Stories of Belonging

4 February – 27 March
Closing event: 26 March, 2:30pm

36 students from the Comenius Lyceum, along with the artists Mehraneh Atashi, Gershwin Bonevacia, Fouad Lakbir, Narges Mohammadi, Mark Nieuwenhuis and Bonnie Ogilvie have created a shared space in de Appel: Stories of Belonging.

Imagine you are in a place where you can really be yourself. You don't have to think about how to behave, what to wear or what you can or cannot do. You feel at home.

Can you take us back to a time when you really felt at home?

–Fouad Lakbir

In 2017, Amsterdam Nieuw-West became the new home of de Appel. Together with our neighbours we wanted to create a home, which we started off by listening. We leant an ear to community centres, schools, families and artists. We discussed what a home actually is, and what it means to feel at home. This dialogue made us grow, and just like a tree we grew deeper roots and stronger branches.

One such dialogue that has blossomed over the past five years is with the Comenius Lyceum in Jacob Geelstraat in Amsterdam Nieuw-West. Throughout the years, we have both learned from and strengthened each other, and developed several art projects, mainly inside the school. These projects were designed to highlight certain skills, knowledge and experiences that often remain unseen or undervalued. In collaboration with artists and through artistic processes, we learnt how to be ‘wise’ in different ways and discovered ways to grow and flourish as human beings. Within this context, young people took the space and time to choose for themselves the stories they wanted to tell.

Now is the time for Stories of Belonging to be shown to the public, at de Appel. With this exhibition, we create time and space for our neighbours’ stories that explore a collective experience of feeling at home. We tune in to our childhood memories and to music, we consider the clothes we wear and acknowledge our relationships with friends, family, the city and nature. The thirty-six pupils and the artists involved have selected existing works of art, and have also created new works for the exhibition.

The thirty-six upper secondary school students are comprised of two groups: one group from arts and crafts and another group from music class. The first group focused on imagery and objects, together with artists Bonnie Ogilvie and Mehraneh Atashi. The other group concentrated on sounds, music and stories with Gershwin Bonevacia and Mark Nieuwenhuis. Jointly, the students explored the field of tension between collective and individual experiences, and explored the possibility of a space where we can all feel 'at home'.

Public Programme

Stories of Belonging starts with and from the students. They wanted to create a place to gather with friends and family where music, images, colour, light and homely elements came together. We have created the basis for this place at de Appel. During the Stories of Belonging public programme, in alternating public and closed meetings, we build on this with six students and under the guidance of Fouad Lakbir, Narges Mohammadi and David Smeulders.

Every Saturday, students Beyda, Donovan, Hajar, Oumaima, Safae and Yahya come to de Appel to continue expanding their exhibition. Together with the artists Fouad Lakbir, Narges Mohammadi and curator David Smeulders they add new stories and create a new artwork.

Everyone is welcome on Saturday between 13:00 and 17:00 to stop by and have a look or to help think about what the new artwork could be. At the moment these students are building a sculpture to share stories. Listen, watch and tell your story. We hope you feel welcome and at home. This place is here for you, for everyone.

About the artists and curators

Mehraneh Atashi

Mehraneh Atashi is an Iranian photographer and artist. Mehraneh obtained a BFA in photography in Tehran and followed a residency at the Rijksakademie in Amsterdam. Mehraneh’s work unfolds between the time of the self and the time of the world, through the excavation of memories, archiving and documentation of the self. Mehraneh’s work has recently been displayed in London (V&A, British Museum), Amsterdam (de Appel, Framer Framed), Graz (Kunstverein), Paris (Palais de Tokyo), Los Angeles (REDCAT), Salzburgh (Kunstverein), Eindhoven (MU Art Space), Athens (State of concept), Washington, DC (The Corner), Rotterdam (Tent) and The Hague (Nest).

Gershwin Bonevacia

Gershwin Bonevacia (1992) is poet and spoken word artist. Since March 2019, he is the city poet of Amsterdam. Gershwin writes a poem in Het Parool every month and, with his characteristic way of reciting, he regularly takes part in cultural programs. His stormy rise was not without struggle due to his dyslexia, but his battle with words has made him an inventive word artist. He self-published his poetry debut ‘Ik heb een fiets gekocht’ in 2017 and single-handedly made it an underground classic by selling more than 6000 copies.

In 2020, his new collection of poems ‘Toen ik klein was, was ik niet bang’ was published by Das Mag publishing house and he has translated the children’s book ‘Zo klinkt verandering’ (Original: ‘Change sings’) by the famous American spoken word artist Amanda Gorman.

Danielle Hoogendoorn

In her work, Danielle Hoogendoorn looks back on her youth as a young girl who loved horses growing up on the property of a car company. The artist uses the fabulous creatures from the fairy tales she loves to read and takes you on one of her faraway journeys. Hoogendoorn uses her beloved animals in a banal and humorous way. They play the leading role in their own story, a story in which she further explores the relationship between humans and animals and takes a critical look at humans and their role in our current climate. Using paint, she creates a new world, one in which her subjects can live together in harmony.

Fouad Lakbir

Fouad Lakbir was born and still lives in the Kolenkitbuurt in Amsterdam-West. In 2009, De Kolenkit was voted worst neighbourhood in the Netherlands. This prompted Fouad to share his story and the stories of others. Fouad tells stories from the oral tradition, he collects stories that are not told enough and teaches people how to tell stories as well. He is co-initiator of the cultural centre MAQAM and he was one of the curators of the Jacob Geelmuseum on behalf of the Amsterdam Museum. Last but not least, he is the programmer for Verhalen uit Nieuw-West on behalf of Pakhuis de Zwijger, a monthly story series which he programmes and presents.

Narges Mohammadi

Narges Mohammadi (The Hague) is an artist, curator and DJ. She completed the BA Modern and Contemporary Art History at the University of Utrecht and completed her BA Visual Arts at the Royal Academy of Art The Hague. Her artistic practice stems from a position of in-betweenness − a so-called in-between space embedded in cultural histories. She creates works that embody long-lost memories, which she translates into installations and sculptures. She plays with scents, colours, symbols and customs from different cultural heritages. By using simple and widely accessible materials in an environment they seem to have outgrown, she brings together different experiences of ‘home’.

Mark Nieuwenhuis

Mark Nieuwenhuis plays trumpet and composes and produces different styles of music. He plays in bands, with DJs and as a solo artist. He played on countless stages at home and abroad, such as Lowlands, Concertgebouw, Extrema Outdoor, Paradiso, Oerol, Mawazine Festival (Morocco) and the Ollin Kan Festival (Mexico and Colombia). He composes for film, television and theatre, as well as autonomously for ensembles and orchestras. He collaborated with BNN, Sizzer Amsterdam, Nederlands Blazers Ensemble, Born Digital and Theatergroep Gehring en Ketelaars, among others. As a producer, he makes recordings on location and also offers mixing and mastering. He has worked with, among others, Kasba, Kapok, My Baby, Jasper Stadhouders, Lars Dietrich, Shishani and Tentempiés.

David Smeulders

David Smeulders is the Education Curator of de Appel since 2017. He is interested in how people learn, what knowledge is and what people value. In his practice, Smeulders focuses on centralizing skills, knowledge and experiences, which are often invisible or undervalued in our existing education systems. By initiating joyful, collective and artistic processes together with artists, and by listening carefully, these learning processes take shape. Here, the body, sound, music, movement, clothing and the local environment play a central role. The education programs that Smeulders develops are a constant search for ways to stimulate people to create their own learning processes, because everyone can decide for themselves how and what to learn, remember and pass on. From 2011 to 2017, Smeulders worked for Manifesta, the European Biennale for Contemporary Art where he developed various education programmes in Belgium, Russia and Switzerland to bring local communities together.

Bonnie Ogilvie

Bonnie Ogilvie has been interested in textiles and the link between textiles and sociality for years. She was born in a Dutch-Scottish home and from the start of her fashion studies, her attention was partly focused on Tartan. By tradition in Scotland, this weave is strongly associated with family, and has a great importance in family ties and group portraits. In her work, Ogilvie applies a broader interpretation of the concept ‘family’ and explores human connection with certain subgroups where identification is based on fashion, art, music and textiles. Bonnie finds a translation of these connections in a social fabric that gives meaning to the concept of identity. For her, the Scottish tartan plays a crucial role in these concepts because of the different lines that intersect, each conveying a different meaning.

Stories of Belonging was made by:

Students: Adnane, Angel, Arij, Betül, Beyda, Disha, Donovan, Fatmanur, Feriha, Haifae, Hajar, Hiba, Ibtissam, Imane B., Imane e.J., Inass, Irem, Ishana, Kaouthar, Kevser, Khail, Maryam, Melda, Menna, Mimoune, Miraç, Nada, Oumaima, Rishi, Safae, Samira, Shivan, Yahya, Yousra, Zamzam, Zeynep.

Artists: Mehraneh Atashi, Gershwin Bonevacia, Fouad Lakbir, Narges Mohammadi, Mark Nieuwenhuis and Bonnie Ogilvie

Stories of Belonging is curated by Fouad Lakbir, David Smeulders (de Appel's Curator of Education), music teacher Florean Kruijswijk Jansen and handicrafts teacher Roy Ruiters, with a contribution from artist Daniëlle Hoogendoorn.