“Vreemd in Eindhoven” (Strange in Eindhoven): Impressions of an Exposition

By Irene Martens

Strange? What is so strange about it?
This was a question asked by everyone who attended the opening of the exposition last Sunday, 4 September in Museum Kempenland. The blue carpet was rolled out for the invitees leading to the back of the ‘Steentjeskerk ’* on to the ‘priesterkoor’*.

On either side of this catwalk signs were placed with captions saying “strange bosses”, “strange illnesses”, “strange art” and “strange flavours”.
Once these things were very ‘strange’ but now they are as commonplace as potatoes. This, I think is at the core of the exposition; to become aware that so many things we now use in our daily life or customs we find normal now, were once brought or taken over from other cultures and countries. A very eye-opening realization!

As a backdrop to the speakers who spoke at the opening, colorful paintings of amateur international artists were exhibited. These will change on a monthly basis.

The presenter Eric Kolen from the local radio station Omroep Brabant spoke about his first experience with ‘strangers’. As a child he used to live in Boxtel and his grandmother would often point to the street from behind the window where ‘dark’ people were walking. It was strange at that time. Well, strange becomes normal, when it happens more often.

Luc Eekhout the director of the museum was proud the exposition finally became reality. At the time when the idea was initially proposed, the crisis set in and many volunteers and employees had to leave. So it is extra special that the exposition “Strange in Eindhoven” opened and on time.
He said: ‘It used to be different and it will be different’. Thankfully that won’t change. The example he gave was of a teenager who arrived at Eindhoven airport after his holiday abroad. He exclaimed: ‘Oh finally my normal food again: shoarma and pizza!’

Of course an exposition about ‘foreign’ cannot take place without ‘foreigners’ though the CLO (Centro Latinoamericano de Orientación) is not as foreign as you might think. Most members have been here for quite a while. But as I know from the experience of being a ‘foreigner’, you never really become native and the longing for your homeland stays. I got goose pimples as three ladies told me their sincere personal stories.
Georgina from Panama spoke in Dutch: ‘No more macho’s, no more corrupt authorities, no more unpaid working hours, no more dishonesty’.
She said: ’Inside I am a woman, I left behind my family, my friends, my town, my country. I followed my love. Then you try to be positive and grateful that through modern technology your home is close by.’ She made it because of her inspiring mother.
Natalia from Argentina started her talk with Máxima’s story. (As if that was all that is known about Argentina here!) She has been here in the Netherlands for ten years and has put a lot of effort in successfully adapting to her new country. But still, she doesn’t like ‘drop and pindakaas’. She also misses the easy way of communicating like the Latino’s do.

Erica from Mexico was pensive. She had just come back from a holiday in Mexico, so the feelings of melancholy were very fresh. She spoke about what she called a ghost that was following her and harassing her. Love of a Dutchman brought her to Holland. (I think Latino’s aren’t that bad looking!). The ghost asks her questions all the time: ‘what are you doing here?’ ‘Do you belong here?’ But she has made a pact: ‘I will stay with my husband until he dies’. A woman with hope, fear and expectations, she confessed: ‘Mexico is tattooed in my heart’.

On the lighter side it was a very well organized evening with a drink of sangria offered to all in the audience. Two Latin American musicians, Daniel on the guitar and Misha, a flute and panpipe player, performed several beautiful pieces from Argentina, Mexico and North Chile. For one particular song many people joined in.

When you think about it, everybody finds a bit of ‘strange’ influence in their lives. The alderman of culture in Eindhoven Mary-Ann Schreurs explained why she has an English name: ‘In the Second World War my father was stationed in Germany against his will. He often listened to the English radio illegally. That is how I got my English name when I was born. The alderman also had a job to do – hitting the piñata. I know this Latin party custom from my trek around the world. I have hit it too myself so I was happy to find it here in Eindhoven. It brought back fond memories of parties with Latin friends.

It was explained that the piñata originally probably came from China. It was brought to Italy by Marco Polo, then jumped to Spain and was used for festivities. Later it was taken to the Americas by missionaries. They introduced the religious aspect to it. It is a home-made colourful creation made from several layers of paper. It has seven tips, one for every sin. It hangs down from the ceiling at chest level. You get blindfolded as a proper Christian follows his faith blindly. Blindly you should be able to hit it with a stick (resembling your Christian faith). The piñata is hard (hitting away your sins) and it bursts open. A shower of sweets falls out and children dive onto the sweets to collect them.

Mrs Maldanado from the CLO announced that there are monthly get-togethers for Latino’s or other interested people. They organize festivals and parties, like for example the Fiesta Mexican on the 11th of September. Check their website for more info: http://www.cloeindhoven.nl/

Luc Eekhout together with Patrick Timmermans from ‘Erfgoed Brabant’ (cultural heritage Brabant) concluded that the question wasn’t so much ‘how did all these influences arrive’ but more ‘why did the people stay?’
‘Because Eindhoven is a good place to stay and to live. Here we do things together, here we create together.’ Have a look at the exposition, then you will find out for yourself that Eindhoven is a world town!

The exposition `Vreemd in Eindhoven` / ‘ Strange in Eindhoven’ is at the Museum Kempenland until 08 January 2012.
Some info in English: http://www.eindhovennews.nl/index.php?option=com_content&view=article&id=1259%3Aexposition-vreemd-in-eindhoven-strange-in-eindhoven&catid=1%3Alatest-news&Itemid=67

All the displays are explained in English.

*’Steentjeskerk’ is the nick name of the church, meaning ‘little stones church’ .
*’Priesterkoor’ is the higher part in the church in front of the people where the altar is.

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