Tropenmuseum

The machine says “beep”. A green light. That means I can enter the Tropenmuseum. I think I was five when I first entered here with my mom, sister, grandpa and grandma. Back then, there was no machine to tell us “beep”. There was a lady who’d rip our ticket apart with a smile, and wish us a nice time in the museum. I’m bigger now. Twenty six. Still financially dependent on my parents. With a bit more taste for art than before. Here alone.

This is one of the few places where I used to bond with my grandpa. I presume that the wide choice of interactive computer animations was not here then. I use it now to send an E-love-letter. I am very entertained. There is an exposition about death. It is called death is alive. The exposition is in a great hall, about three floors high. It is marked out by enormous black curtains. Within these curtains, objects of many cultures are laid out, all with reference to death. There are videos of people from different faiths who – when you touch the screen – tell the camera what they believe to encounter after they die. I like the Buddhist and the Islamic lady in particular. I’m very attracted to death. I dare say that it’s one of the things that inspire me most. I believe that in this life, I have traveled to death world, and that there is nothing strange or scary about that. Death has a serene intimacy about it. People’s relation to death reveals who they really are. You can not hide from death. That is why I sometimes believe that in death lies more life than in the masked theaters that casual existence can bring upon us.

“It would be a pity if all this disappeared” I hear a woman say. She refers to the choice of the government to stop subsidizing this embodied reminder of our colonial past. I picture how all these artifacts – I especially like the big, simple, earthly coloured New Guinean masks – disappear into dark cellars in Amsterdam. Or that they are sold. Maybe we should give them back to the original owners. But the lady is right. Even if it is unnatural to have so many objects from all the corners of the world gathered and exposed in one building somewhere in a rich country, this constellation gives the separate objects an added value. The collection triggers our imagination to go on a worldwide adventure for just a few hours. Without mosquito bites. Not to speak of the latent memories of so many Dutch people who have visited this place after it’s opening in the 1950′s. It’d be a pity indeed.

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