From June 5, museums, country houses and theatres can open their doors to the public again. Here’s some suggestions of what to do – and don’t forget to book your ticket online.
Welcome back the Holland Festival
To start the fun in a wholesale sort of way, the annual showcase of national and international performing arts the Holland Festival will be kicking off this month, with previews of what is to come, coronavirus permitting. Opera, dance, performance, theatre, film are all represented in 23 shows in what is the Festival’s 74th edition. The aptly chosen theme this year is: what makes people human? From June 3 to June 28. Website
Shed a tear for Hansken
The only living elephant in Europe in the 17th century, Hansken, an Asian elephant was exhibited at fairs all over the continent. When she came to Amsterdam in 1637 Rembrandt drew her more than once. The Rembrandthuis has brought together drawings featuring Hansken by Rembrandt and his contemporaries and traced her exploits on the continent.
Hansken died in Italy of an infection at the young age of 26 after a hard life of travel and performing such cruel tricks as downing a vat of beer in one gulp. The Florence natural history museum has her skeleton but even now Hansken’s travels are not done yet: her skull is at the Rembrandthuis as well. From June 5 Website
Listen to the word
Het Zwarte Schaap (The Black Sheep) and the STET English theatre present two days of spoken word and poetry in English put together by performer Daniëlle Zawadi. The line up in The Hague includes Tha Ra!nx, Femke Lokhorst, Elisa Lo-A-Njoe and Tyler Koudijzer and there is an open call for people who want to show what they can do. June 12 and 13. Website
Watch the Irish playgirl
Playboy has become playgirl in a contemporary adaptation of J.M. Synge’s The Playboy of the Western World presented by the Badhuistheater in Amsterdam. The spotlight is firmly on barmaid Pegeen, the girl who falls for a stranger who comes to town claiming to have killed his father. The play caused a riot in 1907 for a number of reasons, one of which being the way ‘Irish womanhood’ was depicted (i.e. in their nighties). We can’t wait to see what Irish womanhood looks like now. Website
Take a coach ride into history
The gouden koets or golden coach, a present to the then princess Wilhelmina from a grateful nation, including the colonies, on her ascent to the throne in 1898, is on show at the Amsterdam Museum after a 5 year repair job rumoured to have cost €6m (instead of the original estimate of just over €1m).
Its checkered history is explained in the exhibition, from its infamous panels depicting colonial scenes to the ‘waxinelichtgooier’ who lobbed a candle holder at the coach in 2013 and was given 5 months for denting both the dignity of the royals and the coach. June 18 to February 27, 2022. Website
Discover the tarnished Golden Age
Much mooted and now finally open to the general public: the Rijksmuseum’s story-based slavery exhibition. The Dutch role in the slave trade, on which much of the wealth of the so-called Golden Age was based, is illustrated by the stories of those whose lives it ruined or enriched, such as Surinamese plantation slave Wally, and Oopjen Coppit, married to Marten Soolmans whose family owned a sugar refinery. Coppit and Soolmans had their portrait painted by Rembrandt while Wally died a miserable death after organising an escape.
See the stories that need to get out
The Instagram account picturing the lives of people stuck in the Moria refugee camp in Greece (now Moria2, after the camp was moved when it burned down last year) has some 30,000 followers but not much of what is happening there is filtering through to a larger public.
The Stedelijk Museum, Foam in Amsterdam and the Nederlands fotomuseum in Rotterdam will showing a selection of the photos and a series of posters based on the photos taken by the Now You See Me Moria collective. The technical imperfections – photos were often taken surreptitiously using a mobile phone- show the urgency of the stories and the need for them to get out, the museums said.
Meet Mary Magdalene
Trust the Catharijneconvent in Utrecht to come up with another sex-religion combo. After last year’s Body Language exhibition featuring vagina shaped wounds in the side of the redeemer, it is now the turn of Mary Magdalene, ‘mysterious amalgam of sexuality, sensuality and sin; a beacon of hope and a feminist icon.’
So was she or was she not married to Jesus? the museum asks slightly salaciously. From June 25 to January 9. Website
See the fat ladies, or men, of Malta
You may not be able to travel to Malta this year but you really need not go any further than Leiden to sample the culture. The archaeological museum has gone back between to the island’s mysterious prehistory showing finds from the stone temples of Malta, the oldest free standing monuments in the world.
Artefacts include three examples of ‘fat ladies’, voluptuous figures which, according to the latest theories, may be men or of neither sex. The smallest artefact, measuring 2 centimetres and dating from 3200 BC, depicts a loving embrace between two people, a demonstration, the museum shoehorns in a Covid reference, of ‘the enduring human need for contact and affection.’ Temples of Malta is on until October 31. Website
Take a sniff at the 17th century
The Mauritshuis in The Hague (open on June 5) is inviting people to dip their noses into the smells of the 17th century. By means of special smell dispensers visitors can now both look at a 17th century scene and smell it, from fetid canals to freshly laundered linen.
The exhibition of some 50 paintings, drawings and objects is built around smells, health and hygiene. Ephemeral – smells in colours is on until August 29. Website
Come to the Cobra
The Cobra Museum in Amsterdam presents 21 key works by Mexican artist Frida Kahlo from the Jacques and Natasha Gelman Collection of Mexican Art and some 30 by her husband Diego Rivera and other contemporaries. The exhibition shows their strong links with Mexican culture and the politics of the time, not forgetting the stormy relationship between the two artists. Frida Kahlo & Diego Rivera: A Love Revolution is on until September 26. Website
Walk and learn in the Veluwe
History museum De Tien Malen in Putten is near the Veluwe healthland and makes for a perfect stop on a Staatsbosbeheer walk in this beautiful part of the Netherlands. Putten boasted seven grand houses lived in by rich folk who shaped the history of the area and De Tien Malen made it the subject of an exhibition. From June 9. Website
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