilburg Fun Fair (Tilburgse Kermis); the largest in Europe I have been told and the Efteling theme park, which is only 10 minutes by car. Both are, in my opinion, very much anchored in the cultural heritage of Tilburg.

I hope I have convinced you somewhat about the charm of Tilburg. Because, yes, it has a lot of charm and it is definetely worth a visit. I could go on and on, so please inform me if you want to know more about Tilburg and it’s cultural heritage. There are some nice books as well such as ‘Ge Waart Mar Arbeider’ on the history of Tilburg, or ‘Goedgetòld – diksjenèèr van de Tilbörgse taol’ on the Tilburg dialect. Both in Dutch. Also, I am very curious about special cultural heritage about your home town, or Tilburg specifically. Let me know!