The morning was cold. Frosty. Almost uninviting. At Dam Square, people rushed in different directions, simultaneously attempting to preserve body heat and find warm shelter. Some of them had De Nieuwe Kerk in mind, as they stepped confidently inside to visit the winter exhibition. The names and faces of Mahatma Gandhi, Martin Luther King Jr., and Nelson Mandela in the façade of the building clue in the visitors on the theme. We Have a Dream focuses on the personal journey and defining moments of three of the most inspiring figures of the 20th century.
A Biographical Exhibition
After last year’s success of 90 Years Miss Monroe. Reflecting on a Female Icon, We Have a Dream is the second biographical exhibition staged in De Nieuwe Kerk. “We started working on biographical exhibitions two years ago. Marilyn Monroe was the first, and now we picked these three icons. We chose a topic that is more socially-related, but still has a biographical side to it,” said Martijn van Schieveen, De Nieuwe Kerk’s PR Manager.
There is another difference. Contrary to Monroe’s, We Have a Dream displays only a few historic objects. Visitors have the chance to see Mandela’s “bible”, The Complete Works of William Shakespeare, a book that he read in Robben Island and added written notes to it. There’s also the speech that King typewrote in 1962, about the abolition of slavery in America. The document has several elements in common with the famous I Have a Dream (1963) speech. Finally, the spinning wheel that Gandhi used to make his clothes, and his bicycle complete the list of personal items. As Martijn wittily put it, "We're in Amsterdam, so we should have a bike!”
We Have a Dream is essentially an audio-visual exhibition, with a generous collection of historic and film images. “You can fill up a whole museum with personal objects, like we did with Marilyn Monroe last year. We had about 300 items. For this exhibition, we wanted to tell the story not only through the objects but also through imagery, sound, lights and the combination of the three,” explained Martijn. The ultimate goal seems clear: to inspire.
Time for Reflection with A City Made By People
“Who am I? How do I want to be seen? What is my dream?” - These are some of the bold questions that decorate the reflection area. It is a special part of the exhibition, strategically placed at the centre of the three chapters that tell the stories of Gandhi, King, and Mandela. People are invited to stop, listen to their thoughts, and reflect on their lives and the lives of others. In that cold morning, we joined the visitors and captured the warmth of their beliefs, hopes, and dreams.
We Have a Dream runs until 4th of February, at De Nieuwe Kerk.
Words by Carla Vicente
Video by Jan Arsenovic
Have the stories of Gandhi, King, and Mandela inspired you to reflect on yours? Every leader, every citizen has a story. Check out Issue 1 & 2 of A City Made By People if you'd like to know ours!