I saw him just ahead of me, a young man carrying a white cane walking confidently towards the escalator at Utrecht Central Station. What I knew and he could not know was that the escalator was under repair and there was a gaping hole just a few paces ahead of him.
I took his arm gently and said “you need to take the stairs today, the escalator is broken”. He walked with me to the top of the stairs and there I stepped to the right so that he would be back on the guided path set up for the visually impaired. He understood where he was and wandered off into the insanely busy station, the busiest in the country.
It’s a challenge to move around a city without being able to see your surroundings, but NS, the Dutch national railway company has taken a big step in making it easier for visually impaired people to get around the country. As of late 2017 all railway stations in the Netherlands became accessible for the visually impaired, this includes;
- 90 km of guide lines through stations
- sound tiles
- braille signs
- tactile maps in the four biggest stations of Amsterdam, Utrecht, Den Haag and Rotterdam
- 5000 spoken route descriptions
The 350,000 blind or partially sighted people living in the Netherlands can use the stations more easily. Of course the rest of us need to take care not to leave obstacles in the guide lines and keep an eye out when repairs are underway, but this is brilliant.
Image: Rotterdam Centraal Railway Station | Alan Grinberg | CC BY-NC-ND 2.0
To celebrate their wedding Marten Soolmans and Oopjen Coppit had their portraits painted by Rembrandt. To celebrate acquiring the pair of paintings the Rijksmuseum has created an exhibition of some of the world’s greatest full size portraits called High Society.
The paintings have been restored and are magnificent in the detail of their opulence, and they once contributed to Rembrandts’ reputation with Amsterdam’s wealthy elite. This is the first time in more than 60 years they’ve been part of a public exhibition. They are jointly owned by the Rijksmuseum and the Louvre and part of that agreement is that the paintings will be kept together and displayed together. I think they’ll be at the Rijksmuseum through next year which is the 350th anniversary of Rembrandt’s death.
The High Society exhibition show cases full length portraits through the centuries from the world’s greatest artists, from Sergent to Munch and the museum has presented it as if these world famous people turned up to an unlikely party. You can everyone meet the solemn Count and Countess da Porto (by Veronese) who lived 100 years before Rembrandt to the dazzling Marchesa Luisa Casati, who lived 250 years after him.
I met Anna Comptesse de Noailles, the first woman to win the French Legion d’honneur. Apparently when this painting was exhibited it was considered scandalous, partly because of how low her gown sweeps, but also because she is wearing her award around her neck – and apparently that is not done, it should be worn on a sash diagonally across one’s body. Obviously the designers of the award had never thought about how women would wear it.
My favourite painting was this debonair gentleman; he’s Samuel-Jean Pozzi, and he was quite the lady’s man, whose lovers included Sarah Bernhardt. I think I have a crush!
The museum created evening events for this exhibition, and I was lucky enough to go to one. It was fantastic to be in the museum after dark and after the exhibition they turned the lobby into a dance floor and we had champagne and a dance. Just as if we were part of High Society.
High Society is on for about another week – until June 3rd. Tickets to the whole museum are €17.50 and there’s no additional entrance fee for the exhibition. (Free entry with a museum jaarkaart)
I went to see the wonderful “Coded Nature” exhibition from StudioDrift at the Stedelijk Museum. The image above is one of their ShyLights. They dance above your head and as they float down they open up like a flower, the movement is gentle and mesmerising. The perfect thing to do on a Sunday afternoon
Here’s what the room full of ShyLights looks like. Everyone stays in this room for ages, watching the lights glow and dance, their faces filled with wonder. Everyone gives into the temptation to lie on the floor and watch the lights from below, and it’s amazing – until the vigilant museum stuff come in and ask you to move. Apparently the light on the floor is part of the exhibition and by lying on the floor we are ruining it for others. IMHO the one ruining it for others was the grumpy museum guy.
The title of the exhibition is Coded Nature and there’s one piece that seems to be a commentary on our destruction of the earth, it’s a long film showing floating concrete blocks drifting through the air forming large structures until nature is obliterated. And in the next room is one of the concrete blocks – a drifter – floating, un-suspended in a huge room.
I’ve followed Studio Drift’s Instagram account for a long time, and I’ve been fascinated by the “fragile futures” sculptures. So it was really cool to see an installation of fragile futures, be able to walk around it and get up close to the tiny dandelion lights that make up the sculpture.
The exhibition filled me with wonder, it’s that intersection of art and science, it’s beautiful and kinetic and well worth visiting. I might be back next weekend.
The exhibition is on until the 26 August, and it’s free for museum card holders, or €17.50.
In Amsterdam a cafe is where you get coffee, and a coffee shop is where you can get Marijuana – either to smoke or as Hash Brownies. This is a cafe and I’m sipping a very nice cup of coffee when two older tourists come in…
Do you have any Brownies?
Yes, sure we have chocolate brownies.
Um… are they the “special” brownies?
Well, they’re gluten-free.
I went to the market this morning and got excited about garlic. Weird I know. This is a favourite spread I make, if you add a bit more oil and juice of a whole lemon you can make it a dip consistency. I like it in warm pita bread with slices of juicy tomato.
1 400g can butter beans
3 cloves of garlic (or more if you’re brave)
half a cup of chopped parsley
juice of half a lemon
Step 1 Rinse and drain the beans
Step 2 Finely chop the garlic, I use some course ground salt to help it mush up, put into blender
Step 3 Chop the parsley, add to blender
Step 3 Add juice of half a lemon to the blender, with the oil and the beans
Step 4 Blend,
Step 5 serve with toasted pita bread.
On a sunny Sunday afternoon one of the nicest things to do is wander through the Sunday Market at Westerpark. It’s full of crafty goodness, here are some of the highlights from today. (Scroll over to reveal captions).
Mandala – there were stencils for sale
Animals to love
Treasures to re-home
snacks, steamed Baozi and Jaozi
Hang in there
I see a face in the soap
Finger licking good
There is a market next Sunday – on Rokin, next one at Westerpark isn’t until 1 October.
Félicité is the story of a singer in Kinshasa whose fragile independence is shattered when her son Samo has an awful motorbike accident. Suddenly she needs 900 dollars, an extreme amount for a woman living in a tough economy, as she fights for her son’s life – literally. The film is slow, in a way that lets you feel very close to her. There were moments that really hit you, and the director Alain Comis doesn’t let you off the hook, you feel her pain. The third key character is Tabu, a character who drinks and loves hard by night and spends his days as a repair man, it’s his poetry and his humour that provide the gentle breaks in the movie’s tension.
I was lucky to be at the opening of the World Cinema Amsterdam Festival where this was shown, and the Director spoke on stage at the end of the movie. He explained that the story started in Senegal (his home country) but moved to Congo when he heard the music of the Kasai Allstars, with whom Félicité sings throughout the movie. He was asked how he found the actress to play the title role. He said “she found me!” He’d imagined a different look for Félicité but kept coming back to Véro Tshanda Beya Mputu in the audition process. She makes the movie, she has a quiet power even in the harshest scenes.
This isn’t an easy movie, as a viewer you have to do some “work” to grasp the story – it’s not all set out for you. But it’s a film that pulls you in and leaves you somewhat hopeful.
You can see it; Saturday 19th August at the Rialto 6.45pm at the Rialto, or Monday 21st August 7pm at De Balie.
See the website of the World Cinema Amsterdam Festival for more movies, the festival is on to 26 August, so be quick!