Made by Corina Karstenberg © 2015
Forward to the past: just like 10 years ago
I have just heard that the Foundation Amsterdam Gay Pride wants to remove the word Gay from its title. The argument is that a part of the extended target group of the Gay Pride does not feel comfortable with the word Gay because they do not feel the word Gay includes them (a group of lesbians, bisexuals or transgender and transsexual people close to members on the board of the Foundation).
We fast forward to the past, and the state of affairs 10 years ago, as spokesperson Irene Hemelaar explains. Ten years ago the event was called Amsterdam Pride. Amsterdam Pride to the average visitor from home and abroad, means that Amsterdammers are proud to be ‘colourful’ citizens of Amsterdam. Such an event might just as well be organized by a general steering committee headed by the Amsterdam Tourist Board and various Charities and SMEs. The final show could be with DJ Armin van Buuren; a kind of Uitmarkt; and for those who don’t know what the Uitmarkt is, this three-day event is a general celebration of the Dutch cultural scene and not an ‘out’ in the sexual sense!
The name Amsterdam Pride sounds as if the event is mainly about Amsterdam. It suggests a certain sense of pride in the place, in Amsterdam. Whereas Amsterdam Gay Pride suggests gay people who are proud and are celebrating this fact in Amsterdam. As an Australian tourist walks by sometime in the future, or ten years ago, she asks: “So, what is this parade, the Amsterdam Pride?” The tourist will think: ‘isn’t that great, they are proud, proud to be from Amsterdam, even proud to be European! Great, this must be why they organize such a huge party! I guess the local Tourist office, or the town council must have organized this event and hired in all those colorful dancers. Wow! How lucky is this, it reminds me of the time we visited Rio!’.
So pride means not to be ashamed, not to hide. According to the Amsterdam Gay Pride Foundation, there are some parts of the constituent target group that feel they cannot be proud under the symbolic umbrella ‘Gay Pride’. They would prefer to simply be referred to as proud Amsterdammers! Those who complain in this way about not feeling represented have had their battles for equality; they know what it means to be wrongly labelled. On the other hand, they also know the importance of a shared identity and showing solidarity. They are embarrassed that the term Gay that is inseparably linked to Amsterdam Gay Pride. Yet they should also acknowledge that Gay Pride symbolises, and stands for all those, whatever their sexual identity may be, who are still struggling and suffering both in the Netherlands and also, and especially, abroad, where being gay, lesbian, bisexual or transgender, carries a social stigma and is often life-threatening.
By resorting to the sectarianism debunked by Amsterdam Gay Pride Foundation, a kind of sub-division of people that was last practiced in the 1950s, this movement of dismantlement risks breaking the solidarity that still exists and is growing among all ‘otherwise sexual’ minorities. This is a solidarity which many young people in the Netherlands still need. So do the many terrified gay and transgender people abroad who hope and trust their own future will be better. They cannot afford to give up on the fight for equality, since often for them it is a matter of life or death. Those who battled in the past to establish the Amsterdam Gay Pride Foundation, battled for all of us, and often paid a high price for their freedom to ‘party’ in public. They would be most unhappy, I believe, if they saw this fragmentation from below, this going back in time to divide the group against itself, just as in the past with the gays, lesbians, bisexuals, transgender, transsexuals, gay men or gays who are religious and gays who are atheist, and so on. Gay is the best umbrella we have invented to protect and unite us all.
Since 2006, the Amsterdam Gay Pride has had both a political side and a party side. The boat parade has a great reputation abroad and is seen as the Dutch equivalent of the massive Gay Pride Parades and Marches elsewhere around the globe. The origins of the Gay Pride were organised to commemorate the Stonewall riots, when in Greenwich Village in New York city, on June 28, 1969, after years of harassment and violence from the police against the gay community, the gay men, lesbians and transvestites present in the Stonewall Pub decided that enough was enough, and moved to fight back. This rebellion marked the dividing line between a gay movement that was historically weak and humiliated, and a gay movement as it had never been seen before. In large numbers, gays, lesbians and transvestites resisted the repeated humiliations inflicted on their community by the police.
On June 28, 1970, exactly one year after the New York Stonewall riots, the first ever Gay Pride Parade took place in New York, with between 5,000 and 10,000 participants. Following that, similar initiatives started to emerge worldwide, and from ground level, with Gay Pride marches and parades emerging in Canada, France, Britain, Germany, Belgium, the Netherlands, Australia and New Zealand among others (source: http://www.nighttours.com/gaypride/). There are now over 200 Gay Pride events worldwide, from Rio to Curaçao and from Cape Town to Shanghai.
Sing if you’re Glad to be Gay
At the very least we need to ask: Is it wise to turn Amsterdam Gay Pride into plain Amsterdam Pride? As the Gay Pride movement has started to become mainstream, some seek acceptability in all kinds of ways, including by dropping the word Gay. Yet being gay, lesbian, transsexual or bisexual can end up producing an awkward acronym – LGBTT for example. For people who are not gay, lesbian, transgender or bisexual, the term Gay is historically loaded, and stands in for all the other terms that might inhabit the acronym. Just as Black is an umbrella for minority rights, so too Gay carries weight for various constituencies under that umbrella. Whether or not Amsterdam Gay Pride becomes plain Amsterdam Pride may not seem that important. However, the emancipatory value from the perspective of the outsider would be lost and Amsterdam Pride would more or less become an ordinary, all-inclusive festival, indeed just like the Carnival in Rio.
With subtitles in English, click on
These people whose bodies are washing up on these shores, – and I carefully choose my words – if they were Whites, the whole Earth should be shaking now. Instead, it’s Blacks and Arabs who are dying and their lives are cheaper.
The European Union, with its navy and war fleet can rescue the migrants in the Atlantic and the Mediterranean Sea if they want to, but they sit and wait till the migrants die. It’s as if letting them drown is used as a deterrent to prevent migrants from coming to Europe. But let me tell you something: that doesn’t deter anyone…because the individual who is migrating as a survival instinct, who believes that the life they are living isn’t worth much, he’s not afraid of death.
Sir, you guys will not remain like little goldfish in the European fortress. The current crisis tell us that much. Europe can no longer close itself as long as there are conflicts elsewhere around the world. Europe can no longer live in opulence where there are so much unmet needs around the world. We live in a global society where an Indian makes a living in Dakar, someone from Dakar makes a living in New York, and a Gabonese makes a living in Paris. Whether you like it or not, this process is irreversible.
When you are a White Canadian or an Argentine and you come to live in France, you are an expat… But if you are African, or Indian, or Afghan, and you come to France or Germany, you are in immigrant, no matter the circumstances. It is the representation that Europe does to the Other that feeds xenophobia.
And the Schengen visa that you speak of – You will let me finish!—this visa gives me the opportunity to be invited to give talks in your universities if you find my brains convenient and profitable, but it bothers you that my brother, who may not have the degrees that I have, but who may want to maybe come to Europe and work in construction, that idea makes your countries schizophrenic. You cannot divide the migrants between the useful ones and the poisonous ones.
Also, you see on the headline the flow of African migrants arriving in Europe but you don’t speak of the Europeans going in Africa. That’s the free flow of the powerful, the ones who have the money, and the right kind of passports. You go to Senegal, to Mali, to any country around the world… Anywhere I go, I meet French people, Germans, and Dutch. I see them everywhere around the world, because they have the right passport. With your passport, you go anywhere around the world, and act like you run those place, with your pretentious demeanor. Stop the hypocrisy. We will all be rich together, or perish together.
Made by Corina Karstenberg © 2015
Corina Karstenberg (1967) was born in The Netherlands, near the Belgian border in Geleen hospital . She first learned to walk and talk in Stein, a small village nearby, and then her family moved to Heerlen, a former mining town. After obtaining her first qualification as a florist, she became a qualified carpenter and upholsterer. At 20 she started to study Restoration of Wood and Polychromy in the Brussels Academy of Visual Arts.
During her five years of studies, she started to read books by Simone Beauvoir, Jean-Paul Sartre, Albert Camus, Friederich Nietzsche, Gabriel García Márquez and many others. In the meantime she studied the basics of painting at the Art Academy in Leuven under the supervision of Pol Mariën. This period was very important for her later artistic development; for her last two years in Belgium, Corina worked as restorer of ethnographic art at the Royal Museum For Central Africa in Tervuren (Brussels). She worked closely with art dealers who specialised in African Art from the famous Place du Grand Sablon.
Her experiences in Belgium in the world of African Art made Corina decide to quit her job as a restorer and she started to study at the Radboud University in Nijmegen in The Netherlands. Her aim was to better understand what had happened to the people in Africa, and how they had come to be treated as objects. The first part of her study involved Religion, covering Christianity, Islam, Judaism, Hinduism and Buddhism. After completing her bachelor, Corina continued at the Department of Arts and studied the History of Culture and Mentality (of Europe). In Swansea (Wales, 1999/2000) she wrote her final paper ’The history of the development of gender categories’. These two studies gave her renewed insights into how the world is influenced not only by Religion and the dominant Western Culture but also by binaries of gender, race and identity.
In the meantime, for nine years Corina worked as a volunteer for an anti-discrimination organisation based in her former home town of Heerlen. As a professional she also worked for the government, employed to advise and liaise around issues of sex trafficking, drug addiction, poverty, diversity and gender and sexuality. In general she feels fortunate in her life to have had the chance to look into many kitchens, and to be able to confront and imagine reality from many different points of views. This makes her feel a true citizen of the world. It was almost exactly twenty years ago that Corina painted her first portrait of a woman murdered by the Khmer Rouge in Cambodia, and gave it the telling title Potential Refugee.
Since that moment Corina became more and confident about her artwork, which she continued to develop in a natural way and according to her own particular style. Human Rights remains the core of her attachment through art and her life’s work to people all over the world, wherever there is a story to tell. In a way you can see her painting as being the work of a story teller that gives people a human face through the images she makes. In 2012 Corina’s first solo-exhibition was in Brussels, and the title: Aren’t We All Potential Refugees was a reminder of the continuity of her vision in spite of the passing of time.
You are warmly invited for the opening of the exhibition: Aren’t We All Potential Refugees ? this Sunday, October 26 at 2 pm in Amsterdam.
That day it is nine years ago that the Schipholfire has taken place, and 11 young persons died a horrible, avoidable, death.
Papa Sakho, one of the survivors is also a painter, I have asked him to show his work together with mine. We will commemorate the deceased refugees and take one minute’s silence for them.
We are looking forward to meet you.
Papa Sakho & Corina Karstenberg