My autonomous work is centered around issues of identity, authenticity and cultural heritage.
This is also true in my applied work as photographer and designer. In an increasingly fast tempo, our society is being transformed into a
strongly capitalistic, homogenous monoculture. The necessity of allowing oneself the freedom to work in an associative manner without fixed
goals becomes even more pressing when one considers how full of restrictions and obligations this life has become. Inspired by this freedom
of association, I record situations that encompass my own and others’ experiences in this fast-changing culture.
I am fascinated by objects, images and people that appear in settings other than the cultures where they originated. In other words, I am interested
in cases of ‘cultural alienation’. In a quickly globalizing world, symbols and objects from an unknown world are suddenly encountered in a
known world. In this context, consider a young boy paddling a canoe on the Congo river and wearing a tee-shirt with the logo from a builder
in Venlo, or an Albert Heijn supermarket bag being used at a market in Istanbul. The term for this phenomenon is ‘anatopism’;
when people and things are found outside of their ‘proper’ place.
Dutch army recruting shirt pops up in Accra/Ghana “ Geschikt / Ongeschikt “ (“suited / not suited” )
Another fascinating example of this phenomenon is the Dutch company Vlisco, that designs and produces ‘typically African’ wax prints.
These designs are considered to be the ‘Armani’ of haute couture in Africa. This is remarkable, when one takes into consideration the
great differences between the visual cultures of the Netherlands and Africa. The example of this well-known instance of cultural displacement
has inspired me to create my own designs.
Google screen-shot Botlek (oil tanks) -Rotterdam transformed into a textile-design, I gave the textile to a Ghanaian woman with a Dutch surname.
Close to the slave coast many people have Dutch surnames due to (mainly) the slave-trade.
During the past year, I have been working on the project Anatopisms. It is a visual arts project that focuses on the ‘lost’ people and things
that pop up in settings other than the ones where they originated. The first part, Ghana in the Netherlands, resulted in an exhibition with
the theater company OMSK in Dordrecht, the Netherlands and in the Bourla Theatre in Antwerp, Belgium. Anatopisms was part of a larger project
entitled Lost on the Map, in which a group of independent artists collaborated in creating works on the theme of ‘losing one’s way’. During
the work period in Dordrecht, I set off with my camera, trying to make contact with the African, namely Ghanian, community there. The wax-prints
formed the main connection and source of inspiration during these meetings. During my visits with the different Ghanian communities in the Netherlands,
I photographed African people dressed in the wax-prints in a Dutch context. I also designed three colorful new prints. (For both please see attachments).
The prints show typical elements of Dutch culture: fast food containers, caravans and garbage trucks. I also photographed patterns closer to home,
such as the wall of the theater company OMSK (Lotte Van den Berg). The wall offered itself as a distinctive pattern that I reworked into an original
print to be made into a new textile pattern for the African market. In the same way that the photos give us a picture of Africa in the Netherlands,
soon signs or traces of the Netherlands, through the prints, will also be found in Africa.
Even though the first part of the project Anatopisms I: Ghana in the Netherlands is now completed, my quest for images and objects that have been
removed from their original context is still not complete. To further explore some of the aspects of the
alienation that is a result of this fast- globalizing world, it is also important for me to travel to Ghana in search of signs of Dutch displacement
The Dutch and the slave rade in Ghana. This left canon is used as a bench for decades
2) Plan: Anatopisms II: the Netherlands in Ghana
As a continuation of the project that began in the Netherlands, the goal of Anatopisms II: the Netherlands in Ghana, is to search for traces of
the Netherlands in Ghana, and to leave behind new traces in the form of my textile designs.
The location I have chosen for this research is The area between Accra/Elmina, cities in Ghana that comes very close to the geographical middle
expressed in coördinates. In the coming year, an excellent place from which to continue the search for objects and situations in which cultural
alienation plays a central role. I will focus once more on making photographs of my textile designs in a Ghanian context, as well as documenting
any current and historical traces of the Netherlands to be found there. In this way, a document will be created in which the connection more than 3
00 years old between Ghana and the Netherlands plays a central role, and in which I will also play my own part, however small that may be.
In my quest for ‘Anatopism’, Elmina becomes not only a geographical but also a social metaphor for uprootedness, alienation and the experience of
losing one’s way. I will go in search of ‘the Netherlands in Ghana’ in Elmina and in Ghana’s capital city, Accra. However, I will not restrict
myself to the historical traces of our communal history, but will be especially aware of the contemporary signs of this interconnectedness.
I will take with me the textile designs from Anatopisms I, which will continue to be, as they were in the Netherlands, the starting point for making
contact with people. I will leave the textiles behind in Ghana, so that they can start to lead a new life, allowing us to endlessly fantasize about
what might have happened to the prints covered in images of garbage trucks, recycling icons and cleaning implements. The possible situations in which the textiles are used will be photographed, and I will take these images with me back to the Netherlands, completing the process of having ‘lost my way’.
Back in the Netherlands, Anatopisms II will be presented together with Anatopisms I. With this project, my attempt is to offer a personal, contemplative
and visual reflection on both the alienation and interconnectedness that exists between these two countries. At the same time, this project also creates
a more general picture of the way in which globalization works and the impossibility of predicting the influence of its outcomes.