Hanne Hagenaars works as a freelance writer and curator, She initiated the Amsterdam based magazine, Mister Motley, where she was editor in chief for nine years. The magazine now exists in online form only at www.mistermotely.nl. At present she is editor in chief at 1000things.org, a subjective encyclopedia of inspirational ideas, things, people, and events. She also is a curator at kunstvereniging Diepenheim for which she realises four exhibitions a year in collaboration with Gijs Assmann. In addition, she is head of the Studium Generale programme at the Royal Academy of Fine Art in The Hague (www.studiumgeneralekabk.nl). In januari 2016 she will start as a curator at Garage Rotterdam, together with Heske ten Cate.
Where we are
Maps of the World
The Greek philosopher Anaximander believed the world to be shaped like a barrel and that humans inhabited the flat top. He was the first to draw a map of the world as a flat round button with a border of blue, representing the ocean. Three blue streams of water divided the world into three practically equal portions. The map resembles today’s Mercedes Benz logo. With this mappa mundi, Anaximander consolidated the three known regions of the world at that time: Europe, Asia, and Libya (part of Africa). Those who are familliar with the study of cartography understand the difficulty in drawing up a map based soley on experience.
Take, for instance, the Catalan Atlas, consisting of 8 parts, from 1375. The map follows Marco Polo’s journey and could be compared to a medieval comic strip: a camel drawn caravan rides past castles, cities, through criss crossed routes, two naked men dive for pearls, a servant drives an elephant with the snap of a whip, and text fills the empty spaces. The book, II Millione attempts to provide exact details of his journey but it remains unclear to the geographer how to compile a map using vague descriptions such a day of travel, a day of sailing, or two days walking. The atlas is an amazing visualisation of an unknown world.
For many years, many speculated wildly on the shape of the earth. Flat, round, or oval and shaped like a zeppelin. Mathematicians broke their heads over how an oval shape could be translated to a flat paper. As early as the second century, Ptolomeus folded a sheet of papyrus into a cone, drew all he knew of the Earth, and flattened it. A map. He also introduced the concept of the meridian, lines of latitude and longitude and introduced a catalogue of names of places and their coordinates. He understood that distance and direction were the most vital components to any map.
Artists love maps, their systems, the legend, and the puzzle of depiction. They often make a version of the “real” map to which they can add their own truth. The surrealists were in shock from the horrors of the first world war, and Paul Éluard rearranged the world in a map of the world in which the world’s “pure” cultures were give prominence and some World War I countries were given little to no territory.
The artist Annesas Appel is obesessed with maps and systems. Like the early cartographers, Appel attempts to visualise that which we’re not capable of understanding.
In the View on the World Map 04 (Entities 2013), Appel presents her view on the world in the form of a book. After searching the Internet, she stumbled upon the Bosatlas (the most popular Dutch atlas) on which Europe is centrally placed. We’re so accustomed to this map that we hardly consider the option that this is a choice, one could also use Jerusalem as a map’s central point, like the faithful did. Or Russia. Annesas Appel contextualises herself with the Western tradition in which each individual sees him or herself as the centre of the world.
According to the Bostatlas there are 232 countries. Annesas Appel begins by isolating each country from the grand scheme and proceeds to very carefully draw each province of every country. She then lists each province alphabetically, but leaves out the names of the countries to which they belong. The provinces of Afghanistan, Albania, Algeria, Andorra, and so on, follow one another in a long string, page after page. Appel’s atlas is not a fantastical creation, but a new rendition of the scientific Bostatlas. All is drawn to scale, all must be accurate. The Russian sub-region, Yakoetie, is relatively enormous and, however impractical, its true to life scale is accurate in providing a measure for the rest of the provinces portrayed.
The Netherlands consists of 12 provinces that you think you may know, but once removed from their whole they look like flimsy abstract bits, like little animals or fluffs of moss. American provinces seem like they’ve been drawn with a ruler and the legend shows that the Cook Island provinces are too small to even see.
It would be grand if, like Ptolomeus, the atlas included a register in a long and seductive list of exotic names, like Badakhshan, Badghis, Baghlan, Balkh, Manyan, Daykundi, Farah, Frayab and so forth.
For more, please see: http://www.annesas.nl/
Doves on their way
I often cycle from Amsterdam to the polder and cut through the Bijlmer. Yes, for the simple reason of finding pleasure and enjoyment in the cycle ride.
In the area that connects these two regions, I spot a large empty parking lot in the distance. There, in a small strip at the side, three aluminium boxes are piled on top of each other onto a construction with legs. Sort of like a three tiered barbeque. Beside it, a car is parked next to which a man and a woman are preparing a cup of tea. I ask them what they’re doing. Pigeons. They’ve transported these homing pigeons from Zaandam to here, where they’re training the pigeons to fly both long and short distances. Since they’ve only just arrived, the pigeons need to acclimatise for a little while, otherwise their orientation skills may falter.
There are some 57 pigeons in the aluminium construction. Later on, they’ll be released and will have to find their way home. Their sense of direction is guided by the magnetic field.
“Disruptions in the magnetic field have meant that the pigeons are becoming more prone to getting lost than before’, the homing pigeon hobbyist explains. ‘The magnetic field is disrupted by mobile phones, by everything that is sent via airwaves’. ‘Is there no more room in the air?’
‘For example, if you pay attention, you’ll see many pigeons in the Dam with a ring around their leg. These are carrier pigeons that have lost their way. In fact, the other day a man from Krommenie called me to see if I could pick up my pigeon from him. Pigeons fly in groups, first in a circle around the area where they’ve been released, then they’ll pick up speed and fly away. But nowadays they seem to get lost quite often.’
‘It’s a wonderful hobby’, the man excitedly tells me. ‘`It’s so relaxing.’ He bares his perfectly white teeth in a broad smile. When he speaks, saliva sputters in all directions, but, oh well, that’s probably just because of his dentures
Then they release the pigeons and I watch as they circle around and fly away, and they’re as beautiful as a flock of sparrows.
A lecture at the Royal Academy of Art in The Hague on good and evil closed with a ritual performed by Winti priestess Nana (Marian Markelo). A few weeks later, I went to meet her to find out more about Winti.
What is Winti exactly?
It's a way of life that deals with the balance between yourself, nature and the people around you, your ancestors and your spiritual mentors. You can turn to Winti for support at any given point in your life.
Is it a religion?
Not when you compare it to Western religions: there is no leader, there are no writings, and it’s not institutionalised. If you consider religion to be about connecting, you could call Winti a religion. The word religion has many meanings.
Where do you find Winti?
Winti originated in Suriname, and it’s comparable to Santeria in Cuba and Candomblé in Brazil.It deals with nature, living people and the people on the other side of life (in Winti they are with us). Nature is the main focus, it's about everything that is a part of nature but also about the people that no longer posses their physical bodies.
The western world is completely reliant on rationality, on facts measurable through clear cause and effect. Scientists have led us to believe that things exist only when they can be measured. Because of this way of thinking, we have lost sight of so much. People have grown estranged from nature and from who they truly are. They focus on everything around them, but not on themselves and nature.
Winti is a model for harmony, it ends contradictions: people who are here have to communicate with people on the other side.
What does nature mean in Winti?
The Winti see humans as advanced beings of nature and if we start with ourselves we'll be able to set the right examples for others. When I perform my rituals I make sure the waste material is dealt with properly, in the garbage or in the forest. It starts with the little things: like not dumping your rubbish just anywhere, not spitting on the earth, keeping yourself and your property clean. Otherwise the gods will be reluctant to approach you, they wouldn't visit a dirty place.
People are too involved with the superficial, think that nature is theirs, and that they posses the material world.
How did Winti come to originate in Suriname?
Winti is truly Surinamese. It finds its origin in the time of slavery. In Suriname different groups of people were mixed and Suriname succeeded in creating a whole out of all those African elements: Winti. Until 1979 the practice was prohibited by the Dutch, which meant that many elements of Winti were lost.
What made you get involved with winti?
I wasn't raised with Winti, my mother was a member of the church and my grandfather was even a preacher during the time of slavery. Winti has always been with me: when I was thirteen years old I had to clean the chicken shed, I sat down there quietly. I heard a voice inside me say: 'you already know everything you need to know, you're still a little girl, but we're going to make sure you'll know everything. The supernatural is inside you.'
I went inside and told my mother: 'I won't be going to church anymore.' My mother and father supported their children to do what they wanted to do and to focus on the things they were good at. They accepted our individuality.
One day, my mother sent me to the market to buy fish. I wore nice American clothes that I had picked myself. Yes, I like to show off a little. A man paid me a compliment, 'O little girl, you look so beautiful.' 'It's none of your business,' I answered. I didn't accept his compliment. He kept on repeating his words. It bothered me. I had a nice bike with a little bag on the front, I collected stones thinking if the man would bother me again I'd throw those stones at him.
But right when I wanted to throw a stone at him, the man suddenly stood at the other side of the river. This was not good! I biked home as fast as I could and when I arrived my mother told me I was rude and impolite: you shouldn't throw stones at old men, you should say thank you when someone gives you a compliment.
Later in life, I decided to move to the interior of Suriname to work as a nurse. Three days before I let I was asleep and had the following experience - it was not a dream, but an observation. In my sleep a man approached me, he was made out of bronze, he looked beautiful. He told me: you're going to Stoeli [an island deep within Suriname] and I will introduce you to all the people you need to meet.
People were waiting for us all around the shore and the man would say: this is the one, this is her! In a big wide-open field men and women were circled around an iron pot, cooking. The man said: I'm going to put my hand inside and you should do the same. I put my hand inside the pot. That man took hold of me, I looked at him, at his smile, and saw he was the man from the forest.
That dream put me in a trance and I screamed so loud that the neighbour came and forced the door. She recognised that what was going on was Winti. When I came to, she had arranged all kinds of things around me: pimba (white clay), gin, a squash. She told me: ‘Girl, you need to do something, you have Winti, you have to tell your mother.’
Who is this man?
This Winti is a god of war, he very manly. It means that I'm not afraid of anything. As a kid these qualities made me rude and strong-minded. You see, you can’t ever really choose your way, it was always in me and in my destiny. You receive skills and insights to be able to do what you are supposed to do, to reach your destination and on the way, the Wintis will find you. That's how you reach faith, or your destination, with help of the Wintis, the Jorkas, and the spirits of your ancestors.
My guide is a Kromanti Winti and I love him—he’s a beautiful sculptured bronze man, and he’s strong. Although I am a woman, his power gives me a masculine strength.
But a god of war sounds frightening to me, does he contribute to the good in the world?
This Winti is a Kromanti, a god of war, a thunder god with knowledge of herbs and rituals. Although this might sound negative, one must keep in mind that during slavery the power of the Kromanti was necessary—they were fearless and heroic spirits. Where battle is necessary they come, they take action and they clear up the mess.
When I'm in need, he will take over. In Amsterdam, I was attacked by two men and the Winti took over. I call him god of war because of those qualities. It's a force that was given to me by my enslaved grandparents.
And through the Kromanti you became a Winti priestess, how did that happen?
We performed rituals in the outback of Suriname to properly initiate me and give me tools. I know what to do with them. As an initiation you marry your Winti, I receive energy from within, also to help others.
How do you see, from the perspective of Winti, the role of the artist?
In the west, spirituality is on the sidelines. The emphasis on the material has not only brought prosperity, but also an imbalance between it and the immaterial, which is vital to society. Where we stand today, the artists’ role is to revive the immaterial and spiritual to bring society back to balance
Proof of Love
Anyone who wants to marry their foreign sweetheart must see the IND (Immigration and Naturalisation Service) to arrange the proper papers. The IND decides whether the residency permit is issued and in practice, they’re never generous or warm and welcoming. Now, as it turns out, some departments have employed the peculiar practice of demanding a proof of love in these cases. ????? Yes. A proof of love.What do you send the official in this case? The roses have long since wilted, the intimate conversations on the telephone never recorded, but maybe you’ve managed to keep a few text messages. And what will the official accept as proof? He might just find that the lovely photograph you took of your love as the exact OPPOSITE to proof of love. The proof of love has no other function: it can’t be used a as proof of lack of love. Still, the IND demands it.
The Dutch news once broadcast images of a man who had crashed through his ex-lovers window into her living room. “I love her!” he declared to the whole of Holland. And she’d left him. And he had loved her.
A similar train of thought arises in the documentary La 10ième Chambre (2004) by Raymond Depardon. Karim Toulbia is called to court after his ex-wife presses charges against him. After seven years of abuse, she finally succeeds in escaping him and building her own life. But the man refuses to accept this, he threatens her, even threatening the boss she works for. It’s a terrible but familiar story. And so the lawyer begins his plea: “These private cases, they’re always tough! (…)(…)(…) Karim took a great step today. This is something WE’RE never proud of. (We, men, is what the lawyer means!) I, too, have handled myself poorly at times (POORLY handled?) You see, men are a bit dumber in this sense than women.”
The lawyer then proceeds to explain the only mitigating circumstance he can come up with. My client is a man. And sure enough, his argument later goes to say: “What once was love transforms into something as hideous as hate. If only hate and love were not so very intertwined,” he sighs. A chasm between lovers. His argument revives the idea of the age old crime passionel. It might be murder, but it’s out of love.
How in god’s name do you convince your lover of your love? It’s simple at the start with flowers, letters, text messages. It happens all on its own, the current carries itself. But it’s at that inevitable moment where the fluttering of butterflies begins to wane. It’s the moment where the state of love is suddenly read backwards, like the denting of a lid, like mirror writing. You can lie desperately on the street in front of her house, shave your head, or write her fifty text messages: it will only work against you. Every piece of evidence you produce will only irritate rather than convince. You’re powerless in trying to summon the love-struck gaze of the other, no, there’s no point. It might sometimes resurface, other times it disappears again. It’s never completely easy. So, shall we send the IND that photo of us where we’re both laughing somewhat sourly, but where at least we’re together?