Last weekend I spent some time in Amsterdam with a group of friends for an extended weekend away. Whilst we had a fantastic weekend of dinners, partying and sightseeing, a Sunday morning stroll allowed me to explore a place that really captured my interest; the Tropenmuseum.
Located on Linnaeusstraat 2, the Tropenmuseum provides a selection of permanent and temporary exhibitions that quite simply, is one of the most intriguing and insightful museums that I’ve visited in a long time.
Situated across three floors, the exhibits present a collection of items from different continents in a well presented and relatively thorough manner.
The Black & White exhibition looks at man and the environment and how they interconnect. We all question ourselves and judge based upon what others are thinking – where the way we look determines everything.
“If I wasn’t living in a world where appearance governs who and what you are, I really wouldn’t change my skin colour, but as long as I live in a world where the way you look determines everything, it’s my only option” – Milanine in de huid, 2007.
When slavery was officially abolished on 1st July 1863, the formerly enslaved were required to have a family name, often chosen by Colonial bureaucrats. The list of names were compiled in the Emancipation records in the national archives at The Hague and on Curacao.
Yaseen Al-Obeidy has taken thousands of photographs in the last 45 years. In his photo studios in Basra and Baghdad he has immortalised the children, men, women, bridal couples and babies from his area. There are more than 100 photos on display at the Tropenmuseum. Visitors also have the chance to ‘immortalise’ their person as part of the exhibition – check out my own studio photo below.
Other exhibits educate visitors about the Dutch colony that later become Indonesia with the presentation of objects from New Guinea, Southeast Asia and India.
The third level of the exhibition takes the visitor on a journey from the West coast of Africa to Western Asia, North Africa and then onto Latin America, the Caribbean and Africa.
The World of music exhibition highlights the way that music and musical instruments can create a fusion of style and lead to new kinds of music, for example the African rhythms echo in Trinidad and the Austrian accordion is a ‘must’ for a Mexican ballad. The wide-ranging influence of music is a must-see for any visitor to the museum.
The Tropenmuseum is a highly interactive environment that strives to encourage participation by adults and children alike.
The video below is one that I considered to be particularly effective as it encourages you to literally stand in another person’s shoes and see how it feels to be critiqued, judged and labelled purely on your appearance.
The widespread message throughout the museum is that despite religion and cultural habits, we’re fundamentally the same. We’re people. Respect and understanding are essential and welcomed, especially as we embrace today’s “new world of ancient cultures”.
The Tropenmuseum is very easy to navigate and suitable for children and adults that are seeking to learn more about any number of cultures and in some areas, the Dutch influence upon this. There is no sugar coating of the important issues, it’s real and affects us all to this day.
Have you visited the Tropenmuseum in Amsterdam? Thoughts?