The BLUE accounts display includes a collection of reproduced objects that emerged from individual accounts by novelists, journalists, military engineers, explorers, architects, activists and artists who have spent time in mission areas – as missionaries, peacekeepers, explorers, or rebels.
Their stories speak of their experiences in Africa, of the Dutch approach and of the local conditions. They highlight cultural and political mindsets and the gaps between abstract maps and data, and day-to-day experiences.
At last I ended up beside a real Dutch solider, Tinus. After an hour’s silence, he asked: “What are you going to do in Afghanistan?”
“I’m going to try to understand the mission,” I whispered, whereupon Sergeant Jordy, sitting in the row in front of us, joined in the conversation.
The sergeant held up a wedge of cheese, as though it were the spoils of war.
“Why are you taking cheese to Afghanistan?” I asked.
“Because I love cheese,” the sergeant replied.
“I’ve got enough with me for the first few weeks, and after that they’re going to send me more from Holland. I told everyone, my girlfriend, my family, my friends: ‘Just send cheese.’ In Afghanistan it melts, but that doesn’t matter; it’s vacuum-packed anyway. You just put it in a refrigerator and it gets hard again. After that all it needs is a good whack and it’s back in shape.
EXCERPT FROM AMONG SOLDIERS, 2010
Bandiagara: A Town on the Border of Azawad
“A young woman ran out of the villa that housed the aid office, clutching a shopping bag in her hands. She was barefoot and wore a traditional African flower print dress that fell to her ankles and a headscarf. When she threw the bag on the flames, three or four pairs of high-heeled shoes, red and white and black, spilled out and caught fire, bleeding inky smoke. She looked into the fire a few seconds and then jogged back inside. In the wind, her scarf flapped from a knot at her neck.
I’d never seen this before, people parting with their belongings in random panic, a ripple effect of war.”
African Nomadic Architecture
“Nomadic cultures are, however, elusive, difficult to document and record. Nation states have always had problems with their nomadic population and have sought to settle them. Nomads do not observe political borders; they do not pay taxes; they are fiercely independent and live outside the cultural pale.” Labelle Prussin
According to Prussin, nineteenth century European explorers and missionaries used a military-type tent. As an example, she takes Gulliain’s exploration of East Africa. He illustrated his own tent next to a Somali mat-covered armature.
Aldo van Eyck
A poem and a sandbox
Foundation Dogon Education
In the late 1950s, Dutch architect Joop Van Stigt joined the expedition of Aldo Van Eyck and Herman Haan to the tribal areas of the Dogon and the Tellem at the Bandiagara Cliffs in Mali. It was to be the first of many such trips to the area.
In the 1990s, Van Stigt set up a foundation with his wife, carrying out small-scale interventions in Mali: the building of a dam, the digging of a well and eventually the construction of the first school.
Today, Van Stigt’s son Jurriaan continues the work, producing bricks and using local materials to build schools and other projects.
Moussa Ag Assarid and Jonas Staal
New World Embassy: Azawad
We, the writers, come from very different political contexts: Azawad and the Netherlands. We are shaped by very different histories, but we both believe that the cultural and the political are fundamentally related, and that they mutually inform one another. This has formed the basis of our collaboration on the creation of the New World Embassy: Azawad; the first embassy of the unrecognized state of Azawad that operated on Dutch soil from 6 September to 9 October 2014.
Marion de Vos
The road with no name
“…My life was nothing like theirs,
I never sat down in those
“fields of gold”.
I had another life to live:
take the short cut:
on to the American Club,
reach the river
before the rains came,
before the waters
would run too high.”
Shopping for the surreal
With five local carpenters and a handful of apprentice soldiers, I had set out to expand the shop and put it to good use serving the Afghan Army, which, in turn, led to my roaming the back streets of Mez with a merry band of spacemen, looking to buy tools.
- The ‘Jewels of Castor’
- The wooden horse
- The Beach Bar
- The underground
A time of experimentation