My Town: A Celebration of Diversity


In summer 2012, the Amsterdam museum installed a 40 metre runner by artist Barbara Broekman. Prominently placed in the museum’s Schuttersgalerij, this carpet shows all 179 nationalities living in Amsterdam. "My Town: a Celebration of Diversity" by Barbara Broekman can be viewed and walked on free of charge, at least until autumn 2013.

In the current discourse about population diversity, differences are often simplified by the idea of US versus THEM. The debate is about The Other, here to try their luck in a new surrounding. But differences between populations are not that straightforward. Behind the idea of "them" lies a multifarious and diverse world made up of people born in countries such as Cameroon, Serbia, Congo, Bulgaria, Australia, Cambodia, Zambia, France, Switzerland or Morocco. This level of diversity has not been seen before. Up until the early seventies, the amount of nationalities was "limited" to around thirty; moreover foreigners comprised no more than four percent of the total population. This is now more than twenty percent.

Broekman tried to find a way to make the cultural variety of the capital city’s current population visible. As an artist she mainly uses textile in her work, therefore she was able to do extensive research in textiles from various countries. She came across an amazing array of clothing, carpets, flags, tablecloths and head wear. Out of each of these examples she chose one strong and distinctive detail. The main criterion was that it had to be instantly recognisable from the country of origin, for example Belgian lace, a Turkish tapestry or South African Zulu body decoration.

In the current political climate, with its emphasis on people’s differences, this is a refreshing initiative that instead emphasises the similarities between people: their resemblance, that which binds them and how they express themselves in different ways. Textile is the perfect medium to show this. Everyone wears, owns, and recognises textile. It is a form of art with no barriers, enabling all viewers to form an opinion.

The accessibility of this work of art is enhanced by its location. The Schuttersgalerij sees half a million visitors annually. This makes it the ideal location for people to discover that art is not only about the dominant culture, but about all the cultures that come together in Amsterdam.

Photos by Gert Jan van Rooij




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