Mijn hersenspinsels en gedachtekronkels

Exhibition I.M. Ziad Haider- زياد حيدر

Ziad met laatste werk

IM Ziad Haider

Gallery Out in the Field

Warmondstraat 197, Amsterdam

27/5- 27/6/2018

زياد حيدر

Here the Original Dutch version

The abstract works of Ziad Haider (1954, Al-Amara, Iraq-2006 Amsterdam, the Netherlands) can be interpreted as deep reflections on his own turbulent biography, but always indirect, on a highly sublimized level. Born in Iraq and lived through a period of war and imprisonment, and after he found his destiny in the Netherlands, he left an impressive oeuvre.

Ziad Haider studied in the first half of the seventies at the Baghdad Institute of Fine Arts. In the two decades before a flourishing local and original Iraqi art scene was created. From the fifties till the seventies Iraq was one of the leading countries in the Arab world in the field of modern art and culture. Artists like Jewad Selim, Shakir Hassan al-Said and Mahmud Sabri shaped their own version of international modernism. Although these artists were educated abroad (mainly in Europe), after returned to Iraq they founded an art movement which was both rooted in the local traditions of Iraq as fully connected with the international developments in modernist art. They created a strong and steady basis for an Iraqi modern art, unless how much the Iraqi modern art movement would suffer from during the following decades of oppression, war and occupation, so much that it mainly would find its destiny in exile.

The turning-point came during the time Ziad Haider was studying at the academy. Artists who were a member of the ruling Ba’th party- or willing to become one- were promised an even international career with many possibilities to exhibit, as long as they were willing to express their loyalty to the regime, or even sometimes participate in propaganda-projects, like monuments, or portraits and statues of Saddam Husayn. Ziad Haider, who never joined the Ba’th party, was sent into the army.

In 1980 the Iraqi regime launched the long and destructive war with Iran. Many young Iraqis were sent into the army to fight at the frontline. This also happened to Ziad Haider. The Iraq/Iran war was a destructive trench war in which finally one million Iraqis (and also one million Iranians) died. The years of war meant a long interruption in Ziad Haider’s career and live as an artist. It turned out much more dramatic for him, when he was back in Baghdad for a short period at home. He was arrested after he peed on a portrait of Saddam Husayn. Ziad Haider was sent to Abu Ghraib Prison, where he stayed for five years (1986-1990) probably the darkest period of his life. After his time in prison he was sent away to the front again, this time in a new war: the occupation of Kuwait and the following American attack on Iraq.

Ziad 2018 2.jpg


After the Intifada of 1991, the massive uprising against the Iraqi regime in the aftermath of the Gulf War, which was violently supressed, Ziad Haider fled Iraq, like many others. After a period of five years in Syria and Jordan he was recognized by the UN as a refugee and was invited to live in the Netherlands, which became his new homeland. With a few paintings and drawings, he arrived 1997 in Amersfoort. After Amersfoort he lived for short a while in Almere and finally in Amsterdam. In first instance it was not simple to start all over again as an artist in his new country. Beside he worked further in his personal style he started to draw portraits in the streets of Amsterdam (the Leidse Plein and the Rembrandtplein). Later he organised, together with the Dutch artist Paula Vermeulen he met during this time and became his partner, several courses in drawing and painting in their common studio. Ziad Haider was very productive in this period and created many different works in different styles. Giving courses in figurative drawing and painting and drawing portraits was for him very important. As he told in a Dutch television documentary on five Iraqi artists in the Netherlands (2004, see here) these activities and the positive interaction with people were for him the best tools to “drive away his nightmares”.

Ziad 2018 1.jpg

In his abstract works, always the main part of his artistic production, he sought the confrontation with the demons from the past. Although abstract there are often some recognisable elements, which are returning in several works during the years. A returning motive is the representation of his feet. This refers to several events from his own life. As a soldier Ziad had to march for days. When he was released from prison, together with some other prisoners, he was the only one who, although heavily tortured on his feet, who was able to stand up and walk. And his feet brought him further, on his long journey into exile, till he finally found a safe place to live and work.

Ziad 2018 3.jpg

The motive of his bare feet is not the only figurative element in his work. In many of his paintings and drawings there are some more or less anthropomorphic elements, often molten together with structures with the appearance of liquid metal. The theme of man and machine plays an important role in the expressive works of Ziad. Of course this is close connected to his own biography and history of war and imprisonment.

In some of his works one can vividly experience a sense of a claustrophobic space, referring to his time spending in the trenches during the war, the interior of the tank and- later- the prison-cell. But all these experiences went through a process of transformation, of abstraction and translated in the language of art. And this art is, unless the underlying struggle, very lyrical in its expression.

Ziad 2018 4.jpg

The also in the Netherlands living Iraqi journalist, poet and critic Karim al-Najar wrote about Ziad Haider: “For a very long time the artist, Ziad Haider, has been living in solitude, prison and rebellion. On this basis, the foregoing works constitute his open protest against the decline, triviality and prominence of half-witted personalities as well as their accession of the authority of art and culture in Iraq for more than two decades. Here we could touch the fruits of the artist’s liberty and its reflection on his works. For Ziad Haider has been able to achieve works showing his artistic talent and high professionalism within a relatively short time. We see him at the present time liberated from his dark, heavy nightmares rapidly into their embodiment through colour and musical symmetry with the different situations. It indeed counts as a visual and aesthetic view of the drama of life as well as man’s permanent question, away from directness, conventionality and false slogans”.

Although he opposed another American war against Iraq, with an uncertain outcome for its people, the end of the Ba’athist regime made it possible to visit his home country after many years of exile. In the autumn of 2003 he visited Iraq for the first time since his long absence in exile. His visit to iraq made a great impression and also influenced his work after. In the last series of paintings he made his use of colours changed dramatically. The explosive use of intense shades of red were replaced for a use of sober browns and greys. The dynamic compositions were changed in regular constructed forms. Also these works, from his last series, are represented on this exhibition.

Ziad meant a lot for many, as an artist, but also as a human being and a friend. Within the community of exiled Iraqi artists in the Netherlands he played a very important role. In 2004 he initiated the Iraqi cultural manifestation in Amsterdam, with the title “I cross the Arch of Darkness”, a quote from a poem by his friend, the also in the Netherlands living Iraqi poet Salah Hassan ( ﺃﻋﺒﺭﻗﻮﺲ ﻟﻟﻆﻻﻢ  ﺃﻮﻤﻰﻋ ﻟﻟﻧﻬﺎﺭ ﺑﻌﻛﺎﺰﻱ  ,  from his collected poems, published under the title “A rebel with a broken compass”, 1997). In this festival visual artists, poets, musicians and actors came together to show the variety and richness of the Iraqi cultual life in exile to a Dutch audience.

During the years Ziad and Paula lived at the Rozengracht in the old centre of Amsterdam, there home was a regular meetingpoint of many exiled Iraqi artists, poets, writers, musicians, actors, journalists and intellectuals. Many will cherish their sweet memories of the sometimes notorious gatherings till deep in the night. His sudden death in 2006 was a great loss for many of us.

The works of Ziad are still here and they deserve to be exhibited (now his second exhibition after he passed away). With this exhibition we celebrate Ziad Haider what he meant as an artist and as a human being.

Floris Schreve

Amsterdam, 2018

Gallery Out in the Field

On this blog (mainly in Dutch):

Tentoonstelling Ziad Haider (Diversity and Art)

Iraakse kunstenaars in ballingschap

Modern and contemporary art of the Middle East and North Africa (English)

See also this In Memoriam of Ziad’s friend, the artcritic  Amer Fatuhi

The opening:


Exhibition of Mahmoud Sabri in London (25th June – 6th July, La Galleria Pall Mall)

محمود صبري


Mahmoud Sabri (1927-2012)

This summer (25th June – 6th July) a very unique and special exhibition will be held in London: ‘Mahmoud Sabri; a retrospective’. Mahmoud Sabri (1927-2012) was one of the leading artists of Iraq, for many one of ‘the big three’ who were crucial for the Iraqi modern art movement, as mentioned by the Iraqi artist Ali Assaf (Rome), in the introduction of ‘Acqua Ferita’ (‘Wounded Water’), the catalogue of the Iraqi Pavilion at the Venice Biennial of 2011 (see also here on this blog). Unless the other two, Jewad Selim and Shakir Hassan al-Said (also discussed a few times on this blog, like here) the role of Mahmoud Sabri seems almost being erased from history. In most literature he isn’t even mentioned, or at least as a footnote, without showing one of his works. Also for me it was not easy to find a proper reproduction of one of his works, till around 2010, when his daughter Yasmin Sabri (working as a computer scientist based in London) launched a website with many of his works and writings.

The main reason that Sabri seems to be forgotten is that he was a dissident of the regime of the Ba’thparty from the very first moment. When the Ba’thists for the first time came to power, in 1963 , Sabri wrote a manifesto in which he stipulated the fascist nature of the new regime. Immediately after he went into exile. For decades he lived in Prague, during the years of the Cold War, so out of sight of Western critics and exhibition-makers, who started gradually to pay some interest in the modern art of the Middle East. Also later he became for many too much an outsider or exile, to be discussed in the history of the modern art movement of Iraq or the Middle East in general. Although he lived the last decade of his live in London, where many initiatives took place in the field of contemporary art of the Middle East, both in literature as in several exhibitions, his importance for the Iraqi modern art and contemporary art wasn’t really recognised.

He was never forgotten by many Iraqi artists. Very often I heard, when I was interviewing the Iraqi artists in exile here in the Netherlands, that Sabri was one of the greatest pioneers and an important key-figure, in pushing the Iraqi modern art forward. Many of them consider Sabri as a symbolic teacher and a source of inspiration. For example, when in 2000 thirty Iraqi artists, based in the Netherlands, came together to held a group exhibition in The Hague, they dedicated this initiative to Mahmoud Sabri.

For me it is a great pleasure to announce this wonderful initiative by Yasmin Sabri and Lamice el-Amari, professor theatre studies based in Berlin. Later this month I will visit this exhibition myself and will write an extensive article on Mahmoud Sabri, in which I also will discuss this exhibition.

From http://www.lagalleria.org/section697199.html:


Mahmoud Sabri, 97 percent Human

Mahmoud Sabri

Mahmoud Sabri – A Retrospective

An exhibition of the pioneering Iraqi artist Mahmoud Sabri
25th June – 6th July

The exhibition features the work of the pioneering Iraqi artist Mahmoud Sabri (1927 – 2012) and takes us through his lifetime journey, from his early work that reflected the suffering of the Iraqi people to his pursuit of a new form of art that represented the atomic level of reality revealed by modern science which he termed “Quantum Realism”.
At the age of forty, Sabri started working on the relationship between art and science, and its link to social development. In 1971 he published his Manifesto of the New Art of Quantum Realism (QR). QR is the application of the scientific method in the field of art and graphically represents the complex processes in nature. In his words, “Art is now the last area of human activity to which the scientific method is still not applied”.
His Quantum Realism collection is displayed for the first time in the UK. The exhibition presents a unique opportunity to see a comprehensive collection of Sabri’s work spanning over 4 decades.
Mahmoud Sabri was born in Baghdad in 1927, he studied social sciences at Loughborough University in the late forties. While in England, his interest in painting developed and he attended evening art classes. Following university, he worked in banking and at the early age of 32 he became the deputy head of the largest national bank in Iraq, the Al-Rafidain Bank. He resigned from the bank to take the responsibility for establishing the first Exhibitions Department in Iraq and to set up the first international exhibition in Baghdad in 1960. Following that, he decided to focus on painting, resigned from his job and went to study art academically at the Surikov Institute for Art in Moscow 1961-1963. After the Baathist coup d’état in Iraq (1963), he moved to Prague to join the Committee for the Defence of the Iraqi People. His paintings during that period reflected the suffering of the Iraqi people under that regime. From the late 60s he started working on Quantum Realism and continued to develop it until his death in April 2012 in the UK.
Mahmoud Sabri was a member of the Iraqi Avant-garde artists group. He was a founder member of the Society of Iraqi Artists. He had several publications on art, philosophy and politics (in Arabic and English). He lived most of his life in exile. (More info on QR on www.quantumrealism.co.uk )

29th June, 14:00 – 15:30: Artist Satta Hashem will give a lecture and a guided tour of Sabri’s work
3rd July, 18.00 – 20.00: Symposium – Mahmoud Sabri and art in Iraq. Includes a panel discussion and documentary films

The exhibition is open 25th June – 6th July, 2013
Mon -Saturday: 11:00 – 19:00
Sunday 30th Jun: 12:00 – 18:00
Saturday 6th Jul: 11:00 – 17:00


La Galleria Pall Mall
30, Royal Opera Arcade
London SW1Y4UY


Mahmoud Sabri, extract from ‘Watani’ (My Country), 1960’s


Mahmoud Sabri, ‘Mother’


Mahmoud Sabri, Hydrogyn Atom (1990’s)


Mahmoud Sabri, Air- 2


Mahmoud Sabri, Water, Salt and Vinegar

More is coming after I visited the exhibition myself. See for more information: http://www.lagalleria.org/section697199.html

More on Mahmoud Sabri: www.quantumrealism.co.uk

Update (2-7-2013): An impression of the exhibition (more details will follow later)



Mahumoud Sabri, The Hero, oil on canvas, 1963






photos by Floris Schreve

My Beautiful Enemy; Farhad Foroutanian & Qassim Alsaedy (exhibition Diversity & Art, Amsterdam)

Flyer/handout exhibition (pdf)

قاسم الساعدي و فرهاد فروتنیان

Qassim en Farhad

Farhad Foroutanian and Qassim Alsaedy (photo: Nasrin Ghasemzade)

My Beautiful Enemy  –  دشمن زیبای من  –  عدوي الجميل

Farhad Foroutanian &  Qassim Alsaedy

Mesopotamia and Persia, Iraq and Iran. Two civilizations, two fertile counties in an arid environment. The historical Garden of Eden and the basis of civilization in the ancient world. But also the area were many wars were fought, from the antiquity to the present.The recent war between Iraq and Iran (1980-1988) left deep traces in the lives and the works of the artists

The artists Qassim Alsaedy (Iraq) and Farhad Foroutanian (Iran) both lived through the last gruesome conflict. Both artists, now living in exile in the Netherlands, took the initiative for this exhibition to reflect on this dark historical event, which marked the recent history of their homelands and their personal lives. Neither Farhad nor Qassim ever chose being eachother’s enemies. To the contrary, these two artists make a statement with ‘My Beautiful Enemy’ to confirm their friendship.

Farhad 1

 Farhad Foroutanian, Untitled, acrylic on canvas, 2013

Farhad Foroutanian

Farhad Foroutanian (Teheran 1957) studied one and a half year at the theatre academy, before he went to the art academy of Teheran in 1975. At that time the Iranian capital was famous for its hybrid and international oriented art scene. Artists worked in many styles, from pop-art till the traditional miniature painting, a tradition of more than thousand years,  in which  Foroutanian was trained.

After his education Foroutanian found a job as a political cartoonist at a newspaper. During that time, in 1978, the revolution came, which overthrew the regime of the Pahlavi Shah Dynasty. For many Iranian intellectuals and also for Foroutanian in the beginning the revolution came as a liberation. The censorship of the Shah was dismissed and the revolution created a lot of energy and creativity. A lot of new newspapers were founded. But this outburst of new found freedom didn’t last for long; in the middle of 1979 it became clear that the returned Ayatollah Khomeiny became the new ruler and founded the new Islamic Republic. Censorship returned on a large and villain scale and, in case of the cartoonists, it became clear that they could work as long as they declared their loyalty to the message and the new ideology of the Islamic Republic.

Farhad 2

 Farhad Foroutanian, Untitled, acrylic on canvas, 2013

The artistic climate became more and more restrictive. In the mid eighties Foroutanian fled his homeland. In 1986 he arrived with his family in the Netherlands.  Since that time Foroutanian manifested himself in several ways, as an independent artist, as a cartoonist and as actor/ theatre maker (most of the time together with his wife, the actress Nasrin Ghasemzade Khoramabadi).

Farhad 3

 Farhad Foroutanian, Untitled, acrylic on canvas, 2013

In his mostly small scaled paintings and drawings Foroutanian shows often a lonely figure of a man, often just a silhouette or a shadow, who tries to deal with an alienating or even surrealistic environment. This melancholical  figure, sometimes represented as a motionless observer, sometimes involved in actions which are obviously useless or failing, represents  the loneliness of the existence of an exile. Foroutanian:

“If you live in exile you can feel at home anywhere.  The situation and location in which an artist is operating, determines his way of looking at theworld. If he feels himself at home nowhere,  becomes what the artist produces is very bizarre.

The artist in exile is always looking for the lost identity. How can you find yourself in this strange situation? That is what the artist in exile constantly has to deal with. You can think very rationally and assume that the whole world is your home, but your roots- where you grew up and where you originally belong-are so important.It defines who you are and how you will develop. If the circumstances dictates that you can’t visit the place where your origins are, that has serious consequences. You miss it. You are uncertain if you have ever the chance to see this place again. The only option you have is to create your own world, to fantasize about it. But you can’t lose yourself in this process. You need to keep a connection with the reality, with the here and now.  Unfortunately this is very difficult and for some even something impossible. You live in another dimension. You see things different than others ”.

Farhad 4

 Farhad Foroutanian, Untitled, acrylic on canvas, 2013

In his works the lonely figures are often represented with a suitcase. Foroutanian:

“A case with everything you own in it. Miscellaneous pieces of yourself are packed. And the case is never opened. You carry it from one to another place. And sometimes you open the trunk a little and do something new. But you never open the suitcase completely and you never unpack everything. That’sexile”.

Foroutanian emphasizes that his political drawings were for him personally his anker that prevented him to drift off from reality. The concept of exile is the most important theme in Foroutanian’s work, in his paintings, drawings, but also in his theatre work, like Babel (2007) or  No-one’s Land (Niemandsland, 2010). In all his expressions  the lonely figure is not far away, just  accompanied with his closed suitcase and often long shadow.

Farhad 5

 Farhad Foroutanian, Untitled, acrylic on canvas, 2013

Foroutanian participated in several exhibitions, in the Netherlands and abroad. He also worked  as a cartoonist for some Dutch magazines and newspapers, like Vrij Nederland, Het Algemeen Dagblad and Het Rotterdams Dagblad. Like Qassim Alsaedy he exhibited at an earlier occasion in D&A.

The quotes of Foroutanian are English translations of an interview with the artist in Dutch, by Floor Hageman, on the occasion of a performance of Bertold Brecht’s ‘Der gute Mensch von Sezuan’ (‘ The Good Person of Szechwan’), Toneelgroep de Appel, The Hague, see http://www.toneelgroepdeappel.nl/voorstelling/153/page/1952/Interview_met_Iraanse_cartoonist_Farhad_Foroutanian

Qassim 1

Qassim Alsaedy, untitled, oil on canvas,  2009

Qassim Alsaedy

Qassim Alsaedy (Baghdad 1949) studied at the Academy of Fine Arts in Baghdad during the seventies. One of his teachers was Shakir Hassan al-Said, one of the leading artists of Iraq and perhaps one of the most influential artists of the Arab and even Muslim world of twentieth century. During his student years in the seventies Alsaedy came in conflict with the regime of the Ba’th party. He was arrested and spent nine months in the notorious al-Qasr an-Nihayyah, the Palace of the End, the precursor of the Abu Ghraib prison.

After that time it was extremely difficult for Alsaedy to settle himself as an artist in Iraq. Alsaedy: “Artists who didn’t join the party and worked for the regime had to find their own way”. For Alsaedy it meant he had to go in exile. He lived alternately in Lebanon and in the eighties in Iraqi Kurdistan, where he lived with the Peshmerga (Kurdish rebels). When the regime in Baghdad launched operation ‘Anfal’ , the infamous genocidal campaign against the Kurds, Alsaedy went to Libya, where he was a lecturer at the art academy of Tripoli for seven years. Finally he came to the Netherlands in the mid nineties.

Qassim 2

Qassim Alsaedy, untitled, mixed media, 2012/2013

The work of Alsaedy is deeply rooted in the tradition of the Iraqi art of the twentieth century, although of course he is also influenced by his new homeland. The most significant aspect of Alsaedy’s work is his use of abstract signs, almost a kind of inscriptions he engraves in the layers of oil paint in his works. Alsaedy:

“In my home country it is sometimes very windy. When the wind blows the air is filled with dust. Sometimes it can be very dusty you can see nothing. Factually this is the dust of Babylon, Ninive, Assur, the first civilisations. This is the dust you breath, you have it on your body, your clothes, it is in your memory, blood, it is everywhere, because the Iraqi civilisations had been made of clay. We are a country of rivers, not of stones. The dust you breath it belongs to something. It belongs to houses, to people or to some texts. I feel it in this way; the ancient civilisations didn’t end. The clay is an important condition of making life. It is used by people and then it becomes dust, which falls in the water, to change again in thick clay. There is a permanent circle of water, clay, dust, etc. It is how life is going on and on. I have these elements in me. I use them not because I am homesick, or to cry for my beloved country. No it is more than this. I feel the place and I feel the meaning of the place. I feel the voices and the spirits in those dust, clay, walls and air. In this atmosphere I can find a lot of elements which I can reuse or recycle. You can find these things in my work; some letters, some shadows, some voices or some traces of people. On every wall you can find traces. The wall is always a sign of human life”.

Qassim 3

Qassim Alsaedy, untitled, mixed media, 2012/2013

The notion of a sign of a wall which symbolizes human life is something Alseady experienced during his time in prison. In his cell he could see the marks carved by other prisoners in the walls as a sign of life and hope.

Later, in Kurdistan, Alsaedy saw the burned landscapes after the bombardments of the Iraqi army. Alsaedy:

“ Huge fields became totally black. The houses, trees, grass, everything was black. But look, when you see the burned grass, late in the season, you could see some little green points, because the life and the beauty is stronger than the evilness. The life was coming through. So you saw black, but there was some green coming up. For example I show you this painting which is extremely black, but it is to deep in my heart. Maybe you can see it hardly but when you look very sensitive you see some little traces of life. You see the life is still there. It shines through the blackness. The life is coming back”.

Qassim 4

Qassim Alsaedy, untitled, mixed media, 2012/2013

Another important element in Alsaedy’s mixed media objects is his use of rusted nails or empty gun cartridges. For Alsaedy the nails and the cartridges symbolize the pain, the human suffering and the ugliness of war. But also these elements will rust away and leave just an empty trace of their presence. Life will going on and the sufferings of the war will be once a part of history.

His ceramic objects creates Alsaedy together with the artist Brigitte Reuter. Reuter creates the basic form, while Alsaedy brings on the marks and the first colors. Together they finish the process by baking and glazing the objects.

Qassim 5

Qassim Alsaedy, untitled, mixed media, 2012/2013

Since Alsaedy came to the Netherlands he participated in many exhibitions, both solo and group. His most important were his exhibition at the Flehite Museum Amersfoort (2006) and Museum Gouda (2012). He regularly exhibits in the Gallery of Frank Welkenhuysen in Utrecht.

Floris Schreve, Amsterdam, 2013

My Beautiful enemy

28 April- 26 May 2013

O P E N I N G op zondag 28 april om 16.00uur – deur open om 15.00 uur
door Emiel Barendsen – Programma Director Tropentheater

logo Diversity & Art


Diversity & Art | Sint Nicolaasstraat 21 | 1012 NJ Amsterdam | open: do 13.00 – 19.00 | vr t/m za 13.00 – 17.00

عدوي الجميل

قاسم الساعدي وفرهاد فوروتونيان

يسرنا دعوتكم لحضور افتتاح المعرض المشترك للفنانين قاسم الساعدي ( العراق) وفرهاد فوروتونيان ( ايران ) , الساعة الرابعة من بعد ظهر يوم الاحد الثامن والعشرين من نيسان- ابريل 2013

وذلك على فضاء كاليري دي اند أ

الذي يقع على مبعدة مسيرة عشرة دقائق من محطة قطار امستردام المركزية , خلف القصر الملكي

تفتتح الصالة بتمام الساعة الثالثة

Een kleine impressie van de tentoonstelling (foto’s Floris Schreve):


tentoonstelling 2

tentoonstelling 3






tentoonstelling 10

tentoonstelling 7

tentoonstelling 6


Opening 2

Emiel Barendsen (foto Floris Schreve)

Dames en heren, goedemiddag,

Toen Herman Divendal mij benaderde met het verzoek een openingswoord tot u te richten ter gelegenheid van de duo expositie van Qassim Alsaedy en Farhad Foroutanian moest ik een moment stilstaan. Immers, ik ben de man die ruim 35 jaar werkzaam is in de podiumkunsten. Weliswaar altijd de niet-westerse podiumkunsten maar toch…podiumkunsten. Herman vertelde mij toen dat hij graag dit soort gelegenheden te baat neemt om anderen dan de usual suspects hun licht te laten schijnen op de tentoongestelde werken. Mooie gedachte die ik met hem deel.
Als Hoofd Programmering en interim directeur van het helaas opgeheven Tropentheater was ik in de gelegenheid om veel te reizen op zoek naar nieuwe artiesten en producties die wij belangrijk en interessant vonden om aan het Nederlandse publiek voor te stellen. In die queste ben je op zoek naar elementen die aan dat specifieke raamwerk appelleren: nieuwsgierigheid, avontuurlijkheid, vakmanschap en ambachtelijkheid, authenticiteit en identiteit maar bovenal de eigen signatuur van de makers.
Beide kunstenaars hier vertegenwoordigd vertellen ons mede op zoek te zijn naar identiteit, beide zijn gevlucht uit hun moederland , beide delen een gezamenlijk bestaan; een gedwongen toekomst. En identiteit is verworden tot een lastig te hanteren begrip in de Nederlandse samenleving anno nu. Sinds de opkomst van populistische partijen hebben wij de mondvol over dé Nederlandse cultuur en identiteit ; maar waar bestaat die in vredesnaam uit. Ik heb er de canon van Nederland nog een op nageslagen en als je het hebt over kunst en cultuur frappeert de constatering dat het juist de externe influx is geweest – en nog immer is – die ons Nederlands DNA bepaalt. Aan de vooravond van een Koningswisseling constateren we dat na de Duits-Oostenrijkse, Engelse, Franse en Spaanse adel de elite van de nieuwe wereld hun opwachting maakt in de Nederlandse monarchie. De ultieme uiting van globalisering. Argentinië nota bene een land opgebouwd uit door conquistadores verkrachte indianen aangevuld met voor armoe gevluchte Sicilianen, Ashkenazische joden, Duitse boeren , Britse gelukzoekers en nazaten van de Westafrikaanse slaven die – behalve hun ritme – de Rio de la Plata niet mochten oversteken, levert de nieuwe Koningin. Wat is onze Nederlandse identiteit eigenlijk als onze kunsthistorische canon vooral gebouwd is op het –wellicht door pragmatisme ingegeven- asiel dat wij boden aan gevluchte kunstenaars: geen Gouden Eeuw zonder Vlamingen, Hugenoten, Sefardische Joden of Armeniers. ‘Onze’ succesvolste nog levende beeldend kunstenares, Marlene Duma, is van Zuid Afrikaanse oorsprong.
Vanuit mijn vakgebied huldig ik het principe dat men tradities moet begrijpen om het hedendaagse te kunnen duiden. Dit geldt niet alleen voor de podiumkunsten maar in mijn optiek ook voor de beeldende kunst. Traditie als conditio sine qua non voor modernisering.
Over de grenzen kijken betekent vooral eerst jezelf leren kennen; wat vind ik mooi, interessant en vooral waarom? Wat zijn die verhalen die je observeert en hoort en in welke culturele context moet ik die plaatsten?
Je laten leiden door je eigen nieuwsgierigheid levert een grote geestelijke verrijking op.
‘My beautiful enemy’ is de titel van deze expositie en verwijst naar het Irak – Iran conflict uit de jaren tachtig van vorige eeuw. Twee buurlanden gebouwd op de civilisaties en dynastieën die de bakermat van onze beschaving vormen. Een gebied dat een lange geschiedenis van conflicten kent maar waar de culturele overeenkomsten groter blijken te zijn dan de verschillen. In samenlevingen waarin de kunstenaar de mond gesnoerd wordt en waar kritische noten niet meer gehoord mogen worden rest vaak maar één pijnlijke optie: ballingschap. Huis en haard worden verlaten om elders in de wereld een nieuw bestaan op te bouwen. Dit proces is voor iedere balling moeilijk en eenzaam; de geschiedenis verankerd in je geheugen is de basis waar je op terugvalt. Mijmeringen over kleuren, geuren, geluiden en smaken van je geboortegrond bijeengehouden door verhalen.
En dat zie je terug in de hier tentoongestelde werken: als ik de werken van Qassim Alsaedy observeer dan herken ik de vakman die in een beeldende taal abstracte verhalen vertelt die een appèl doen op zijn geboortegrond. Als ik mijn ogen luik verbeeld ik mij het landschap te ruiken en hoor ik bij het ene werk de zanger Kazem al Saher op de achtergrond en bij het andere poëtische werk de oud-speler Munir Bachir zachtjes tokkelen.
Farhad Foroutanian gebruikt een ander idioom en zijn stijl verraadt zijn achtergrond als cartoonist. In ogenschijnlijk een paar klare lijnen zet hij zijn figuren neer in een welhaast surreëel decorum. De man met de koffers doet mij terugdenken aan mijn eigen jeugd die ik doorbracht in Zuid-Amerika. Toen aan de vooravond van de gruwelijke Pinochet-coup in Chili de dreiging alsmaar toenam zetten mijn ouder twee koffers klaar waarin de meest noodzakelijke spullen zaten om eventueel te moeten vluchten. Paspoorten en baar geld, kleding en toiletartikelen. Wij moesten niet vluchten, gelukkig, maar werden wel verzocht het land te verlaten. Onze nieuwe bestemming werd het door een burgeroorlog geteisterde Colombia en hoewel dat geweld voornamelijk in de jungle ver van de grote steden plaatsvond waren er momenten dat dat geweld angstig dichtbij kwam. En weer stonden die twee koffers onder handbereik.
Zo blijkt dat deze werken prikkelen en vragen stellen. Het is aan het individu echter om daar invulling aan te geven . Daarover te praten met anderen levert vanzelf weer nieuwe verhalen op.
In een tijd waarin de overheid net doet of diversiteit niet meer van deze tijd is en moedwillig aanstuurt op ondubbelzinnige eenvormigheid ben ik blij dat er nog een plek in Amsterdam is waar men deze prachtige kunst kan aanschouwen.
Ik besluit met het motto “tegenwind is wat de vlieger doet stijgen” en wens Qassim en Farhad alle goeds toe. En u als publiek veel kijkgenot.

Dank u.
Emiel Barendsen


Farhad Foroutanian en Qassim Alsaedy (foto Floris Schreve)


In Front (left): Qassim Alsaedy, the Dutch/Iraqi Kurdish writer Ibrahim Selman and the actress Nasrin Ghasemzade (the wife of Farhad Foroutanian)

opening 4

Bart Top, Farhad Foroutanian and Ishan Mohiddin

opening 5

The Iraqi Kudish artists Hoshyar Rasheed and Aras Kareem (who exhibited in D&A before, see here and here), Ishan Mohiddin and Jwana Omer (the wife of Aras Kareem)

De Volkskrant (vrijdag 3 mei 2013):


Lecture: A history of Iraqi modern art and Iraqi artists in the Diaspora, on the occasion of the exhibition ‘Distant Dreams; the other face of Iraq’, Kunstliefde (Utrecht)


Handout of my lecture on Iraqi modern art and Iraqi artists in the Diaspora, Kunstliefde, Utrecht, The Netherlands, 24 February 2012, on the occasion of the exhibition Distant Dreams;  five Iraqi artists in the Netherlands (Baldin Ahmad, Qassim Alsaedy, Salam Djaaz, Awni Sami and Araz Talib), with the addition of some of the visual material (click on the pictures to enlarge)

Introduction on the history and geography of Iraq

Origins and development of the Iraqi modern art (from 1950)



Jewad Selim              Faeq Hassan               Shakir Hassan al-Said



Mahmud Sabri             Dhia Azzawi                Rafa al-Nasiri   


Mohammed Mohreddin          Hanaa Mal-Allah

Art and mass-propaganda under the rule of the Ba’th Party


Al-Nasb al-Shaheed (‘The Martyr’s Monument’, by Ismael Fattah al-Turk)

Bab al-Nasr ( ‘Victory Arch’,  designed by Saddam Husayn and executed by Khalid al-Rahal and Mohammed Ghani Hikmet)


Statues and portraits of Saddam Husayn and Michel Aflaq (founder of the Ba’thparty)



Iraqi artists in the Diaspora

The Netherlands:


 Baldin Ahmad            Aras Kareem           Hoshyar Rasheed


Araz Talib             Awni Sami          Salam Djaaz


Qassim Alsaedy        Ziad Haider        Nedim Kufi


Some Iraqi artists in other countries:


Rebwar Saeed (England)         Anahit Sarkes (England)


Jananne al-Ani (England)      Ahmed al-Sudani (United States) 


Walid Siti (England)       Halim Al Kareem (Netherlands/United States) 


Adel Abidin (Finland)         Azad Nanakeli (Italy)


Ali Assaf (Italy)       Wafaa Bilal (United States)


On the screen a work of Mahmud Sabri, one of the most experimental Iraqi artists in history

A work of Jewad Selim, more or less the ‘founder of the Iraqi modern art’

On the screen a work of Shakir Hassan al-Said, whose style influenced artists all over the Arab and even the islamic world

Left (in front) Qassim Alsaedy. Me behind the laptop. Behind me (left side) my sister Leonie Schreve and her partner Anand Kanhai. Behind them the Iraqi artist Ali Talib. Second right of me Brigitte Reuter, who created many works together with Qassim Alsaedy. On the walls (right) the work of Awni Sami

Left behind me Martin van der Randen, curator of this exhibition. Left on the wall the work of Baldin Ahmad

Floris Schreve

 فلوريس سحرافا
Photos during the lecture by Liesbeth Schreve-Brinkman

An impression of the Arab contributions at the Venice Biennial 2011


مساهمة الدول العربية في بينالي البندقية

An Impression of the contributions of several artists from the Arab world at the Venice Biennial 2011. Photos by Floris Schreve. An extensive article will follow later

The Future of a Promise

Curatorial Statement by Lina Nazaar:

“What does it mean to make a promise? In an age where the ‘promise of the future’ has become something of a cliché, what is meant by The Future of a Promise?

In its most basic sense, a promise is the manifestation of an intention to act or, indeed, the intention to refrain from acting in a specified way. A commitment is made on behalf of the promisee which suggests hope, expectation, and the assurance of a future deed committed to the best interests of all.

A promise, in sum, opens up a horizon of future possibilities, be they aesthetic, political, historical, social or indeed, critical. ‘The future of a promise’ aims to explore the nature of the promise as a form of aesthetic and socio-political transaction and how it is made manifest in contemporary visual culture in the Arab world today.

In a basic sense, there is a degree of promise in the way in which an idea is made manifest in a formal, visual context – the ‘promise’, that is, of potential meaning emerging in an artwork and its opening up to interpretation. There is also the ‘transaction’ between what the artist had in mind and the future (if not legacy) of that creative promise and the viewer. Whilst the artists included here are not representative of a movement as such, they do seek to engage with a singular issue in the Middle East today: who gets to represent the present-day realities and promise of the region and the horizons to which they aspire?

It is with this in mind that the show will enquire into the ‘promise’ of visual culture in an age that has become increasingly disaffected with politics as a means of social engagement. Can visual culture, in sum, respond to both recent events and the future promise implied in those events? And if so, what forms do those responses take?”


The participating artists are Ziad Abillama (Lebanon), Ahmed Alsoudani (Iraq, zie ook see also this ealier contribuition) Ziad Antar (Lebanon), Jananne Al-Ani (Iraq), Kader Attia (Algeria/France), Ayman Baalbaki (Lebanon), Fayçal Baghriche (Algeria), Lara Baladi (Lebanon), Yto Barrada (France, Morocco), Taysir Batniyi (Palestine), Abdelkader Benchamma (France/Algeria), Manal Aldowayan (Saudi Arabia), Mounir Fatmi (Morocco, see this earlier contribution), Abdulnasser Gharem (Saudi Arabia), Mona Hatoum (Palestine/Lebanon), Raafat Ishak (Egypt), Emily Jacir (Palestine), Nadia Kaabi-Linke (Tunesia), Yazan Khalili (Palestine), Ahmed Mater (Saudi Arabia, see this earlier contribution), Driss Ouadahi (Algeria/Morocco) en Ayman Yossri Daydban (Saudi Arabia).

Mona Hatoum, Drowning sorrows (Gran Centenario), installatie van ‘doorgesneden’ glazen flessen, 2002, op ‘The Future of a Promise’, Biënnale van Venetië, 2011 (photo Floris Schreve

Mona Hatoum, Drowning Sorrows (detail)- photo Floris Schreve

‘Hatoum’s work is the presentation of identity as unable to identify with itself, but nevertheless grappling the notion (perhaps only the ghost) of identity to itself. Thus is exiled figured and plotted in the objects she creates (Said, “Art of displacement” 17).

‘Hatoum’s Drowning Sorrows distinctly exemplifies the “exile” Said denotes above. Drowning Sorrows displays the pain and beauty of being an exile without overtly supplying the tools with which to unhinge the paradox attached to it. It creates suggestive effects which ultimately lead the viewer towards its paradoxical ambiance. The work contains a circle of glass pieces drawn on a floor. The circle is made up of different shapes of glass flasks and, as they appear on the floor, it seems that the circle holds them afloat. The disparately angled glasses imply cuts from their sharp edges and their appearance is associated with a feeling of pain from the cut. This circle of glasses, therefore, signifies an exilic ache and embodies an authority to “figure” and “plot” the pain’.

The work signifies the reality of being unmoored from a fixed identity as the flasks are ambiguously put on a ground where they are perceived to be ungrounded. The appearance of the glasses is also unusual—we do not get to see their full shapes. As the artist’s imagination endows them with a symbolic meaning, they have been cut in triangular and rectangular forms of different sizes. These varieties of cut glasses speak of an undying pain that the exile suffers. In an exile’s life, irresolvable pain comes from dispossessions, uncertainty, and non-belonging. Being uprooted from a deep-seated identity, an exile finds him/herself catapulted into a perpetual flux; neither going back “home” nor a complete harmony with the adopted environment through adopting internally the “new” ideals is easily achievable. There exists an insuperable rift between his/her identity and locales which both are nevertheless integral parts of their identity. Hence, Hatoum portrays the exilic “identity as unable to identify with itself,” as Said puts it.

However, the glass edges above also represent that an exile’s experiences are nonetheless beautiful and worthy of celebration. The glass pieces show the experiences that an exilic traveller gathers in the journey of life. The journey is all about brokenness and difference. But an exile’s life becomes enriched in many ways by being filled up with varieties of knowledge and strengths accrued through encountering differences. Hatoum’s creation, therefore, befittingly captures these benefits by transferring them into an art work that bewitches the viewer through an unknown beauty. Being an expression of beauty, the art work is transformed into a celebration of “exile.” Despite “Drowning” in “Sorrows,” Hatoum’s work demonstrates an authority to give vent to the exilic pain through a work of beauty.

Ultimately, we see that an exile is not entirely drowned by the sorrows of loss. Notwithstanding the anguish, the exile gains the privilege to explore the conditions that create the pain; because the painfulness zeroes in on the very nature of identity formation. The exile has the privilege of reflecting on the reality surrounding his/her identity. Therefore, Hatoum’s glasses are not pieced together purposelessly; they depict the ambiguity that the exile feels towards identity. Her creative ambiguity makes us both enjoy the art and question the reality which we ourselves, exiles or not, find ourselves in. “Drowning Sorrows” shows a way to question the reality by being ambiguous towards it. Hatoum thus transmutes her exilic pain into a work of imagination which becomes an emblem of her artistic power through such suggestiveness.

From this point of view, Hatoum is an exemplary Saidian “exile” as she turns the reality of being uprooted from “home” into an intellectual power against the systematisation of identities. In Orientalism, Said distinguishes the dividing line that severs the supposedly superior Western culture from the ostensibly inferior one of the “Others.” He examines the modus operandi of such a disjunction. He studies power-structures to reveal how they dissociate cultures. Thus the Saidian “exile” develops independent criticisms of cultures in order to defeat the debilitating effects of discursivity that disconnect cultures. The “exile” thus sees the whole world as a foreign land captured in the power-knowledge nexus’.

From: Rehnuma Sazzad, Hatoum, Said and Foucault: Resistance through Revealing the Power-Knowledge Nexus? van Postcolonial Text, Vol 4, No 3 2008), see here

Emily Jacir, Embrace, 2005 (‘The Future of a Promise’, Venetië, 2011- foto Floris Schreve)

Embrace is a circular, motorised sculpture fabricated to look like an empy luggage conveyor system found in airports. It remains perfectly still and quiet, but when a viewer comes near the sculpture their presence activates the work; it turns on and starts moving. The work’s diameter refers to the height of the artist. The work symbolizes, amongst many things, waiting and the etymology of the word ‘embrace’.

Emily Jacir (statement for The Future of a Promise)

Ahmed Alsoudani, Untitled, acryl en houtskool op doek, 2010 (‘The Future of a Promise’, Venetië, 2011- foto Floris Schreve)

‘At the time I was in the tenth grade and I was spending hours reading Russian novels and poetry. Reading things like The Brothers Karamazow, The Idiot, War and Peace, Mayakovsky and Anna Akhmatova, and an anthology of poetry from the frontline of World War II- I can’t remember the title- helped me clarify my own circumstances and put the idea of leaving Iraq in my head. At that time in Iraq all ideas, even private thoughts, could land you in jail. As millions of Iraqis dreamt of leaving, I knew I had to plan carefully. (…) I left Baghdad in the middle of the afternoon and traveled by taxi to Kurdistan, which was under U.S. protection. We had to pass many heavily guarded checkpoints, but my older brother used his connections to bribe our way through. It cost him a lot of money. I stayed for a few weeks in Kurdistan, and later I met with an Iraqi opposition member who helped me cross into Syria (…) After I  escaped from Baghdad I spent four years in Syria. In the beginning life was pretty rough and lonely, but eventually I made a few friends. One in particular helped me tremendously- an Iraqi poet named Mohammed Mazlom who was a friend of my brother. He let me stay at his place in Damascus for a year and helped me get a job writing for the Iraqi opposition newspaper there. The big problem with Syria is that though they don’t bother you as an Iraqi exile, you can’t get the paperwork you need to be a legal resident either. You’re in a kind of a limbo: it’s almost if you don’t exist. I knew I would eventually have to leave there as well. In Damascus there is an office called UNHCR, which is a part of the United Nations. Every day the office is full of refugees waiting to get an application to leave. It was a complicated process but I decided after two years in this state of limbo to do it. It took almost a year of waiting but finally I got a meeting with someone from the US embassy. As someone writing for the Iraqi opposition in Syria my case was strong, and after several meetings they granted me political asylum’

(in Robert Goff, Cassie Rosenthal, Ahmed Alsoudani, Hatje Cantz Verlag, Ostfildern, Germany, 2009).

Ahmed Alsoudani, Untitled, acryl en houtskool op doek, 2010 (‘The Future of a Promise’, Venetië, 2011- foto Floris Schreve)

‘These turbulent paintings depict a disfigured tableau of war and atrocity. Although the content of the paintings draw on my own experiences of recent wars in Iraq, the imagery of devestation and violence- occasionally laced with a morbid and barbed humour-evoke universal experience of conflict and human suffering. Deformed figures, some almost indistinguishable and verging on the bestial, intertwine and distort in vivid, surreal landscapes. Figures are often depicted at a moment of transition- through fear and agony- from human to grotesque’

Ahmed Alsoudani (statement for The Future of a Promise)

Jananne Al-Ani, Aerial II, production still from Shadow Sites II, 2011 (bron: http://www.art-agenda.com/reviews/sharjah-biennial-10-plot-for-a-biennial-16-march-16-may-2011-and-art-dubai-16-19-march-2011/

The Aesthetics of Disappearance: A Land Without People – Jananne Al-Ani from Sharjah Art Foundation on Vimeo.

Jananne Al-Ani, Shadow Sites II, 2011 (The Future of a Promise, Venetië, 2011-foto Floris Schreve)

Jananne Al-Ani, Shadow Sites II, 2011 (The Future of a Promise, Venetië, 2011-foto Floris Schreve)

Jananne Al-Ani, Shadow Sites II, 2011 (The Future of a Promise, Venetië, 2011-foto Floris Schreve)

Shadow Sites II is a film that takes the form of an aerial journey. It is made up of images of landscape bearing traces of natural and manmade activity as well as ancient and contemporary structures. Seen from above, the landscape appears abstracted, its buildings flattened and its inhabitants invisible to the human eye. Only when the sun is at its lowest, do the features on the ground, the archeological sites and settlements come to light. Such ‘shadow sites’ when seen from the air, map the latent images by the landscape’s surface.  Much like a photographic plate, the landscape itself holds the potential to be exposed, thereby revealing the memory of its past. Historically, representations of the Middle Eastern landscape, from William Holman Hunt’s 1854 painting The Scapegoat (see http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/The_Scapegoat_(painting), FS) to media images from the 1991 Desert Storm campaign have depicted the region as uninhabited and without sign of civilization. In response to the military’s use of digital technology and satellite navigation, Shadow Sites II recreates the aerial vantage point of such missions while taking an altogether different viewpoint of the land it surveys. The film burrows into the landscape as one image slowly dissolves in another, like a mineshaft tunneling deep into substrate of memories preserved over time’.

Jananne Al-Ani (statement The Future of a Promise)


Ahmed Mater, The Cowboy Code, op ‘The Future of a Promise’, Biënnale van Venetië, 2011 (foto Floris Schreve)

Mater in his statement about ‘Antenna’:

“Antenna is a symbol and a metaphor for growing

up in Saudi Arabia. As children, we used to climb

up to the roofs of our houses and hold these

television antennas up to the sky.

We were trying to catch a signal from beyond the

nearby border with Yemen or Sudan; searching –

like so many of my generation in Saudi –

for music, for poetry, for a glimpse of a different

kind of life. I think this work can symbolise the

whole Arab world right now… searching for a

different kind of life through other stories and

other voices. This story says a lot about my life

and my art; I catch art from the story of my life,

I don’t know any other way”.

Ahmed Mater

Ahmed Mater, Antenna, op ‘The Future of a Promise’, Biënnale van Venetië, 2011 (foto Floris Schreve)

Spring Cleaning! By Franck Hermann Ekra (winner of 2010 AICA Incentive Prize for Young Critics):

The lost Springs, Mounir Fatmi’s minimal installation, displays the 22 flags of the states of the Arab League at half mast. In the Tunisian and Egyptian pavilions, two brooms refer to the upheavals that led to the fall of President Ben Ali in Tunisia and President Mubarak in Egypt. This evocative, subtle and trenchant work of art has been inspired by the current protests against neo-patriarchal powers in the Maghreb, the Mashriq and the Arabian Peninsula.

In the anthropology  of the state, the flag is  a symbol rich in identity and attribution. It is a part of a secular liturgy which establishes  a holy space for the politically sacred.  Mounir Fatmi seems to have captured this with his intuition of an iconic device halfway between the altar and the universalizing official dramaturgy. He gets to the core of democratic representation, on the capacity to metaphorically catalyse the civil link. There is a touch of the domestic in his contemporary heraldry.

Mounir Fatmi, Aborted Revolutions (installation), 2011-Photo Floris Schreve

The necessary cleansing that Mounir Fatmi suggests does not concern the community but rather the dictators who dream themselves as demiurges. It calls for action-creation. The Brooms ironically point to some dynamic process and stimulating imitation effect.  Who’s next? What else should be dusted? Where has the rubbish been hidden?

Though the aesthetics of sweeping, the artist testifies to some timeless spring. A standard bearer of the pan-Arabic revolutionary revivalism and its enchanting Utopia, he breaks away from the prevailing monotony of always disenchanted tomorrows, irreverently using the devices of complicity through self-sufficient references, and blurring the familiar novel and popular romance. Giving his work an essential and symbolic function, he dematerializes it, as if to repeat over and over again that symbols are food for thought’.

From ’The Future of a Promise’.

Abdulnasser Gharem, The Stamp (Amen), rubber on wooden stamp, 2011 (photo Floris Schreve)

‘My relationship with the urban environment is reciprocal; streets and the cities inspire a particularly critical reaction. As a socially engaged artist, I need to take back to the people, to the city, to the built environment.

In previous works I have related the story of social environments marked for destruction, regardless of the fate of the people who live in it, or of disaster arising from a misplaced trust in the security of concrete. With the current work, I turn my attention to the false promise of the manufactured modern city.

Viewing 3D models for the future cities springing up across the Gulf, focuses attention on the disjunction between the apparent utopia of the future they appear to offer and the daily, complex and problematic reality of our actual urban lives.

These cities can be a distraction, a vehicle exploited by bureaucracies who wish to divert the attention of a sophisticated population away from a reality which is not model. Through the use of stamps, I underline the inevitable stultifying and complicating effect the bureaucracy will have, even as it works to build its vision for a better society. Why do we look to an utopian future when we have social issues we need to address now? I am not opposed to this brave new world but I want to see governments engage with the streets and cities, and the problems of their people, as they are now. Why built new cities when there are poor people we need to look after? This is a distraction: we should not be afraid to change.

Abdulnasser Gharem  (statement for The Future of a Promise)

Saudi artist captures Arab Spring door CNN_International

Manal Aldowayan, Suspended Together, installation, 2011 (detail)

On Manal Al-Dowayan:

Suspended Together is an installation that gives the impression of a movement and freedom.

However, a closer look at the 200 doves brings the realization that the doves are actually frozen and suspended, with no hope of flight. An even closer look shows that each dove carries on its body the permission document that allows a Saudi woman to travel. Notwithstanding the circumstances, all Saudi women are required to have this document, issued by their appointed male guardian.

The artist reached out to a large group of leading female figures from Saudi Arabia to donate their permission documents for inclusion in this artwork. Suspended Together carries the documents of award-winning scientists, educators, journalists, engineers, artists and leaders with groundbreaking achievements that contributed  to society.  The youngest contributor is six months old and the oldest is 60 years old. In the artist’s words: ‘regardless of age and achievement, when it comes to travel, all these women are treated like a flock of suspended doves’.


Manal Aldowayan, Suspended Together, installation, 2011

Nadia Kaabi-Linke, Flying Carpets, installation, 2011 (photo Floris Schreve)

The Flying Carpet is an Oriental fairytale, a dream of instantaneous and boundless travel, but when I visited Venice I saw that illegal immigrants use carpets to fly the coop. They sell counterfeit goods in order to make some money for living. If they are caught by the police they risk expulsion.

There was a butcher in Tunis who wanted to honour Ben Ali. His idea was to call his shop ‘Butcher shop of the 7th November’, the day when Ben Ali assumed the presidency in a ‘medical’ coup d’ état from then President Habib Bourguiba. After he did so, he disappeared without a trace.

In winter 2010, I visited Cairo, a city which has more citizens than the country I was born. This metropolis is characterized by strong contradictions: tradition and modernism, culture and illiteracy, poverty and wealth, bureaucracy and spirituality. All voices fade through the noisy hustle of this melting pot, but if you risk a closer look on the walls you will find the whisper of the people carved into stone.

The three works document  the crossing of borders: traversing the European border leads to problems of being a EU citizen or not; the wide line between insult and homage was transgressed through the unspoken proximity of slaughter and governance of the former Tunesian regime; and the longing for freedom in the police state of Cairo was already written into the walls of the city’

Nadia Kaabi-Linke

Nadia Kaabi-Linke, Butcher bliss, mixed media, 2010

Nadia Kaabi-Linke, Impression of Cairo, mixed media, 2010 (detail)

The Future of a Promise, with works of (ao) Nadia Kaabi-Linke and Emily Jacir

The Pavilion of Egypt


Right: Ahmed Basiony, “30 Days of Running in the Place” documentation footage, February–March2010, Palace of the Arts Gallery, Opera House Grounds, Cairo, Egypt.

Left: Ahmed Basiony, 28th of January (Friday of Rage) 6:50 pm, Tahrir Square. Photo taken by Magdi Mostafa.

Biennale di Arte / 54th International Venice Biennale

Egyptian Pavilion, 2011

30 Days of Running in the Place

Honoring Ahmed Basiony (1978–2011)

Opening reception:

3 June 2011 at 4:15 PM

Runs until 27 November 2011


Ahmed Basiony (1978–2011) was a crucial component as an artist and professor to the use of new media technology in his artistic and socio-cultural research. He designed projects, each working in its own altering direction out of a diversity of domains in order to expose a personal account experienced through the function of audio and visual material. Motioning through his artistic projects, with an accurate eye of constant visibility, and invisibility, while listening to audio material that further relayed the mappings of social information: Whether in the study of the body, locomotion through a street, the visual impact of a scream versus data representation in the form of indecipherable codes. The artist functioned as a contemporary documentarian; only allowing the archival of data the moment it came in, and no longer there after.

30 Days of Running in the Place is the play of a video documentation to a project that had taken place one year ago. Marking a specific time when the artist had performed a particular demonstration of running, in order to anticipate a countering digital reaction; the aim was to observe how in the act of running in a single standing point, with sensors installed in the soles of his shoes, and on his body [to read levels of body heat], could it had been translated into a visual diagram only to be read in codes, and visually witness the movement of energy and physical consumption become born into an image.

One year later, the uprisings to the Egyptian revolution took on Basiony’s attention, as it had millions of other Egyptians motioning through the exact same states of social consumption. It was from then on, for a period of four days, did Basiony film with his digital and phone camera, the events of downtown Cairo and Tahrir Square, leading to his death on the night of the January 28th, 2011.

An evolution of universal networks created out of audio, visual and electronic communications, blurring the distinction between interpersonal communication, and that of the masses, Basiony’s works only existed in real-time, and then after that they became part of the archives of research he invested into making. It is with this note, we collectively desired, under the auspices of the Ministry of Culture, to recognize and honor the life and death of an artist who was fully dedicated to the notions of an Egypt, that to only recently, demanded the type of change he was seeking his entire life.

A gesture of 30 years young, up against 30 years of a multitude of disquieted unrest.

Curatorial Team

Aida Eltorie, Curator

Shady El Noshokaty, Executive Curator

Magdi Mostafa, Sound & Media Engineering

Hosam Hodhod, Production Assistant

Website: http://www.ahmedbasiony.com

Contact: info@ahmedbasiony.com

http://www.dailymotion.com/embed/video/xkjond Ahmed Basiony: Thirty Days of Running in the… door vernissagetv

My own impression:

Ahmed Basiony, 30 days of running in the space, video installation, Pavilion of Egypt, Venice Biennial, 2011 (photo Floris Schreve)

Ahmed Basiony, 30 days of running in the space, video installation, Pavilion of Egypt, Venice Biennial, 2011 (photo Floris Schreve)

Ahmed Basiony, 30 days of running in the space, video installation, Pavilion of Egypt, Venice Biennial, 2011 (photo Floris Schreve)

Ahmed Basiony, 30 days of running in the space, video installation, Pavilion of Egypt, Venice Biennial, 2011 (photo Floris Schreve)

Ahmed Basiony, 30 days of running in the space, video installation, Pavilion of Egypt, Venice Biennial, 2011 (photo Floris Schreve)

Ahmed Basiony, 30 days of running in the space, video installation, Pavilion of Egypt, Venice Biennial, 2011 (photo Floris Schreve)

Ahmed Basiony, 30 days of running in the space, video installation, Pavilion of Egypt, Venice Biennial, 2011 (photo Floris Schreve)

Photos by Floris Schreve

The Pavilion of Saudi Arabia


Kingdom of Saudi Arabia Pavilion, Arsenale, Venice, Italy, 6 Jun 2011

The Black Arch

Title : The Black Arch, installation view Credit : Courtesy Kingdom of Saudi Arabia Pavilion


Press Release Abdulaziz Alsebail, Commissioner, is pleased to announce that Shadia and Raja Alem will represent the Kingdom of Saudi Arabia for its inaugural pavilion at the 54th International Art Exhibition – la Biennale di Venezia, Mona Khazindar1 and Robin Start2 will curate The Black Arch, an installation by the two artists. The work of Shadia and Raja Alem can be read as a double narrative. Raja the writer, and Shadia the visual artist, have a non-traditional artist’s background. While having had a classical and literary education the sisters acquired knowledge through their encounters with pilgrims visiting Makkah. Their family had welcomed pilgrims into their home during the Hajj for generations. Since the mid 1980s, the sisters have travelled the world for exhibitions, lectures, and for the general exploration and appreciation of art and literature, and in some way seeking the origins of cultures and civilizations that sparked their imagination through the stories of the visitors to Makkah throughout their childhood. The Black Arch was created through a profound collaboration between Shadia and Raja Alem. It is very much about a meeting point of the two artists; of two visions of the world; from darkness to light, and of two cities – Makkah and Venice. The work is a stage, set to project the artists’ collective memory of Black – the monumental absence of colour – and physical representation of Black, referring to their past. The narrative is fuelled by the inspirational tales told by their aunts and grandmothers, and is anchored in Makkah, where the sisters grew up in the 1970s. The experience with the physical presence of Black, the first part of the installation, is striking for the artists; Raja explains, “I grew up aware of the physical presence of Black all around, the black silhouettes of Saudi women, the black cloth of the Al ka’ba3 and the black stone4 which is said to have enhanced our knowledge.” As a counter-point, the second part of the installation is a mirror image, reflecting the present. These are the aesthetic parameters of the work. The Black Arch is also about a journey, about transition; inspired by Marco Polo and fellow 13th century traveller Ibn Battuta5 – both examples of how to bridge cultures through travel. Shadia explains how she felt a desire to follow Marco Polo’s example and “to bring my city of Makkah to Venice, through objects brought from there: a Black Arch; a cubic city, and a handful of Muzdalifah pebbles.6” The artists focus on the similarities between the two cosmopolitan cities and their inspirational powers. The double vision of two women, two sisters, two artists unfolds in a world of ritual and tradition which, however, confronts the day-to-day reality of human behaviour with simplicity. “If the doors of perception were cleared, everything would appear to man as it really is, infinite.”  William Blake.

See also the extensive documentation on the website of the Saudi Pavilion: http://saudipavilionvenice.com/

Impression by Floris Schreve:

Raja & Shadia Alem, The Black Arch, installation, Venice Biennial, 2011 (photo Floris Schreve)

Raja & Shadia Alem, The Black Arch, installation, Venice Biennial, 2011 (photo Floris Schreve)

Raja & Shadia Alem, The Black Arch, installation, Venice Biennial, 2011 (photo Floris Schreve)

Raja & Shadia Alem, The Black Arch, installation, Venice Biennial, 2011 (photo Floris Schreve)

Raja & Shadia Alem, The Black Arch, installation, Venice Biennial, 2011 (photo Floris Schreve)

Raja & Shadia Alem, The Black Arch, installation, Venice Biennial, 2011 (photo Floris Schreve)

Raja & Shadia Alem, The Black Arch, installation, Venice Biennial, 2011 (photo Floris Schreve)

The Pavilion of Iraq; my own impression

Introduction of the curator Mary Angela Shroth:

“These are extraordinary times for Iraq. The project to create an official country Pavilion for the 54. Biennale di Venezia is a multiple and participatory work in progress since 2004. It is historically coming at a period of great renewal after more than 30 years of war and conflict in that country.

The Pavilion of Iraq will feature six internationally-known contemporary Iraqi artists who are emblematic in their individual experimental artistic research, a result of both living inside and outside their country. These artists, studying Fine Arts in Baghdad, completed their arts studies in Europe and USA. They represent two generations: one, born in the early 1950′s, has experienced both the political instability and the cultural richness of that period in Iraq. Ali Assaf, Azad Nanakeli and Walid Siti came of age in the 1970′s during the period of the creation of political socialism that marked their background. The second generation, to include Adel Abidin, Ahmed Alsoudani and Halim Al Karim, grew up during the drama of the Iran-Iraq war (1980-1988), the invasion of Kuwait, overwhelming UN economic sanctions and subsequent artistic isolation. This generation of artists exited the country before the 2003 invasion, finding refuge in Europe and USA by sheer fortune coupled with the artistic virtue of their work. All six artists thus have identities indubitably forged with contemporary artistic practice that unites the global situation with the Iraqi experience and they represent a sophisticated and experimental approach that is completely international in scope.

The six artists will execute works on site that are inspired by both the Gervasuti Foundation space and the thematic choice of water. This is a timely interpretation since the lack of water is a primary source of emergency in Iraq, more than civil war and terrorism. A documentary by Oday Rasheed curated by Rijin Sahakian will feature artists living and working in Iraq today.

The Pavilion of Iraq has been produced thanks to Shwan I. Taha and Reem Shather-Kubba/Patrons Committee, corporate and individual contributors, Embassy of the Republic of Iraq and generous grants from the Arab Fund for Arts and Culture, Hussain Ali Al-Hariri, and Nemir & Nada Kirdar. Honorary Patron is the architect Zaha Hadid“.

Azad Nanakeli, Destnuej (purification), Video Installation, 2011 (photo Floris Schreve)

‘In my language Destnuej means ‘purification’, to cleanse the body from all sins. When I was a boy, water for daily use was extracted from wells for drinking, cooking and washing. Long ago the water from the wells was clear and pure, but already at that time, however, things had changed: my friends who lived in the same area suffered from illness linked to contaminated water. My nephew contracted malaria and died. Since then, much has changed and the wells no longer exist. As in most places they were replaced by aqueducts but the problem persists. Residues of every shape and substance are poured incessantly into the water, poisoning rivers and oceans.

Toxic waste, nuclear by-products, and various chemicals multiply inexorably, seeping into groundwater. Slowly, day after day, they enter into our bodies. For these reasons, the water is no longer pure. Drinking, cooking, washing. Purifying. Purification is an ancient ritual, disseminated in the four corners of the world.

The man who continues to drink this water contaminates his own body. The man who uses it to purify himself contaminates himself.

My work is based on and motivated by these themes, which are also linked to general degradation man causes to the environment around us’.

Azad Nanakeli, March 2011

From: Ali Assaf, Mary Angela Shroth, Acqua Ferita/Wounded Water; Six Iraqi artists interpret the theme of water, Gangemi editore, Venice Biennale, 2011, p. 52

Azad Nanakeli, Au (Water), Mixed Media Installation with audio, 2011 (photo Floris Schreve)

‘Au’ means water in Kurdish. It is present on our planet in enormous quantities. For the most part, however, it is not available for use: it is salt water that makes up our oceans and glaciers.

The remaining quantity, which we use for the needs of mankind, might be considered sufficient for the moment, but the resources are not unlimited. The need for water increases in an exponential way, with the rise of the world population, and in a few years time the supply might be in jeopardy.

Add to the man’s carelessness and irresponsibility. We waste and pollute water supplies in the name of progress, of consumerism and of economic interests.

It is estimated that within the next twenty years consumption is destined to increase by 40%. What’s more, already today a large part of the world’s population does not have access to clean water sources; among them are the people of the Middle East.

In ancient days and until a few decades ago, these sources existed throughout the territory. They were called oasis. Today after the building of dams by Turkey in the 70’s and by Syria in the 80’s, and the relentless draining of 15,000 square kilometers of Iraqi land (a decision by the regime) everything has changed: where there was once fertile land, there is now desert and desolation.

The World Bank estimates that, by 2035, only 90% of the population of Western Asia, including the Arab Peninsula,  will be without water. The small quantity that will still be available will be directed to urban areas, while the countryside will drown in inescapable aridity.

The accumulation of refuse of large urban and industrial areas over the years had created further danger and damage to the integrity of its precious resource.

Underground water levels are polluted by toxic substances. Non-biodegradable materials from refuse dumps accumulate in canals and oceans.

This work emulates the disturbing images from the media of islands composed entirely of accumulated waste.

Azad Nanakeli, March, 2011

Acqua Ferita, p. 56

Halim Al Karim, Nations Laundry, video installation, 2011 (photo Floris Schreve)

Nations Laundry

In this video (Nations Laundry), the idea and materials used to reflect the concepts of threat, apprehension, and survival in matters of our environment. Within this work, my aim is to create an awareness that may, in turn, help bring about positive changes to our failing environmental systems that came as a result of yours and our wars.

Halim Al-Karim, March 2011

Acqua Ferita, p. 58

Halim Al Karim, Hidden Love 3, fotograph lambda-print, 2010 (photo Floris Schreve)

Halim al Karim (overview- source http://www.modernism.ro/2011/08/29/six-iraqi-artists-acqua-ferita-wounded-water-iraq-pavilion-the-54th-international-art-exhibition-of-the-venice-biennale/)

My works dwell on the envolving mentality of urban society. I am concerned with ongoing and unresolved issues, particularly when they relate to violence. I search both through the layers of collective memory and my personal experience in that context.

In this process, the main challenge for me is to identify and stay clear of the historical and contemporary elements of brainwash.

Through these works I try to visualize an urban society free of violence. These out of focus images, sometimes rendered more mysterious under a veil of silk, imply uncertainty of context, time and place. These techniques, which have become the hallmark of my work, are a means to overcome the effects of politics of deception and, in turn, transform me and the camera into single truth seeking entity.

Halim Al-Karim, March 2011

Acqua Ferita, p. 58

Ahmed Alsoudani (overview- source http://www.modernism.ro/2011/08/29/six-iraqi-artists-acqua-ferita-wounded-water-iraq-pavilion-the-54th-international-art-exhibition-of-the-venice-biennale/)

‘My deepest memories are central to my painting but it is often easier only to look at the surface; to see war, torture and violence and even to consider my art only in terms of the present Iraq war. My own approach is different from anything related to the first impression. I am interested in memory and history, and in the potent areas between the two that enable me to keep memories alive in the present. As an artist, it is important not to get obsessed with my subject matter. I need critical distance. Some of the events that inform my paintings are things I have personally experienced while others I have heard about from family or close friends. These events are refashioned  in my imagination in such a way that I am able to look at them both very personally and with some distance. If I were too personal and too literal about these subjects I would be overly emotional and that would negatively affect the work, I would take it into a place which is something other than art. In order for these works to survive as art I need the distance my interior process of distilling my subject matter affords me. In terms of Iraq, I care deeply about the country and the people there. My work is not intended to be a first person account on war, atrocity or the effect of totalitarianism in Iraq in the last twenty years; in fact I think there are universal and common aspects to these things throughout history and different parts of the world and I hope viewers will see this in my paintings in Venice’.

Ahmed Alsoudani, New York, april, 2011 (from Ali Assaf, Mary Angela Shroth, Acqua Ferita/Wounded Water; Six Iraqi artists interpret the theme of water, Gangemi editore, Venice Biennale, 2011)

Walid Siti, Beauty-spot, installation, 2011 (http://fnewsmagazine.com/2011/07/biennale-binge-part-2/ )

Beauty Spot

The Gali Ali Breg (Gorge of Ali Beg) waterfall is part of Hamilton Road, built in 1932 under the guidance of New Zealand engineer Sir Archibald Milne Hamilton to link Erbil with the Iranian border. The waterfall had long been a tourist destination, featured in Iraqi publications and on the current  5000 Iraqi Dinar note.

Two years ago a drought afflicted the region, and left the waterfall dry in the summer seasons. This prompted the Kurdish government to hire a Lebanese company to divert water to the falls, which involved pumping 250 cubic meters of water per second. The imagery on the note thus remained intact.

Walid Siti, 2011

Acqua Ferita, p. 64

Walid Siti, Mes0 (detail), Mylar mirror, twill tape, nylon fishing line and wood, 2011 (source: http://www.modernism.ro/2011/08/29/six-iraqi-artists-acqua-ferita-wounded-water-iraq-pavilion-the-54th-international-art-exhibition-of-the-venice-biennale/)

Walid Siti,   Meso (detail), Mylar mirror, twill tape, nylon fishing line and wood, 2011 (photo Floris Schreve)

Meso 2011

From the air, the Great Zab River near Erbil forms a snaking, green body of water in a dry, golden landscape. Though beautiful, the sight also reveals the skeletons of dried out rivers and streams that once contributed to its flow. This piece exposes the fragility of the Great Zab (one of the main tributaries to the Tigris River), now exposed to the lurking threats of drought, rapid development and political tugs-of-war.

Walid Siti, 2011

Acqua Ferita, p. 64

Adel Abidin, Consumptions of War, Video Projection and amorphic installation (photo Floris Schreve- see here a compilation)

Adel Abidin, Consumptions of War, Video Projection and amorphic installation (photo Floris Schreve- see here a compilation)

Adel Abidin, Consumptions of War, Video Projection and amorphic installation (photo Floris Schreve- see here a compilation)

Adel Abidin, Consumptions of War, Video Projection and amorphic installation (photo Floris Schreve- see here a compilation)

Adel Abidin, Consumptions of War, Video Projection and amorphic installation (photo Floris Schreve- see here a compilation)

Consumption of War explores the environmental crisis through the participatory crisis and spectator culture of profit driven bodies. Today, global corporate entities encourage consumption on a massive scale for maximum profit, disregarding the obscene amounts of water needed to produce ‘necessities’ such as a pair of jeans or cup of coffee. In Iraq, major corporations have signed the largest free oil exploration deals in history. Yet while every barrel of oil extracted requires 1.5 barrels of water, 1 out of every 4 citizens has no access to clean drinking water.

In a corporate office, two men compete in a childish battle inspired by Star Wars, using fluorescent lights as swords. Each light is consumed until the darkened room marks the game’s abrupt end. Alternating between lush and dry, attractive and foolish, this is a landscape of false promises and restricted power’

Adel Abidin, March 2011, Acqua Ferita, p. 34

Narciso – Alì Assaf from EcoArt Project on Vimeo.

Ali Assaf, still from Narciso (photo Floris Schreve)

For the 2011 Biennale I have conceived two works. Between them, they approach several aspects following my recent visit to my hometown, Al Basrah, where I lived till the age of 18 and where the majority of my gamily still resides.


In my parents’ house in Al Basrah, I found myself turning the pages of an old schoolbook on Caravaggio (1571-1610). Before an illustration of his ‘Narciso’, these questions came to mind:

‘What would happen today if Narcissus saw himself in the water?’

‘Would he be able to see his image in today’s polluted water?’

‘And myself? If I was able to see my image in the waters of Al Basrah, what would I see?’

In this manner my return to Al Basrah had the meaning of reflecting myself in my own history and in its own in-depth and intimate personal identity. But it was impossible to do, because I found this identity led astray and darkened.

Ali Assaf, al-Basrah, the Venice of the East (installation), 2011 (photo Floris Schreve)

Ali Assaf, al-Basrah, the Venice of the East (installation), 2011 (photo Floris Schreve)

Ali Assaf, al-Basrah, the Venice of the East (installation), 2011 (photo Floris Schreve)

Ali Assaf, al-Basrah, the Venice of the East (installation), 2011 (photo Floris Schreve)

Ali Assaf,  al-Basrah, the Venice of the East (detail), 2011 (photo Floris Schreve)

Al Basrah, the Venice of the East

My arrival at the border between Kuwait and Iraq was a shock.

A profound sense of frustration when confronted with this reality.

‘ There was nothing left from those memories that were so important to my survival. Only destruction and ugliness. The surviving friends and family had aged, the Shatt al-Arab River had become saline.

The canals had dried up and were a deposit for refuse and garbage, the historic buildings destroyed or substituted by illegal constructions, the dates were contaminated.

The Shenashil built of wood (with their Indo-English balconies) were abandoned to their own devices, to the sun and rain, they had lost their charm and characteristic beauty. These places were corroded by humidity and lack of care, marked by war and the embargo.

All without a trace of poetry.

Ali Assaf, 2011

Acqua Ferita, p. 46

Me in the Black Arch

Floris Schreve

فلوريس سحرافا

(أمستردام، هولندا)


Tagged with: , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , ,

Iraq returns to the Venice Bienial – Irak weer terug op de Biënnale van Venetië – العراق يعود إلى بينالي البندقية


Acqua Ferita / Wounded Water

The Iraqi Pavilion at the Venice Bienial/Het Paviljoen van Irak op de Biënnale van Venetië/ الجناح العراقي في بينالي البندقية

After an absence of thirty-five years, Iraq finally again is represented at the Venice Biennial. Although the situation in Iraq is far from favorable for artists and the circumstances are still very difficult (albeit in a different way than under the dictatorship of Saddam Hussein), the Iraqi pavilion at the Biennale is probably something hopeful. Probably because it seemed not have been easy to achieve this. Ali Assaf, the in Italy living Iraqi artist who is the main initiator of this project (earlier I spent on this blog some attention on his work in this article in Dutch and see this clip with a compilation of older work), had initially planned an exhibition of artists who are living and working inside Iraq. Because of the insecure circumstances in Iraq (still no government and no guarantees for substantial support) ultimately this plan ended up impossible to realise and the project became an exhibition of six artists from the Iraqi diaspora.

The participating artists are Adel Abidin (Helsinki, born 1973 in Baghdad), Ahmed Alsoudani (New York, born in 1975 in Baghdad), Ali Assaf (Rome, born in 1950 in Basra), Azad Nanakeli (Florence, born 1951 in Arbil , Kurdistan), Halim Al Karim (Denver, born in 1963 in Najaf) and Walid Siti (London, born in 1954 in Dohuk, Kurdistan). The exhibition is curated by Mary Angela Schroth (curator), Vittorio Urbani (co-commisioner) and Rijin Sahakian (Projects Assistant). Honorary President is the world-renowned Iraqi architect Zaha Hadid.

The only one of these artists I’ve once personally  met is Halim Al Karim (Ali Assaf I once interviewed by phone about his performance Feet of Sand of 1996, see here). After his escape from Iraq Halim Al Karim spent some time in the Netherlands ( he studied at the Rietveld Academy in Amsterdam). I met him early summer 2000, when he exhibited in the no longer existing gallery Fi Beiti (which was specialized in artists from the Middle East) in Amsterdam. At that time he made ceramic objects (see this example). Although at that time  he was barely known in the Dutch artscene (in the Middle East he already had a great career), I found his ceramic work had a very special quality. His breakthrough in the West came when he had moved to the United States. This was especially with his photographic work, as shown below. Today, his work is represented in the Saatchi Collection among others (see here)

Anyhow it’s special that this pavilion was created. Here will follow some of the official documentation, supplemented with information and images of the participating artists. In a later context, I will publish an article in English in which I will discuss more extensively some of these artists.

Floris Schreve,  Amsterdam

فلوريس سحرافا
(أمستردام، هولندا)

Click here for the essay of Mary Angela Shroth, curator of the Pavilion of Iraq

Ali Assaf, Al Basrah, the Venice of the East, Mixed Media Installation, 2011 (photo http://jungeblodt.com )

Adel Abidin, Consumptions of War, Video Projection and amorphic installation (photo http://jungeblodt.com )

Walid Siti, Beauty Spot, Mixed Media Installation, 2011 (photo http://jungeblodt.com )

Na een afwezigheid van vijfendertig jaar is Irak weer vertegenwoordigd op de Biënnale van Venetië. Hoewel de situatie in Irak allerminst gunstig is en kunstenaars het daar nog altijd bijzonder zwaar hebben (zij het op een andere manier dan onder de dictatuur van Saddam Hoessein), stemt het Iraakse paviljoen op de Biënnale enigszins hoopvol. Enigszins want het schijnt niet makkelijk geweest te zijn om dit te realiseren. Ali Assaf, de in Italië wonende Iraakse kunstenaar die de belangrijkste initiator van dit project was (eerder besteedde ik op dit blog aandacht zijn werk in dit artikel en zie hier een filmpje met een compilatie van wat ouder werk) was oorspronkelijk van plan om een tentoonstelling samen te stellen van kunstenaars uit Irak zelf. Uiteindelijk bleek dit niet realiseerbaar en werd het een expositie van zes Iraakse kunstenaars uit de Diaspora.

De particperende kunstenaars zijn Adel Abidin (Helsinki, geb. 1973 in Bagdad), Ahmed Alsoudani (New York, geboren in 1975 in Bagdad),  Ali Assaf (Rome, geboren in 1950 in Basra), Azad Nanakeli (Florence, geboren 1951 in Arbil, Koerdistan), Halim Al Karim (Denver, geboren in 1963 in Najaf) en Walid Siti (Londen, geboren in 1954 in Dohuk, Koerdistan). De tentoonstelling werd samengesteld door, naast Ali Assaf, Mary Angela Schroth (curator), Vittorio Urbani (co-commisioner) en Rijin Sahakian (adjunct Projects). Erevoorzitter is de inmiddels wereldwijd befaamde Iraakse architecte Zaha Hadid.

De enige van deze kunstenaars die ik zelf een keer heb ontmoet is Halim Al Karim (Ali Assaf heb ik een keer telefonisch geïnterviewd over zijn performance Feet of Sand uit 1996, zie hier). Na zijn vlucht uit Irak verbleef Halim Al Karim een tijd in Nederland (hij studeerde oa aan de Rietveld Academie in Amsterdam). Ik heb hem ontmoet begin zomer 2000, toen hij exposeerde in de niet meer bestaande gallerie Fi Beiti (gespecialiseerd in kunstenaars uit het Midden Oosten), aan de Prinsengracht in Amsterdam. In die tijd maakte hij keramische objecten (zie dit voorbeeld). Toen was hij nog nauwelijks bekend. Ten onrechte vond ik toen al, want zijn keramische werk had een bijzondere kwaliteit.  Zijn grote doorbraak kwam toen hij naar Denver was verhuisd. Dat was vooral met zijn fotografische werk, zoals hieronder te zien is. Tegenwoordig prijkt zijn werk in oa de Saatchi Collectie (zie hier)

Hoe dan ook is het bijzonder dat dit paviljoen tot stand is gekomen. In dit verband geef ik wat van de officiële documentatie weer, aangevuld met informatie en beeldmateriaal van de participerende kunstenaars. In een later verband zal ik in een nog te verschijnen Engelstalige bijdrage veel dieper ingaan op het werk van oa een aantal van deze kunstenaars.

Floris Schreve, Amsterdam

فلوريس سحرافا
(أمستردام، هولندا)

Pavilion of Iraq
54th International Art Exhibition
la Biennale di Venezia

Iraq’s experimental contemporary artists have never had a chance to present their work for an Iraq Pavilion at the Venice Biennale; the first and last major appearance in 1976 outlined only some of their “modern” artists. The Iraq Pavilion for 2011 will indeed show the world an exciting professionally-curated selection of 6 Iraqi artists from two generations, including various artistic media (painting, performance, video, photography, sculpture/installation).

Ali Assaf, Commissioner for the Pavilion of Iraq 2011


Acqua Ferita / Wounded Water
Six Iraqi Artists interpret the theme of water

Site: Gervasuti Foundation, Fondamenta S. Ana (Via Garibaldi) Castello 995, between Giardini and Arsenale
Opening to the Public: June 4, 2011. Closes Nov. 27, 2011 10-6 pm daily except Mondays
Press Preview: June 2, 2011 7 to 9 pm
Commissioner: Ali Assaf
Co-Commissioner: Vittorio Urbani
Curator: Mary Angela Schroth
Organization: Nuova Icona and Sala 1
Media Partner: Canvas Magazine
In collaboration with: Embassy of the Republic of Iraq in Italy, Iraq UN Representation in Rome, Arab Fund for Arts and Culture, corporate and individual patrons and the Iraq Pavilion Patrons Committee

These are extraordinary times for Iraq. The project to create an official country Pavilion for the 54. Biennale di Venezia is a multiple and participatory work in progress since 2004. It is historically coming at a period of great renewal after more than 30 years of war and conflict in that country.

The Pavilion of Iraq will feature six internationally-known contemporary Iraqi artists who are emblematic in their individual experimental artistic research, a result of both living inside and outside their country. These artists, studying Fine Arts in Baghdad, completed their arts studies in Europe and USA. They represent two generations: one, born in the early 1950’s, has experienced both the political instability and the cultural richness of that period in Iraq. Ali Assaf, Azad Nanakeli and Walid Siti came of age in the 1970’s during the period of the creation of political socialism that marked their background. The second generation, to include Adel Abidin, Ahmed Alsoudani and Halim Al Karim, grew up during the drama of the Iran-Iraq war (1980-1988), the invasion of Kuwait, overwhelming UN economic sanctions and subsequent artistic isolation. This generation of artists exited the country before the 2003 invasion, finding refuge in Europe and USA by sheer fortune coupled with the artistic virtue of their work. All six artists thus have identities indubitably forged with contemporary artistic practice that unites the global situation with the Iraqi experience and they represent a sophisticated and experimental approach that is completely international in scope.

The six artists will execute works on site that are inspired by both the Gervasuti Foundation space and the thematic choice of water. This is a timely interpretation since the lack of water is a primary source of emergency in Iraq, more than civil war and terrorism. A documentary by Oday Rasheed curated by Rijin Sahakian will feature artists living and working in Iraq today.

The Pavilion of Iraq has been produced thanks to Shwan I. Taha and Reem Shather-Kubba/Patrons Committee, corporate and individual contributors, Embassy of the Republic of Iraq and generous grants from the Arab Fund for Arts and Culture, Hussain Ali Al-Hariri, and Nemir & Nada Kirdar.
Honorary Patron is the architect Zaha Hadid.


Links en rechts: Adel Abidin, Consumptions of War, Video Projection and amorphic installation


Links: Ahmed Alsoudani, Untitled, Charcoal and acrylic on canvas, 2010. Rechts: Ahmed Alsoudani, Untitled, Charcoal and acrylic on canvas, 2011


Links: Ali Assaf, Narciso, video installation, 2010. Rechts:Ali Assaf, Al Basrah, the Venice of the East, Mixed Media Installation, 2011


Links: Azad Nanakeli, Destnuej (purification), Video Installation, 2011. Rechts: Azad Nanakeli, Au (Water), Mixed Media Installation with audio, 2011


Links: Halim al Karim, Hidden Love 1, photograph Lambda Print, 2010. Rechts: Halim Al Karim, Hidden Revolution, video still, 2010


Links: Walid Siti, Beauty Spot,  Mixed Media Installation, 2011. Rechts: Walid Siti, Mesa, Mylar mirror, twill tape, nylon fishing line and wood, 2011

Bron en voor veel meer informatie en beeldmateriaal: http://www.pavilionofiraq.org/upload/index.html

In een later verband zal ik nog uitgebreid aandacht besteden aan een aantal van deze kunstenaars.

Floris Schreve
فلوريس سحرافا

Pavilion Of Iraq

54th International Art Exhibition
La Biennale di Venezia

click on logo to visit the website

Azad Nanakeli, Destnuej (purification), video-installatie, 2011

Ali Assaf, Al Basrah, the Venice of the East, Mixed Media Installation, 2011

Adel Abidin, Consumption of War, video, 2011

Halim Al Karim, Nations Laundry, video installatie, 2010-2011

Ahmed Alsoudani, Untitled, Charcoal and acrylic on canvas, 2011

Walid Siti, Mesa, Mylar mirror, twill tape, nylon fishing line and wood, 2011 (detail)

Uit ‘The Wallstreet Journal’ van 24 maart 2011: http://online.wsj.com/article/SB10001424052748704893604576200652720598940.html?mod=WSJ_Magazine_LEFTTopStories

Iraq Comes to Venice

Curator and iconoclast Mary Angela Schroth is spearheading a campaign to return Iraqi art to the prestigious Venice Biennale after a 35-year absence

Read more: http://online.wsj.com/article/SB10001424052748704893604576200652720598940.html#ixzz1PMFU92Df


[mag411_schroth1] Courtesy of Robert Goff GalleryAHMED ALSOUDANI | The Baghdad-born, New York-based painter (‘Untitled,’ 2007, pictured here) will be among six artists showing work at the Venice Biennale’s Iraq pavilion opening in June.

Walking a provocative tightrope is what American contemporary-art curator Mary Angela Schroth does best. In 1993, with memories of apartheid still fresh, Schroth staged Italy’s first exhibition of South African art, and during the days of glasnost and a collapsing Soviet Union, she presented its first show of perestroika-era Russian artists. And in a move that some might interpret as the ultimate in cultural and political overtures, Schroth is now preparing the return of the Iraq pavilion to the 2011 Venice Biennale after a 35-year hiatus.

[mag411_schroth2] Photograph by Danilo ScarpatiCurator Mary Angela Schroth, photographed at mixed-media artist Ali Assaf’s studio in Rome.

Artists and curators who have worked with Schroth throughout her career, which includes running Rome’s first nonprofit art space, Sala 1 (pronounced “Sala Uno,” Italian for “Room One”), say it’s the native Virginian’s tenacity and inquisitiveness that have shaped her vision since she entered the art world back in 1977.

“With anyone else it would have been impossible,” says Basra-born, Italy-based artist Ali Assaf, who is the commissioner and one of six Iraqi artists presenting work in the pavilion. Bringing his native country back to Venice was a cause he championed for years, but decades of unrest prevented its materialization. “At first it couldn’t be done because of Saddam, but then it became impossible because of the severe fighting and confusion,” he explains.

In 2009, Assaf approached Schroth to curate the pavilion in hopes that the combination of his passion and her trademark ambition would lead Iraq back into the Venice Biennale limelight. “The pavilion, through its artists and collaboration with the new government, is one small, but significant step,” Schroth says. “It is an important symbol for change.”

[mag411_schroth3] Courtesy of Azad NanakeliAZAD NANAKELI | Stills from the Florence-based artist’s video installation ‘Destnuej’ (2011)

In the two years since, Schroth, 61, has worked with Assaf to select artists who represent a cross-section of intergenerational talent from the Arab nation. But with the exodus of much of the country’s creative class, as well as today’s fragile security situation, choosing artists currently residing in Iraq proved unfeasible.

“Getting Iraqi artists [who live in Iraq] is not an easy job,” says Iraq’s ambassador to the U.N. agencies in Rome, Hassan Janabi. “It could be tedious and possibly create friction. Instead, they sought out artists living on the outside who could truly reflect what constitutes an Iraqi artist.” The list includes New York–based Ahmed Alsoudani, who will simultaneously show several paintings inside the nearby Palazzo Grassi, and the London-based Kurdish artist Walid Siti.

[mag411_schroth4] Courtesy of Walid SitiWALID SITI | ‘Family Ties’ (April 2009), an installation in Dubai by the London-based artist

The title of the pavilion, “Acqua Ferita”—or “wounded water” in Italian—was selected to shift the Iraq conversation away from war and onto one many view as equally significant. “Terrorism is a theme people are fed up with,” Assaf says. “There are other problems, such as water loss in the region, that no one thinks about.” The concept drew support from Janabi, who was at the time an official adviser to the Iraqi Ministry of Water Resources. “Vast areas once covered with water are now desert,” Janabi says. “Water is life and this life has been taken away. This is critical and it’s now diminishing.”

Although some might chafe at the idea of an American curating the Iraq pavilion, contentious nationality issues have always remained far outside Schroth’s purview. “My nomadic life means I have more in common with these artists than a normal curator,” she says.

Indeed, it has been more than three decades since Schroth lived in the U.S. Her departure for Europe came on the heels of a five-year stretch working as an assistant at CBS under the helm of Walter Cronkite, covering events like Watergate, the end of the Vietnam War and the election of Jimmy Carter.

[0411Karim] Courtesy of Halim al-KarimHALIM AL-KARIM | ‘Hidden War’ (1985), a triptych by the U.S.-based photographer.

Her first destination was Normandy, France. Although Schroth had no formal art training, her enthusiasm led her to some of the country’s most off-the-map art happenings—the most fruitful of which was a collaboration with French contemporary artist Joël Hubaut. Together they established the independent art space Nouveau Mixage, hedged inside an abandoned garage in the center of Caen. It was there Schroth learned how to become an “artist’s producer,” or someone, she explains, “who could translate their projects into reality.”

While living in France, Schroth met the commissioner of the U.S. pavilion at the 50th Venice Biennale, Kathleen Goncharov, and the two have since traveled to remote biennials and art events around the world. “My investigations to countries outside the Eurocentric context have been a big part of my identity in my work with contemporary art,” Schroth says.

With the impending closure of Nouveau Mixage, Schroth relocated to Rome. She arrived in a city replete with sweeping, historic charm, but a flatlining contemporary art scene. “Rome was a backwater,” Schroth says. “It didn’t have in the early 1980s what it has today. It just wasn’t interested in international contemporary art.”

[mag411_schroth6] Courtesy of Adel AbidinADEL ABIDIN | Still from ‘Three Love Songs’ (2010-11), a video installation at Mathaf, the Arab Museum of Modern Art in Qatar.

A lack of galleries and independent spaces forced Schroth to spend her first year scouring the city for artists and setting her sights on transforming disused spaces into art hubs. One of the first such shows exhibited the work of Italian and British artists in abandoned, underground bathroom stalls in a central Roman piazza. The event, which still retains a kind of cult status in Italy today, proved to be one of the most pivotal in Schroth’s career, as it facilitated her introduction to sculptor and Passionist priest Tito Amodei.

Amodei’s art studio was housed inside a vaulted, former basilica compound owned by the Vatican. Inside the complex was also the 800-square-foot Sala 1 gallery that he used for sculptural exhibitions. He had for some time been on a desperate hunt for a director to take over the space. “Back then it wasn’t cool to be connected to the Catholic Church,” Schroth says. “Many didn’t think it could be a viable art space, but it just needed a curatorial jumpstart. Like any place, it was just a container unless you had a vision.” And so in 1985, Schroth assumed the role of director at Sala 1. The only rules for running the space, explains the now 85-year-old Amodei, were: “No politics. No religion. No Vatican. Only culture.”

Keeping their distance from their landlord, which meant never asking for financial assistance, has enabled Sala 1 to maintain a large degree of creative freedom—best exemplified in a succession of groundbreaking exhibitions. These include the 1995 “Halal” show, the first display of contemporary Israeli artists in Italy, and collaborating with the Studio Museum in Harlem in 2006 to present the U.S.’s first show of comic books hailing from Africa.

[mag411_schroth7] Courtesy of Ali AssafALI ASSAF | ‘Waters!’ (2009), an installation at Sette Sale in Rome.

Now with the 2002 opening of MACRO, the contemporary art museum and galleries, including an outpost from powerhouse dealer Larry Gagosian, Rome is beginning to take hold as a serious contemporary-art center. “At a time when Rome had mostly sleepy institutions, she was one of the only people working with emerging talent,” says Viktor Misiano, former contemporary-art curator at the Pushkin Museum and co-curator of “Mosca: Terza Roma,” Schroth’s 1988 exhibition of Russian art. “She is one of the few that had the courage to do something unusual.”

As if to underscore Schroth’s unremitting energy, she is also curating the first-ever Bangladesh pavilion for this summer’s Venice Biennale, which coincides with the country’s 40th anniversary. Both Bangladesh and Iraq will be housed in the Gervasuti Foundation, an artisan’s workshop in a construction zone in central Venice.

“For me being with the artist is as good as it gets,” says Schroth in a still-thick Southern accent. “And although sometimes it’s not perfect, in the end, they give you what I call illumination.”

“Which,” she adds, “just so happens to be the theme of this year’s Biennale.”

—The 54th Venice Biennale will run from June 4 to November 27, 2011.

Read more: http://online.wsj.com/article/SB10001424052748704893604576200652720598940.html#ixzz1PMEloVln

3/18. Bezoekers bekijken een kunstwerk van de Irakees Azad Nanakeli. Foto AFP / Filippo Monteforte (NRC, zie http://www.nrc.nl/inbeeld/2011/06/04/de-54e-biennale-van-venetie/ )

Ali Assaf, detail of Al Basra, the Venice of the East, video of oil soaked birds of the Gulf oil spill, accompanied by children’s songs (source http://www.artandpoliticsnow.com/2011/06/venice-biennale-2011-first-installment-the-iraqi-pavillion/ )

Ahmed Alsoudani, Untitled, Charcoal and acrylic on canvas, 2011

Ali Assaf, Narciso, video installation, 2010

Halim al Karim, Hidden Love 3, Photograph Lambda Print, 2009


Venice Biennale gives voice to Iraqi diaspora and struggling younger artists

Iraq’s first pavilion for 34 years is about trying to change perceptions of a dictatorship-scarred and war-wounded country

Charlotte Higgins

Venice Art Biennale - Iraqui Pavilion

Azad Nanakeli’s Acqua ferita/ Wounded Water at the Iraqi pavilion at the Venice Biennale. Photograph: Christian Jungeblodt

“I want to create, I want to show the world what I am capable of, but I cannot.” So says a 16-year-old Iraqi photographer, as Iraq fields its first pavilion for 34 years at the Venice Biennale.

The words of Ayman Haider Kadhm are part of a short documentary that looks at the experiences of three young Iraqi artists struggling to find a voice in a war-ravaged country.

He talks of his camera being confiscated by the security forces. “Do I look like a terrorist? I am only a photographer who wants to record life.”

In fact the main installation of the Iraq pavilion contains work only by members of the Iraqi diaspora, most of whom left in the 1970s to study abroad before the outbreak of the Iran-Iraq war.

According to Rijin Sahakian, the Iraqi-born, American head of the Echo cultural foundation, another supporter of the pavilion: “There has been a severance of training, and an isolation for decades compounded by a newfound violence.

“That’s why all the artists here are part of the diaspora. It’s been fractured for years, and the last 10 years have been the final blow.”

The biennale may be a critical event for visual arts, but – with its national pavilions – it also has inescapable overtones of soft diplomacy. Iraq’s presence is also about trying to change perceptions of a dictatorship-scarred and war-wounded country.

Azad Nanakeli left his home city of Arbil in Kurdistan aged 23 to study in Baghdad and then Florence – and stayed in Italy. He has created a film work and a sculptural installation exploring the pavilion’s water theme.

It is, he says, “a great thing to have a space here. In 1976 Iraq was present at the biennale but it was more political and belonged to the regime”.

The curator, Mary Angela Schroth, agrees. “I want people to see the work of these artists and see that there are some untold stories. And I want people to see Iraq not as a 30-year conflict zone but like any other country.

“We have deliberately got away from the war – we want to give it an identity, an identity that it has lost since the Saddam dictatorship.

“In two years it could be more than a reality to show Iraqi work made in Iraq. But at the moment young Iraqis can’t leave the country. It is very difficult for artistic practice – the country is essentially destroyed.”

The pavilion is funded by the Iraq government and a handful of private sponsors including Total, the oil company. Zaha Hadid, the Iraqi-British architect, is its patron.

The artists argue that culture is necessary as a means of expression after a traumatic period in its history.

According to Nanakeli, after the war: “We thought we’d get freedom. Now we have a big problem when we speak about contemporary culture. The government doesn’t give a lot of space for art, theatre, cinema and that is terrible for Iraqis.

“If we are to grow as a country we need to think about all areas of life. My hope is that there will be a future for artists, poets and writers.”

Sahakian adds: “People have been silenced for so long. Art is a crucial tool for talking about what’s happened, for self-expression, for the documenting of personal experience.”

The London-based Walid Siti, who left his native Duhok in 1976 to study in Baghdad and then Ljubljana in Slovenia, has created a pair of linked sculptural installations which look at the rivers of Iraq.

“To have a show in Venice is important – to say that there is something positive. The water metaphor, it can bring us together.”

He talks about the subject of one of his pieces: the river Azab, which rises in Turkey, flows through Kurdistan and then flows “like a vein – a kind of symbol of life and continuity” to the Tigris.

“In Iraq it is very hard for artists. Religious groups are pressurising the government to close to close down art, theatre, dance organisations.

“But people are coming up with ideas. For better or worse, what Iraq has been through is a source of ideas.”

The Iraq pavilion is at Gervasuti Foundation, Castello 995, Venice, from Saturday until 27 November

Interview with Ali Assaf (in Italian), http://www.blarco.com/2011/06/il-fascino-del-padiglione-delliraq-alla.html


Ahmed Alsoudani:
Wounded Water


Wounded Water: a short film with Ahmed Alsoudani from Haunch of Venison on Vimeo.

14 June 2011

Ahmed Alsoudani talks about his participation in ‘Wounded Water’, the Pavilion of Iraq, at the 54th Venice Biennale.

After a 35-year hiatus, 2011 marks Iraq’s triumphant return to the Venice Biennale. In an exhibition curated by Mary Angela Schroth, the 2011 Iraq Pavilion will present to the world six internationally celebrated Iraqi artists, including Haunch of Venison’s Ahmed Alsoudani (b.1975), an emerging artist whose paintings of war and human conflict have garnered him international attention and broad critical applause. The artists in the exhibition span two generations: Ali Assaf, Azad Nanakli, and Walid Siti were born in the 1950s and experienced periods of vast cultural richness and creativity in the country despite political turmoil; Ahmed Alsoudani, Abel Abidin and Halim Al Karim grew up during the Iran-Iraq War, the Invasion of Kuwait and daily life under intense UN sanctions and the tyrannical Ba’athist regime. The exhibition, entitled Acqua Ferita/Wounded Water, revolves around the six artists’ interpretations on the theme of water loss in the region through diverse mediums including painting, performance, video, photography, sculpture and installation art. According to Schroth, “The pavilion, through its artists and collaboration with the new government, is one small, but significant step.” The Iraq Pavilion will open on 2 June 2011 and is located at the Gervasuti Foundation, Fondamenta S. Ana (Via Garibaldi), Castello 995, between Giardini and Arsenale.

Back to Films

  • Haunch of Venison © 2011

The New York Times, 3-6-2011,  http://www.nytimes.com/2011/06/05/fashion/middle-eastern-artists-at-the-venice-biennale.html?_r=3&ref=middleeast

The Art World’s New Darlings

Jessica Craig-Martin for The New York Times

AFLOAT Ahmed Alsoudani, left, poses for Adel Abidin.

Published: June 3, 2011


Adel Abidin and Ahmed Alsoudani, the young artists who represent Iraq at the 54th Venice Biennale, were sitting on the terrace of the Bauer Hotel here at dusk on Wednesday, studying their elaborately hand-written invitations to a private dinner given by François Pinault, the French billionaire. How would they cross the water to San Giorgio Maggiore Island?

Jessica Craig-Martin for The New York Times

NETWORKING Ahmed Alsoudani, left, with Isabelle de La Bruyère at a Venice Biennale party.

It is the first time since 1976 that Iraq has participated in the prestigious art gathering. With Egypt, Syria, the United Arab Emirates and Saudi Arabia all showing there (a first for Saudi Arabia), Middle Eastern art was Topic A among the gaggle of oligarchs, aristocrats and movie stars who gathered for three days of frantic partying and private viewings before the fair’s official opening on Saturday.

So it wasn’t surprising when Yvonne Force Villareal, a founder of the Art Production Fund in New York, offered them a ride on her private water taxi, along with the photographer Todd Eberle, the socialite Anne McNally, and Bruno Frisoni, the shoe designer. They piled in, a tangle of gowns and glitter, and sped across the choppy waterways, which were clogged with other party commuter craft.

When they docked at the Cini Foundation, an opulent former Benedictine monastery, Mr. Pinault himself stood at the arched entrance shaking hands with a long line of about 1,000 guests that included Anna Wintour, Charlotte Casiraghi, Jeff Koons and Dasha Zhukova.

Mr. Abidin, 38, is the less active networker of the two artists. He seemed to defy Mr. Pinault’s cocktail-attire dress code, wearing Vans, striped ankle socks and a scarf over a pink button-up shirt. He was coming from a scrappy, laid-back party for a pan-Arabian exhibition, held in a sprawling old salt storage facility, and was eager to return to his friends there.

Mr. Alsoudani, 36, on the other hand, was in his element, and seemed to know every other curator and collector. His abstract paintings, which touch on themes of violence and war, are collected by Charles Saatchi and Mr. Pinault, a frequent visitor to his studio. “François said he liked my pants,” said Mr. Alsoudani, who wore a pair of snug-fitting Dior trousers, a white vest and a hat.

The two — the youngest of six artists who represent the Iraq Pavilion’s exhibition, “Wounded Water” — came of age during the Iran-Iraq war, the invasion of Kuwait and the rule of Saddam Hussein. Both now live in the West (Mr. Abidin in Helsinki and Mr. Alsoudani in New York City), but their works reference a collective memory of strife and hardship — in Mr. Abidin’s case, with a touch of humor. They had met for the first time that evening and seemed to inhabit opposite spectrums of the art world, one bling, the other purist, although they agreed about the changing Middle East.

“The revolution in the Middle East has made me believe that we still have the capacity for believing in our dreams,” Mr. Abidin said, referring to the Arab Spring. “Change is beautiful.”

The two artists had been sought after in Venice, receiving invitations to palazzo dinners and a decadent reception hosted by Ms. Zhukova, Neville Wakefield and Alex Dellal at the Bauer.

Inside the monastery, Mr. Pinault’s party was in high gear, extravagant even by Biennale standards: more candles than a Sting video, banquet tables piled with basil risotto and sparkling rosé, and long tables stacked with exotic cheeses.

Young aristos flitted about the gardens in Balenciaga and Lanvin. Seated at one table were Isabelle de La Bruyère, a regional specialist from Christie’s, and Sultan Sooud al-Qassemi from the Emirate of Sharjah. “Come sit with us!” they called to Mr. Alsoudani and Mr. Abidin, who was chatting with Lisa Phillips, the director of the New Museum of Contemporary Art in New York.

“Middle East art is definitely trendy right now,” Mr. Alsoudani said. “But the truth is there is no Chinese art scene, or Indian art scene or Middle East. It’s easier to categorize it that way. The world is getting smaller and all art is judged by the same international standard.”

By 11 p.m., about two hours in, the crowd had mellowed and the BlackBerry typing began. Maurizio Cattelan was hosting a party for his magazine Toilet Paper on San Servolo Island. Others were heading to the Bungalow 8 pop-up club at Hotel Palazzina Grassi and others back to the Bauer.

Mr. Abidin refilled on red wine but seemed disillusioned by all the glitz. “I don’t like Venice,” he said. “I got divorced here and then had two breakups.” He returned to the pan-Arabian party on a boat with a D.J. and no dress code.

Mr. Alsoudani stayed behind. He hit the cheese table and his dealer, from Haunch of Venison, invited him to a party on a yacht hosted by the French collectors Steve and Chiara Rosenblum. “Isn’t Venice fantastic?” he said, contemplating all his choices.

A version of this article appeared in print on June 5, 2011, on page ST1 of the New York edition with the headline: The Art World’s New Darlings.

An exhibition of Halim al Karim in the Darat al-Funun, Amman, 2010

May 2010
Halim Al Karim’s work is a response to the artist’s own unimaginable experiences and his ongoing observation of the turmoil in Baghdad. Al Karim’s artistic approach is as an outward projection of his inner-consciousness and an expression of spiritual awakening. This exhibition presents a series of triptychs with blurred faces. Some are well known figures; others are film stills, artworks, or artifacts from his homeland. The identities of the figures seem immaterial with Al Karim’s out of focus photography technique; blurring their identities to emphasize the un-kept promises of freedom. In the series Witness from Baghdad, the artist highlights the non existence of a passive witness in times of war. Their striking, life-like eyes which reference Sumerian sculptures are proof that these quiet intangible faces are alive and well aware of what is happening around them. The works on show witness the evolving mentality of urban society in present day Iraq

Unveiled (Saatchi-Collection): http://www.saatchi-gallery.co.uk/artists/halim_karim.htm?section_name=unveiled

WORKS BY Halim Al-Karim


Click on the images to

Hidden War

Lambda print

138 x 324 cm

Hidden War

Iraqi artist Halim Al-Karim underwent a harrowing experience
during the first Gulf War. Opposing Saddam’s regime and its compulsory military
service he took to hiding in the desert, living for almost 3 years in a hole in
the ground covered by a pile of rocks. He survived only through the assistance
of a Bedouin woman who brought him food and water and taught him about gypsy
customs and mysticism. Al-Karim has since emigrated to America, however, these
events have had a profound effect on his life and form the basis for his art


Hidden Face

Lambda print

138 x 300 cm

Hidden Face

In this body of work, Al-Karim presents a series of triptychs,
each comprised of three faces. Some are well known figures, such as Saddam
Hussein in Hidden Face, others are film stills, artworks, or artifacts.
Presented as enlarged panels their distortion is compounded,
raising the
question not of what they represent but of their deeper meaning and
interconnectivity. Hidden Face was made in 1995, years before the
famous photo of Saddam in custody; the figure is in fact made up, based on how
Al-Karim imagined the dictator would look in the future. The two flanking out of
focus figures are suggestive of world leaders – still in power – whose support
of Saddam’s regime has been forgotten. Al-Karim has blurred their identities to
show the duplicity of their motives, scripting them as anonymous accomplices who
will never stand trial.


Hidden Prisoner

Lambda print

158 x 369 cm

Hidden Prisoner

In this series of work, photography is used for its
non-physical qualities: a medium which quite literally creates an image from
light, capturing the transient and interwoven nature of time and
memory. The
Sumerian artifacts featured in Al-Karim’s Hidden Prisoner and
Hidden Goddess were photographed in the Louvreand the British Museum;
Al-Karim describes seeing them internedbehind glass, far away from their home,
as a painful reminder ofvisiting his friends and family who were held as
political prisonersat Abu Ghraib during Saddam’s


Hidden Theme

Lambda print

138 x 300 cm

Hidden Theme

Al-Karim’s Hidden series is a response to the artists
own unimaginable experiences and his ongoing observances of the turbulences in
his homeland. With pieces titled Hidden War, Hidden Victims, Hidden
, Al-Karim raises the awareness of not only the devastating
effects of violence, but its many manifestations – both physical and
psychological – from the political to the economic and domestic. His works adopt
a skewed sense of scale and resolve to conceptually shift between the macro and
the micro, the societal and individual, physical and emotive, offering a
tranquil and meditative pause and space for reflection and


Hidden Victims

Lambda print

186 x 372 cm

Hidden Victims

Al-Karim merges aspects of Sufism – such as the belief in
Divine Unity – with obsolete traditions, especially those of ancient Sumer, the
grand empire which ruled in what is now Iraq from 6000-4000 BC. Sumerian symbols
often appear in his images, and his photographs
of women are in part
inspired by a ritual which could elevate girls to the status of


Prisoner Goddess

Lambda print

124 x 372 cm

Prisoner Goddess

Al-Karim’s approach to image-making is as an outward projection
of his inner-consciousness and a visual manifestation of spiritual awakening and
serenity. His evasive dream-like images evoke a range of instinctual emotive
responses, the ability of true perception existing as a preternatural power
within each of us, which can be understood and harnessed through the pursuit of
metaphysical enlightenment.


Hidden Witnesses

Lambda print

138 x 300 cm

Hidden Witnesses

Hidden Doll

Lambda print covered with white

200 x 360 cm

Hidden Doll

In pieces such as Hidden Doll, Al-Karim presents his
photographs beneath a tautly stretched layer of white silk fabric that operates
as both a physical veil masking the portraits and a metaphorical filter or
screen. This ‘barrier’ between viewer and image can be conceived as a liminal
space, a transcendental portal between being and becoming, where the mystical
properties of change take place.


Hidden War 2

Lambda print covered with white

200 x 330 cm

Hidden War 2

Themes of reconciliation are central to Al-Karim’s work, both
emotionally and in relation to Sufi tradition, where faith is inwardly focused
and strives for unity between consciousness and God.
Contradictions and
juxtapositions occur within his photos, but rather than creating tension, they
have harmonious effect. As faces line up: beautiful and garish, monstrous and
innocent, wizened and puerile, they form single conglomerate portraits, each
segment completing the next, contributing to the understanding of the whole. In
Hidden War 2, Al-Karim has covered his images with a transparent layer
of cloth, urging the viewer to consider the hidden agendas behind the
legitimising rhetoric of those who support the war

Halim Al Karim, Ashbook, porcelain and ash, 1999 (made in the time he lived in Amsterdam)

earlier work of Walid Siti


Constellation 2009

PlanetK, The 53rd International Art Exhibition, Venice

Board, emulsion paint, plaster, thread and nails.

Constellation is a large wall-based installation comprising the contours of a white mountain surrounded by constellations of black threads. The connections between the mountain and the black threads draw a parallel with an imagined cosmic world with many associations and metaphorical references to the memory of a physical landscape. The white mountain top in the centre of the work acts as a magnetic force that energises and coordinates the movements of the other elements, suggesting a network of dynamic links between the constituent parts. Constellation is an attempt to go beyond a superficial understanding of the physical elements of the work and to aspire towards an ideal landscape.

Constellation incorporates ideas and forms from ‘Precious Stones’ and ‘Family Ties’ – series of my drawings and paintings that preoccupied my work for over ten years. Both series focus on the significance of various symbols and forms such as stones, fire, cubes and circles, which both characterise the collective cultural identity of the Kurdish people and highlight the universal plight of the exile – physically distant though always emotionally close to home.

The work also plays metaphorically on the astrological meaning of constellation, allowing different readings and interpretations. The four arbitrary sets of constellations within the work are fragmented and incomplete, reflecting a state of contradiction and conflict in reality. This gives the work a new perspective and invites the viewer to contemplate and interpret it within a new context.

Walid Siti , London 2009


<< Back

Walid Siti, Suspended Mountains 2010, 400x400x600cm, Canvas tube, wire, pols
Serdem Gallery, Suleymania

From the very beginning, mountains, rocks, and stones—in all their  diverse forms and shapes—have been a constant source of inspiration for my  work. I use them as metaphors, visual forms that convey my ideas about and  associations with political, social, and cultural topics as well as issues of  identity. These are the themes that concern me and that have shaped and  influenced my art and my life.


Earlier works of Ahmed Alsoudani


We Die Out of Hand

Ahmed Alsoudani

We Die Out of Hand

Charcoal, pastel and acrylic on paper

274.3 x 243.8 cm

During the first Gulf War, Ahmed Alsoudani fled to Syria
before claiming asylum in America. Through his paintings and drawings he
approaches the subject of war through aesthetics. Citing great artists of the
past such as Goya and George Grosz whose work has become the lasting
consciousness of the atrocities of the 19th and 20th centuries, Alsoudani’s
inspiration comes directly from his own experiences as a child, as well as his
concerns over contemporary global conflicts. In We Die Out Of Hand, the
earthy background sets the stage for dreary prison gloom, while hooded figures
are obliterated through mercilessly violent gestures, insinuating the horrors of
Abu Ghraib or Guantanamo Bay with exquisite and torturous beauty.

You No Longer Have Hands

Ahmed Alsoudani

You No Longer Have Hands

Charcoal, pastel and acrylic on paper

213.4 x 274.3 cm

Alsoudani executes his works with a raw physicality, using
materials such as paint and charcoal in an unorthodox way, often painting over
drawing and vice versa. You No Longer Have Hands is spread over two
large pieces of paper, the seam down the middle operating literally as a divide.
Like many of Alsoudani’s images, there are no people in this work, rather the
concepts of violence are presented as something too large and abstract to
comprehend. Instead a graffiti strewn wall provides a hint of humanity against a
raging black mass, torrential, abject and bereft.


Ahmed Alsoudani


Oil, acrylic, ink, gesso on canvas

182.9 x 213.4 cm


Ahmed Alsoudani


Oil, acrylic, charcoal gesso on canvas

213 x 184 cm

Alsoudani’s Untitled is barely recognisable as a portrait.
Mixing charcoal with paint, the surface evolves as a dirty corporeal mass, as
pure colours become tinged by sooty dust and paint drips down the canvas in
contaminated streams. Describing what might be a head, Alsoudani offers up an
anguished abstraction combining organic textures with geometric forms. Rendering
carnage with an almost cartoon efficacy, Alsoudani summates the base instinct of
destruction as a volume of fleshy fields punctuated by industrial rubble;
hard-edged circles and arcs lend an absurd consumerist familiarity suggesting
windows and bullet holes in the cold pictograph motifs.

Baghdad I

Ahmed Alsoudani

Baghdad I

Acrylic on canvas

210 x 370 cm

“The falling statue of a despot in the centre of Baghdad
recalls the toppling of the statue of Saddam. The rooster-like figure
symbolizes America. Here the rooster is not only a figure of control but is
injured as well and constrained. The basket of eggs to the left side of its neck
represents ideas – unhatched ideas in this case; an armory of fragile potential.
Alsoudani’s fascination with molecules and cellular references are apparent in
the central egg-shaped object in the center of the rooster’s belly. The flood
bursting through on the bottom center of the canvas carries Biblical
associations and references the fractured nature of daily life in Baghdad –
nothing works, pipes burst, the city is tacked together, evoked by the large
nails depicted in different parts of the canvas. A figure on the upper right of
the canvas bursts forth in a flourish of pageantry, representing the new Iraqi
government, sprung forth from the chaos, compromised, bandaged and standing
precariously on a teetering stool.” Robert

Baghdad II

Ahmed Alsoudani

Baghdad II

Acrylic on canvas

250 x 380 cm

Baghdad II depicts a “typical” Baghdad scene: on
the left side of the canvas a car has crashed into an American-built security
wall – another suicide bombing attempt or an act of pure desperation. Stylized
licks of red flame come up from the ground, an eyeball has rolled to the center
of the painting on the bottom. The eyeball plays a role in terms of content and
form but also alludes to Lebanese poet Abbas Baythoon. On the lower right hand
side of the painting a head lies behind bars – this is a reference to a statue
in Baghdad, which here Alsoudani has decapitated and, ironically, brought to
life as an imprisoned figure. One way to read this is that under Saddam’s
dictatorship art was constricted and imprisoned and this idea of censorship is
continually evoked through a layered approach in this work. The female figure in
the center right side of the painting is deliberately drawn in as opposed to
painted, a martyr-figure both carrying and giving birth to change.” Robert


Ahmed Alsoudani


Charcoal, acrylic and pastel on paper

270 x 226 cm

Alsoudani’s Untitled mesmerizes with the power and chaos of
an explosion, combining artistic references with combustive force. Reminiscent
of cubist dynamics, Alsoudani approaches his theme of war from every angle,
broaching the incomprehensibility of combat and its repercussions through his
fragmented and turbulent composition. Drawn in charcoal and pastel Alsoudani’s
gestures convey raw passion and intensity with a rarefied elegance, his subtle
shading and ephemeral acrylic washes simultaneously evoking the detailed etching
in Goya’s Disasters of War and the hyper-violent media graphics of Manga
illustrations. Alsoudani negotiates these terrains with unwavering authority,
responding to current events with commanding hindsight to develop contemporary
history painting that’s both high-impact and enduring.

Earlier works of Adel Abidin

Cold Interrogation

Mixed media installation, 2004

A video installation dealing with the dilemma of being an Arab, Muslim and Iraqi individual living in a western society in this period of time.“Since I left my home country Iraq in 2000, I am dealing daily with different questions about my identity”.The work creates an interactive atmosphere, by inviting the viewer to take part in the interrogation.

Examples of the questions:

How did you end up in Finland?How is the situation in Iraq right now?What do you think of Osama bin Ladin?How does it feel to ride a camel?Are you with the war, do you support it?What do you think of the suicide bombers?What do you think of the Americans?And so on…
The viewer can hear to the loud audio of the questions coming from inside the fridge, and see the video through the security peephole fixed on the fridge.


Country of production: Finland 2004
Duration: 01’00’00 min. (Looping)
Aspect ratio: 4:3
Sound: Stereo
Original Format: mini dv
Screening format: DVD- all / Pal

Images: / 1

Installation view
Installation view

/ 2

Instalation view
Instalation view

/ 3

Installation detail
Installation detail

/ 4


A video installation, 2009

Hopscotch is a game children play the world over. In Abidin’s work, the squares lead to a gate – into another, unknown world. Abidin associates the work with the Iraq he experienced as child: “In this game, the players are being watched by people who have the power to terminate much more than the game. In a police state, children are taught the ‘rules of the game’ very early on.”

Video details:

8 meters * 4 meters built gate in the museum/ consists of: wood and Plexiglas

duration : 00’02’00 (looping)
Shooting format: Mini DV
Screening format: DVD- all
Aspect ratio: 4:3 (round)

Images: / 1

Installation detail
Installation detail

/ 2

Installation view
Installation view

/ 3

Installation view
Installation view

/ 4

Installation view
Installation view

/ 5

Installation view
Installation view


I’m Sorry

Sound installation including a light box, 2008

During a recent trip to the US, I met many people from different kinds of educational and social backgrounds. Yet, surprisingly, they all reacted in the same way when I mentioned that I was Iraqi”.


Country of production: Finland 2008
Sound installation including a light box
Computer programs the sync between the sound and the lights.

JihadVideo piece, 2006


Video piece, 2006


“Consumption of War” – Adel Abidin at the 2011 Venice Biennale

      posted June 10, 2011 – 1:26pm by Editor
five Iraqi artists represent their homeland for first time in 35 years

By Lina Sergie AttarIn Consumption of War, the latest installation by Iraqi-Finnish artist Adel Abidin, one stands in a room, between projection and reality, watching an absurd “war” break out between two corporate figures. The film leaves us in physical and metaphoric darkness, questioning not only the artist’s intention but also our implication within the narrative. Throughout his work over the last decade, exploring issues of identity, memory, exile, violence, war and politics, Abidin has harnessed the power of ambiguity.

Iraqi-Finnish artist Adel AbidinIraqi-Finnish artist Adel AbidinThis year, Abidin is one of five Iraqi artists chosen to represent their homeland at the prestigious 54th annual Venice Biennale. It is the first time in 35 years that a pavilion has been dedicated to Iraq. He represented his “other” home, Finland, in 2007 at the Biennale with his acclaimed installation, Abidin Travels, a mock travel agency that advertised the pleasures of visiting war-torn Iraq. The “agency” was complete with all the materials needed to “sell” an exotic locale: glossy brochures with catchy tag lines, “Baghdad: much more than a holiday” and a brightly-colored faux booking website. In the promotional video, Abidin juxtaposes a cheery, female voice with an American accent describing idealized scenes of Iraq’s famous antiquities and architecture against the footage of looted museums and taped executions. Abidin challenges the typical “Western” tourist’s immunity to the images of war by framing the grim reality within the fake packaging of imagined perfection.

"Consumption of War"“Consumption of War”The Pavilion of Iraq’s theme is Wounded Water. Severe water shortages and pollution in Iraq compete with the ongoing war as the deadliest threat to civilian life. The local plight is also a universal one as global corporations encourage consumption on a massive scale for maximum profit, disregarding the obscene amounts of water needed to produce “necessities” such as a pair of jeans or cup of coffee. Abidin is concerned, “In Iraq, major corporations have signed the largest free oil exploration deals in history. Yet while every barrel of oil extracted requires 1.5 barrels of water, 1 out of every 4 citizens has no access to clean drinking water.” Consumption of War explores this environmental crisis from the perspective of the competitive corporate environment.

The work occupies two adjacent spaces, the first a decrepit room with broken plaster exposing a brick structure and unused fixtures jutting out of a tiled wall. We enter, facing a white, bare wall with a stopped office clock. The disorienting light flickers in bright flashes. Between the flickers, we see a filing cabinet and a large poster of a parched landscape. In the second space, we face an office with the same clock projected onto the back wall and a vivid, lush landscape in the background. Two men, almost identical in height, weight and coloring, as typically corporate as the room, begin a duel using the florescent lights as swords. The camera shots oscillate between the main view and extreme close-ups of feet crunching glass, of furniture sliding across the room, of fingers grasping the light tubes, and of mock menacing facial expressions, with fuzzy, black and white surveillance shots sliced between. Everything in the room becomes a prop for the fight, cabinets become platforms, lights become swords, at one point a binder is used as a shield. The childish battle is an exaggerated slow-motion dance, referencing pop culture movies such as Star Wars and The Matrix. The light dims darker as the “light sabers” are shattered one by one, until we are left in darkness.

Abidin constructs a visual interpretation of a modern power struggle within the glorified corporate environment, its immaculate furnishings and model-like workers symbolize the pinnacle of global aspirations. Even the playful way they fight is idealized and sanitized. But these seemingly innocent actions are not without consequence; for every light bulb shattered in vain, resources are lost to the majority of people shut out of the power structure.

In Consumption of War, a room within a room changes scale to become a world within a world, representing the present and the absent, what is now and what will come in the future. Abidin strategically places the viewers in between an unclear future and a weary present. The viewers become participants in a game with no winners. As they leave the darkness back into the flashing alarms of light, the lush landscape dissolves into an illusion, a dream, replaced with the reality of a parched, depleted world. He leaves them with a choice: to idly watch as precious resources are sucked dry or to play a different game and stop the madness.

The Pavilion of Iraq opened as part of the 54th Venice Biennale on June 2nd, 2011 and runs until November 2011. Other artists presented in the pavilion are Halim Al Karim, Ahmed Alsoudani, Ali Assaf, Azad Nanakeli and Walid Siti. Info here.

Lina Sergie Attar is an architect educated in Aleppo, Syria, with graduate degrees from RISD and MIT. She has taught architecture, interior architecture and art history courses in Boston and Chicago. Lina is co-founder of Karam Foundation, NFP, a charity based in Chicago. She blogs at tooarab.com. This is her second article for the Levantine Review.

Azad Nanakeli, Destnuej (purification), video-installatie, 2011

earlier works of Azad Nanakeli

Azad Nanakeli, What is the Question? video-still, 2007

Azad Nanakeli, A Perfect World, 2009

Azad Nanakeli, Destnuej (purification), video-installatie, 2011

Earlier works of Ali Assaf (http://www.aliassaf.com/works.html )

 This image of Head of Nuisance (1983), by Ali Assaf can be found alongside numerous works created by Iraqi artists on the Iraq Memory Foundation website. (Ali Assaf/Iraq Memory Foundation)

Ali Assaf, Head of Nuisance, 1983

Ali Assaf, Him, just Him, everywhere Him, 1985

Ali Assaf, Belsem, installation (mixed media and sound), San Marino, 1991

Ali Assaf, Feet of Sand, performance, 1996

Ali Assaf, I wonder if your barber would agree, object of rubber, glue and human hair (translation of the German text: ‘A Dutch hairdresser once told me the hair of the Europeans has become more and more thin since the last thirty years, but if they mix with migrants of the south of the earth, (their hair) certainly will become strong again’

Ali Assaf, Mujaheed, cibachrome on foamcore, plastified, 1997




Ali Assaf, The obscure object of desire, installation, 2002 (details, click on picture to enlarge)

Ali Assaf, The obscure object of desire, installation, 2002 (overview)

Ali Assaf, Greetings from Baghdad, 2004

Ali Assaf, I am her, I am him, video, 2008

Floris Schreve, Amsterdam

فلوريس سحرافا

(أمستردام، هولندا

var addthis_config = {“data_track_clickback”:true};

Modern and contemporary art of the Middle East and North Africa


الفن المعاصر في العالم العربي وإيران

Since the recent developments in Tunisia and Egypt and probably to follow in other Arab countries, even the mainstream media have noticed that in the Arab world and Iran there is a desire for freedom and democracy. While in the Western World  often reduced to essentialist clichés of the traditional Arab or the Muslim extremists the recent events show the opposite. The orientalist paradigm, as Edward Said has defined in 1978, or even the ‘neo-orientalist’ version (according to Salah Hassan), virulent since 9 / 11, are denounced by the images of Arab satellite channels like Al Jazeera. It proofs that there are definitely progressive and freedom-loving forces in the Middle East, as nowadays becomes  visible for the whole world.

Wafaa Bilal (Iraq, US), from his project ‘Domestic Tension’, 2007 (see for more http://wafaabilal.com/html/domesticTension.html )

Since the last few years there is an increasing interest in contemporary art from that region. Artists such as Mona Hatoum (Palestine), Shirin Neshat (Iran) and the architect Zaha Hadid (Iraq) were already visible in the international art circuit. Since the last five to ten years there are a number of names added, like Ghada Amer (Egypt), Akram Zaatari and Walid Ra’ad (Lebanon), Fareed Armaly and Emily Jacir (Palestine), Mounir Fatmi (Morocco), Farhad Mosheri ( Iran), Ahmed Mater (Saudi Arabia), Mohammed al- Shammerey  and Wafaa Bilal (Iraq). Most of these artists are working and living in the Western World.


Walid Ra’ad/The Atlas Group (Lebanon), see http://www.theatlasgroup.org/index.html, at Documenta 11, Kassel, 2002

Mounir Fatmi (Morocco), The Connections, installation, 2003 – 2009, see http://www.mounirfatmi.com/2installation/connexions01.html

Yet the phenomenon of modern and contemporary art in the Middle East isn’t something of last decades. From the end of World War I, when most Arab countries arose in its present form, artists in several countries have sought manners to create their own form of international modernism. Important pioneers were Mahmud Mukhtar (since the twenties and thirties in Egypt), Jewad Selim (forties and fifties in Iraq), or Muhammad Melehi and Farid Belkahia (from the sixties in Morocco). These artists were the first who, having been trained mostly in the West, introduced modernist styles in their homeland. Since that time, artists in several Arab countries draw inspiration from both international modernism, and from traditions of their own cultural heritage.

Shakir Hassan al-Said (Iraq), Objective Contemplations, oil on board, 1984, see http://universes-in-universe.org/eng/nafas/articles/2008/shakir_hassan_al_said/photos/08

Ali Omar Ermes (Lybia/UK), Fa, Ink and acryl on paper

The latter was not something noncommittal. In the decolonization process, the artists often explicitly took a stand against western colonialism. Increasing local traditions here was used often as a strategy. From the late sixties also other factors play a role. “Pan-Arabism” or even the search for a “Pan-Islamic identity” had an impact on the arts. This is obvious in what the French Moroccan art historian Brahim Alaoui  called ‘l’ Ecole de Signe’,  the ‘school of sign’. Abstract calligraphy and decorative traditions of Islamic art, were in many variations combined with contemporary abstract art. The main representatives of this unique tendency of modern Islamic art were Shakir Hassan al-Said (Iraq, deceased in 2004), and the still very active artists as Rachid Koraichi (Algeria, lives and works in France), Ali Omar Ermes (Libya, lives and works in England) and Wijdan Ali (Jordan). This direction found even a three dimensional variant, in the sculptures of the Iranian artist Parviz Tanavoli.

Laila Shawa (Palestine), Gun for Palestine (from ‘The Walls of Gaza’), silkscreen on canvas, 1995

What is particularly problematic for the development of contemporary art of the Middle East are the major crises of recent decades. The dictatorial regimes, the many wars, or, in the case of Palestine, the Israeli occupation,  have often been a significant obstacle for the devolopment of the arts. If the arts were encouraged, it was often for propaganda purposes, with Iraq being the most extreme example (the many portraits and statues of Saddam Hussein speak for themselves). Many artists saw themselves thus forced to divert in the Diaspora (especially Palestinian and Iraqi artists). In the Netherlands there are well over the one hundred artists from the Middle East, of which the majority exists of refugees from Iraq (about eighty). Yet most of these artists are not known to the vast majority of the Dutch cultural institutions and the general public.

Mohamed Abla (Egypt), Looking for a Leader, acrylic on canvas, 2006

In the present context of on the one hand the increased aversion to the Islamic world in many European countries, which often manifests itself  into populist political parties, or conspiracy theories about ‘Eurabia’ and, on the other hand, the very recent boom in the Arab world itself, it would be a great opportunity to make this art more visible to the rest of the world. The Middle East is in many respects a region with a lot of problems, but much is also considerably changing. The young people in Tunisia and Egypt and other Arab countries, who challenged their outdated dictatorships with blogs, facebook and twitter, have convincingly demonstrated this. Let us  have a look at the arts. There is much to discover.

Floris Schreve

Amsterdam, March, 2011

originally published in ‘Kunstbeeld’, nr. 4, 2011 (see here the original Dutch version). Also published on Global Arab Network and on Local/Global Art, my new blog on international art

Ahmed Mater (Saudi Arabia), Evolution of Man, Cairo Biennale, 2008. NB at the moment Mater is exhibiting in Amsterdam, at Willem Baars Project, Hoogte Kadijk 17, till the 30th of july. See http://www.baarsprojects.com/

Handout lecture ‘Modern and Contemporary art of the Arab World’

محاضرة الفن الحديث والمعاصر في العالم العربي

Diversity & Art,  Amsterdam, 17-5-2011, at the occasion of the exhibition of the Dutch Iraqi artist Qassim Alsaedy

Click on the pictures to enlarge

Short introduction on the history and geography of the modern Arab World

  • The Ottoman Empire
  • The  Sykes/Picot agreement
  • The formation of the national states
  • The Israeli/Palestinian conflict



Ottoman Empire 1739                  Ottoman Empire 1914                   The Sykes/Picot agreement


The modern Middle East       The modern Arab World


 Palestinian loss of land 1948-2000    The current situation (2005)

The early modernist pioneers:


Mahmud Mukhtar            Jewad Selim


Jewad Selim                    Faeq Hassan

Farid Belkahia

The ‘School of Sign’ (acc. Brahim Alaoui, curator of the  Institut du Monde Arabe, Paris):


 Shakir Hassan al-Said               Ali Omar Ermes                              Rachid Koraichi


Other examples of ‘Arab Modernism’:


  Mohamed Kacimi                           Dhia Azzawi                                   Rafik el-Kamel

The Palestinian Diaspora:


Mona Hatoum                                    Laila Shawa                                       Emily Jacir

Recently emerged ‘international art’:


 Walid Ra’ad/The Atlas Group           Mounir Fatmi                                     Ahmed Mater

Art and propaganda:

  • Iraq (monuments, Victory Arch, Babylon, portraits of Saddam Husayn and Michel Aflaq, the founder of the Ba’thparty)
  • Syria (portrait Havez al-Assad)
  • Libya (portrait Muammar al-Qadhafi)


Victory Arch                               ‘Saddam as Saladin’


Statue of Michel Aflaq                    Statue of Havez al-Assad                 Muammar al-Qadhafi

The art of the ‘Arab Spring’ in Egypt:


Mohamed Abla                                Ahmed Bassiony


Iraqi artists in the Diaspora:



Rafa al-Nasiri                             Hanaa Mal Allah                         Ali Assaf


Wafaa Bilal                           Halim al-Karim                         Nedim Kufi


Hoshyar Rasheed                            Aras Kareem                          Ziad Haider


Qassim Alsaedy, Shortly after the War, mixed media (installation) Diversity&Art, May 2011 (see here an interview with Qassim Alsaedy at the opening-in Arabic)

Selected Bibliography

• Brahim Alaoui, Art Contemporain Arabe, Institut du Monde Arabe, Paris, 1996
• Brahim Alaoui, Mohamed Métalsi, Quatre Peintres Arabe Première ; Azzaoui, El Kamel, Kacimi, Marwan, Institut du Monde Arabe, Paris, 1988.
• Brahim Alaoui, Maria Lluïsa Borràs, Schilders uit de Maghreb (‘Painters of the Maghreb’), Centrum voor Beeldende Kunst, Gent (Belgium), 1994
• Brahim Alaoui, Laila Al Wahidi, Artistes Palestiniens Contemporains, Institut du Monde Arabe, Paris, 1997
• Wijdan Ali, Contemporary Art from the Islamic World, Al Saqi Books, London, 1989.
• Wijdan Ali, Modern Islamic Art; Development and continuity, University of Florida Press, 1997
• Hossein Amirsadeghi , Salwa Mikdadi, Nada Shabout, ao, New Vision; Arab Contemporary Art in the 21st Century, Thames and Hudson, London, 2009.
• Michael Archer, Guy Brett, Catherine de Zegher, Mona Hatoum, Phaidon Press, New York, 1997
• Ali Assaf, Mary Angela Shroth, Acqua Ferita/Wounded Water; Six Iraqi artists interpret the theme of water, Gangemi editore, Venice Biennale, 2011 (artists: Adel Abidin, Ahmed Alsoudani, Ali Assaf, Azad Nanakeli, Halim al-Karim, Walid Siti)
• Mouna Atassi, Contemporary Art in Syria, Damascus, 1998
• Wafaa Bilal (with Kari Lydersen), Shoot an Iraqi; Art, Life and Resistance Under the Gun, City Lights, New York, 2008
• Catherine David (ed),Tamass 2: Contemporary Arab Representations: Cairo, Witte De With Center For Contemporary Art, Rotterdam, 2005
• Saeb Eigner, Art of the Middle East; modern and contemporary art of the Arab World and Iran, Merrell, Londen/New York, 2010 (with an introduction of Zaha Hadid).
• Aida Eltori, Illuminations; Thirty days of running  in the Space: Ahmed Basiony (1978-2011) , Venice Biennale, 2011
• Maysaloun Faraj (ed.), Strokes of genius; contemporary Iraqi art, Saqi Books, London, 2002 (see here the presentation of the Strokes of Genius exhibition)
• Mounir Fatmi, Fuck the architect, published on the occasion of the Brussels Biennal, 2008
• Liliane Karnouk, Modern Egyptian Art; the emergence of a National Style, American University of Cairo Press, 1988, Cairo
• Samir Al Khalil (pseudonym of Kanan Makiya), The Monument; art, vulgarity and responsibillity in Iraq, Andre Deutsch, London, 1991
• Robert Kluijver, Borders; contemporary Middle Eastern art and discourse, Gemak, The Hague, October 2007/ January 2009
• Mohamed Metalsi, Croisement de Signe, Institut du Monde Arabe, Parijs, 1989 (on ao Shakir Hassan al-Said)
• Revue Noire; African Contemporary Art/Art Contemporain Africain: Morocco/Maroc, nr. 33-34, 2ème semestre, 1999, Paris.
• Ahmed Fouad Selim, 7th International Biennial of Cairo, Cairo, 1998.
• Ahmed Fouad Selim, 8th International Biennial of Cairo, Cairo, 2001.
• M. Sijelmassi, l’Art Contemporain au Maroc, ACR Edition, Paris, 1889.
• Walid Sadek, Tony Chakar, Bilal Khbeiz, Tamass 1; Beirut/Lebanon, Witte De With Center For Contemporary Art, Rotterdam, 2002
• Paul Sloman (ed.), with contributions of Wijdan Ali, Nat Muller, Lindsey Moore ao, Contemporary Art in the Middle East, Black Dog Publishing, London, 2009
• Stephen Stapleton (ed.), with contributions of Venetia Porter, Ashraf Fayadh, Aarnout Helb, ao, Ahmed Mater, Booth-Clibborn Productions, Abha/London 2010 (see also www.ahmedmater.com)
• Rayya El Zein & Alex Ortiz, Signs of the Times: the Popular Literature of Tahrir; Protest Signs, Graffiti, and Street Art, New York, 2011 (see http://arteeast.org/pages/literature/641/)

Links to relevant websites of institutions, manifestations, magazines, museums and galleries for Contemporary Art of the Middle East and North Africa:

An Impression of the lecture, 17-5-2011, Diversity & Art, Amsterdam


On the screen a work of the Iraqi artist Rafa al-Nasiri


Three times Qassim Alsaedy’s Shortly after the War



In front: The Iraqi/Kurdish journalist Goran Baba Ali and Herman Divendal, director of the Human Rights Organisation for Artists AIDA (Association Internationale des Défence des Artistes)




Me (left) with the Embassador of Iraq in the Netherlands, H.E. Dr. Saad Al-Ali, and Qassim Alsaedy



Floris Schreve
فلوريس سحرافا
(أمستردام، هولندا)

photos during the lecture by Hesam Hama

Tagged with: , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , ,

Living in exile in their own land; contemporary Native American artists


English version of my original Dutch article on Contemporary Native American art, published in ‘Decorum’, journal of the department of Art History, University of Leiden, March 1997, issue 1+2 (also published on this blog, see HERE).


This article was my first real publication and also my first small research in the field of  ‘contemporary art from outside the western world’. In that time the Leiden University was the only university in the Netherlands which started to explore this unknown field within the disciplinary of art history, today an important part of the subject  ‘World Art Sudies’.

Since this project in the nineties I never lost my interest in this particular issue in studying contemporary art and world culture, which finally lead to my research to contemporary art of the Arab world in the diaspora, especially Iraq. But this was my first published article on this subject.

Jimmie Durham, Pocahontas’ underwear, mixed media, 1985

Contemporary Native American Art

‘I did not know then how much was ended. When I look back now from this high hill of my old age, I can still see the butchered women and children lying heaped and scattered all along the crooked gulch as plain as when I saw them with eyes young. And I can see that something else died there in the bloody mud, and was buried in the blizzard. A people’s dream died there. It was a beautiful dream . . . . the nation’s hope has broken and scattered. There is no centre any longer, and the sacred tree is dead’. [1]

Black Elk

‘While the entire world is in an identity crisis, the New Indian still knows who he is’ [2]

Fritz Scholder

These quotations, the first of the Lakota Black Elk on the massacre of Wounded Knee in 1890 and the second by artist Fritz Scholder (Luseno) from the early seventies, show the North American Indians in this century have experienced turbulent changes. After the various Indian nations and tribes were subdued and banned to reservations, it was thought that America’s original inhabitants would disappear very soon. Nearly a century later, despite the social and economic problems, the Native Americans found a defined identity in a totally changed world.
Also artistic the Native Americans manifest themselves in various ways. In the reservations, which are relatively isolated from the rest of American society, a revival can be observed of the traditional arts. This applies especially to the peoples in the south-western United States (Navaho, Pueblo, Hopi) and for the peoples of the Canadian west coast (Haida, Tlingit, Kwakiutl). Elsewhere in North America there is also a revival of various tribal traditions.
These artistic expressions are not limited to nostalgia. Many of these artists are experimenting with new materials and shapes to give the traditional imagery a contemporary face. The most famous artists who work in this way are the ‘sand painter’ Joe Ben Jr. (Navaho) and the goldsmith and sculptor Bill Reid (Haida).


Joe Ben Jr., The Four Arrow-people, sand and pigment on earth (http://www.tribalexpressions.com/painting/ben.htm)

In this context I will discuss the more recent emerged artistic expressions. Beside artists of Native American origin who work in the tradition of their own cultural heritage, since the fifties a new phenomenon emerged, called ‘pan-indianism’, a movement that was close related with the increasing political and emancipatory struggle of the original inhabitants of America. This new activism was mainly originated by Native Americans living outside the reservations, and mostly had received university education.
Although the first and for a while  the only Indian with a university education, the famous Indian affairs commissioner Donehogawa or Ely Parker, lived in the nineteenth century, the Native Americans in general are still an underclass minority in American society. This new activism was mainly originated by Native Americans living outside the reservations, most by Native Americans citizens living in the cities. From the fifties however, there were more Indians who followed an academic education.
They were mainly representatives of this group who reconsidered their own identity. Also there were several political organizations established as ‘The National Congress of American Indians’ and militant movements like the ‘American Indian Movement’ (AIM) and ‘Red Power’ and organized political actions which sometimes took the attention of the world press, like the occupations of Alcatraz (1969) and Wounded Knee (1973, see this documentary by Roelof Kiers for the Dutch television of that time, Dutch and English spoken). In both cases these were intertribal actions, organized by AIM.
These activities can’t be understood out of context of the general protest movement of the sixties. The rise of the emancipation movement of Native Americans took place at the same time as the Civil Rights Movement and the Vietnam demonstrations. However, the most important Native American writer of that time, Vine Deloria Jr. (Lakota), president of the ‘National Congress of American Indians’ during the seventies and author of We talk, you listen, God is Red and Custer died for Your Sins, stipulates the differences with the Afro-American emancipation movement. Although he clearly expresses his sympathy for the Civil Rights Movement, in Custer died for your Sins (the title refers to the U.S. General Custer in 1876 with the Seventh Cavalry Regiment of the U.S. Army was massacred by the Lakota, the Western or Teton Sioux , led by Sitting Bull at the Little Bighorn) that the Native Americans strive for other goals than e.g. the Afro-Americans. In his view the main aim of the natives is not to integrate into American society, because Western culture is imposed on them involuntarily. In his manifesto Vine Deloria Jr. pleas as much as possible autonomy for the indigenous population, for self determination, land and particularly the maintenance of their own cultural heritage. In this regard he particularly criticizes the romantic attitude of some Westerners to the ‘noble savage’. He rejects a fashionable interest in Indian mysticism in the western world, in his opinion it is outright theft of ideas, from one hypocrisy after first massive genocide was committed on the Native Americans. [3] These ideas are also in line with that of Pam Colorado (Oneida), professor at the University of Toronto: ‘In the end non Indians will have complete power to define what is and what is not Indian, even for Indians … When this happens, the last vestiges of Indian Society and Indian rights will disappear. Non Indians will then ‘own’ our heritage and ideas as thoroughly as they now claim to own our land and resources’.[4]


Bill Reid (Haida), The Raven and the First Men, cedar wood, 1980 (Vancouver, British Columbia’s Museum of Anthropology)

The New Indians

It was in the context of renewed Indian activism ‘Pan-Indianism’ emerged as an artistic movement. It was not a movement relying on a particular cultural or tribal tradition. The first ‘Pan-Indian art’ of the New Indians, as these artists called themselves, was particularly protest art, inspired by Pop Art. Using irony these artists challenged the discourse of the dominant American culture.
The most famous representative of this movement was the late Fritz Scholder (1937-2005). Scholder was a teacher at the Indian Art Institute in Santa Fe (Arizona) from 1964 to 1969, an institute which taught both traditional Native American art and Western art. His Pop Art-like works Scholder explains in an ironical way and expose abuses while he denounce Western stereotypes.



Fritz Scholder, Super Indian 2# (with Ice-cone), acryl on canvas, 1971

A typical work is Super Indian # 2 (with Ice-cone). In this work Scholder shows a stereotype image of an Indian from the Great Plains with an ice-cone. This paradoxical work could be interpreted in two ways: whether it is about the traditional Indian who became a part of today’s consumers culture and thus has become a kind of brand , or it is about the Indian self-conscious, which, while retaining traditions are able to maintain in today’s society. With these kind of works Scholder ‘tries to rewrite American history’. [5]

T.C. Cannon, Andrew Myrick, oil on canvas, 1974

Another striking example of the engaged art of the New Indians is a work of Tommy Cannon (Caddo / Kiowa), entitled Andrew Myrick. This work refers to a notorious event in Native American history during the war of the Eastern or Santee Dakota in Minesota in 1862. As the easternmost group of the Dakota / Sioux nation, in contrary to the western branch where the great and more than twenty years struggle had yet to begin, the Santees were already incorporated in U.S. reserves and were dependent on food supplies from the U.S. government. Because the distribution was in the hands of corrupt merchants the Santees received almost nothing of the Government’s supplies. This was the reason for Chief Little Crow to complain. In response one of the merchants Andrew Myrick answered: ‘If they’re hungry, let them eat grass’. This incident was the immediate cause of the great revolt in Minesota. Myrick was one of the first people who were killed. When the Santees slain him they filled his mouth full of grass and they mocked him with the words ‘Myrick is eating grass himself’. [6]
The work of Wayne Eagleboy (Onondaga), We-the people is a clear example of the style of the New Indians. The title refers to the text of the U.S. Constitution. We see the American flag, but instead of the stars we see with a barbed wire behind the faces of America’s original inhabitants. An effective metaphor for the outsider in his own country, a theme that often plays a role in the contemporary art of the Native Americans.

Wayne Eagleboy, We-the people, acryl and barbed wire on buffalo skin, 1971

Exiles in their own land

Beside the New Indians, other artists emerged who reflect on their Native origin. In this context, we need to pay some attention to the writer N. Scott Momoday (Kiowa). This writer and professor of English literature at Stanford University (California) is one of the most influential theorists in the field of modern Native American culture in the United States. Although he is not a descendant of one of the various peoples of the Pueblo Indians (the Kiowa of the Great Plains were nomadic, although they are linguistically related to e.g. the Tewa, who have lived in Pueblos), he spent a part of his life in Jemez Pueblo, an ancient holy site that plays an important role in his work. This is reflected strongly in his novels, like House Made of Dawn (Pulitzer Prize 1969). The central theme of his work is ‘living in exile in your own country’. He argues the Native Americans, despite the domination, still have a spiritual connection to the land of their ancestors. Restricted in their freedom by political, bureaucratic and economic factors, it is hard for the Indians to continue their relationship with a particular location in freedom. [7]
According to Vine Deloria Jr. is this the central issue of the ‘Fourth World Nations’, a concept which he defines as follows: ‘The Fourth World are all aboriginal and native peoples Whose lands fall within national boundaries and techno-bureaucratic administrations of countries of the First, Second or Third Worlds. As such, they are peoples without their own countries or, people who are usually in the minority, and without the power to direct the course of their collective lives’. [8]
Several contemporary artists of Native American origin are concerned with this issue. Frequently these artists were born in reservations, but educated in the cities. The artists dicussed here have returned to their origins which they investigate from a new perspective. The relationship between people, history and land is a major issue for them. The artist George Longfish (Seneca / Tuscarora) introduced the term ‘land base’. Longfish: ‘… the interwoven aspects of place, history, culture, physiology, and their people a sense of themselves and their spirituality and how the characteristics of the place are all part of the fabric. When rituals are integrated into the setting through the use of materials and specific places and when religion includes one walks upon the earth- that is land-base’. [9]
Longfish considers the Navaho art of sand painting as an example of ‘land base’ because ‘sand as an artistic medium is a microcosm of the surrounding desert’ [10], a form of art, religion and place in one.


George Longfish, You can’t rollerskate in a Buffalo-herd, even if you have all the Medicine, acryl on canvas, 1979 (Lippard, p.110)

In his work You can’t skate in a Buffalo Herd You, even if you have all the medicine is the ‘land base’ element is very evident. In this abstract work the central circle and the motive of the four corners dominate the composition. Pictographic characters refer to landscapes and footprints. The circular shape and the characters resemble the type of shield that was formerly used by the nomadic tribes of the Great Plains. The appearance of the four directions is a very typical element of the Navaho sand painting, as applied by Joe Ben Jr., a traditional working Navaho artist, who in 1989 exhibited at the famous exhibition of Jean Hubert Martin Magiciens de la Terre, in the Centre Pompidou in Paris. [11]
You can’t rollerskate … could be a typical work might call pan-Indian, because elements are included of two different Indian cultures (those of the Great Plains nomads and those of the Navahos in the canyon areas of Arizona). These elements are not a part of the tradition of Longfish’ own origin; the Seneca and Tuscarora were sedentary farming peoples of the U.S. east coast. Longfish uses the circle motive, because he ‘was interested in the circle philosophy of the Native Americans. This title was chosen to put some ‘lightness into a serious painting’. [12]
In the context of this circle philosophy the following quote of the Lakota poet / mystic Black Elk of the early twentieth century is very relevant. Black Elk: ‘In almost everything the Idian does you find the circle motive, because the Power of the World always works in circles and everything tries to be round … The flowering tree was the living centre of the circle and the circle of the four winds made him grow … The sky is round and I’ve heard the earth is round like a sphere just like the stars. The wind turns around when it is at the very most. Birds build round nests because their belief is equal to ours. The sun rises and sets in an arch. The moon does the same and they both are round’.[13]

Jaune Quick To See Smith, Osage Orange, oil on canvas, 1985 (Lippard, p. 20). See also this dissertation Beyond Sweetgrass; the life and work of Jaune Quick-To-See Smith, by Joni L. Murphy, University of Kansas, 2008.

An artist who deals with a same kind of theme is Jaune Quick to See Smith (Salish). In her abstract work she is influenced by both the Native American pictographic tradition as the ‘classic modern masters’ like Klee, Gris, Picasso and Miró. Quick to See Smith’s use of color is inspired by the desert of New Mexico, where she lives. This is not the area where her ancestors came from (the original habitat of the Salish lay in the north-western states of Idaho and the State of Washington), but she also considers herself as a pan-Indian artist. She participates regularly in the so-called powwows, a twentieth century intertribal ritual, in which many elements of different tribes and cultures from across North America brought together in an eclectic way.
Quick to See Smith calls her more or less abstract work ‘narrative landscapes’, where ‘the epic element is visible only to one who is able to live in the barren, empty landscape itself’. Quick to See Smith: ‘When we talk, we talk in the past, and future present. When I paint I do the same. When you grow up in this environment, live is not romantic … Thus living language and are not embellished but simple and direct. I feel that in my paintings as well … I paint in a stream of consciousness so that pictographs on the rocks behind me muddling together with shapes of rocks I find in the yard, but all made over into my own expression. It’s not copying what’s there, it’s writing about it’.[14]
The work shown here, Osage Orange, is a clear example of such a ‘narrative landscape’. Between the abstract lines and color fields pictographic characters are all visible, pointing to recognizable figures, like humans, horses, snakes, a moose, astrological constellations and a canoe. The work as a whole represents a combination of natural forces and historical events, an imprint of space and time, according to the landbase philosophy always connected. The title refers to a small tree which branches were once used to make bows. When the first settlers came to the Osage Oranges were used as markers for barbed wire. ‘So this little  shrub played two very different roles in two different cultures’, sais Quick to See Smith. [15] So even this apparent non-political work can’t be understood out of context of the current situation of the Native Americans.

Jimmie Durham, We have made progress, mixed media, 1991

Jimmie Durham

‘Don’t worry, I’m a good Indian. I’m from the West, love nature, and have a special, intimate connection with the environment. I can speak with my animal cousins, and believe it or not I’m appropriately spiritual (even smoke the pipe). I hope I am authentic enough to have been worth of your time, and yet educated enough that you feel your conversation has been intelligent. I’ve been careful not to reveal to much, understanding consumers is a product in your society, you can buy some for the price of a magazine … I feel fairly sure that I could address the entire world if only I had a place to stand . You (White Americans) made everything your turf. In every field, on every issue, the ground has already been covered’. [16]

With these somewhat cynical words Jimmie Durham begins his essay The Ground has already been covered, in ‘Artforum’, summer 1988. This article describes the overall occupancy of the original Indian land by the white dominant culture, both materially and spiritually. The land has been splintered in unities with defined but artificial borders and in almost everything the occupation is noticeable, even considering ideas and language. In a certain way the concept of Durham fits in the notion of ‘exile in their own country’ of Scott O Momoday and Vine Deloria Jr. The tone is rather sarcastic and laced with cynical irony, a major strategy of the artist.
Jimmie Durham (Arkansas 1940) is a Cherokee, one of the nations which in 1834 were expelled from their original habitat (approximately the current Georgia) and past the infamous ‘Trail of Tears’ to the ‘Indian Territory’, the current State of Oklahoma, more than one thousand kilometers to the west. In the words of Durham the Cherokee are ‘a nation of losers’, a notion that plays an important role in the work of this artist. [17]
Jimmie Durham began his career as a political activist in AIM until the movement was unbound in the early eighties. From that moment he focussed on his art, which indeed always involves commitment. Durham: ‘It would be impossible, and I think immoral, to attempt to discuss American Indian Art sensibly without making central political realities’. [18]
After a time, having lived in New York ( ‘the only place in the United States for an Indian somewhat liveable’), in 1989 Durham moved into Mexico, as ‘in the U.S. the homeland of the Cherokee has buried where for us it is not allowed to stay’. After his Mexican period, Durham left the American continent and lived successively in Japan, Belgium, Ireland. and finally Germany (Berlin) [19]


Jimmie Durham, Selfportrait, mixed media, 1986

Key issues in Durham’s work are identity and origin, language, the ‘subjective and ideologically loaded history’ (compare with Fritz Scholder), the stereotypes non-Indians have on Indians and the postmodern notion that almost everything has been said or written ( See ‘The Ground has already been covered’). In his statements Durham is often very outspoken and provocative. By example he considers the vast oeuvre of Picasso as a ‘form of environmental pollution’. The ‘vast profusion of images doesn’t contribute to communicate great ideas’, states Durham. [20]
In his art he confronts the audience with their own stereotypes and prejudices by holding a mirror. In ‘The Ground has already been covered’ he projects all prejudices, stereotypes and romantic falsifications that non-Indians have on Indians to himself. Durham confronts the reader with all manner of ironic ambiguity to unmask certain fixed ideas and refute them. Durham doesn’t have much hope on improvement. In a double interview, together with the Cuban artist Ricardo Brey on the eve of the Documenta IX in Kassel, he calls himself an ‘anti-optimist’. He explains that this is not the same as a pessimist, the difference is between a nuance he only knows the Cherokee language. The bottom line is the phrase ‘probably not’ could mean a ‘maybe’, the hope of a ‘nation of losers’. Durham calls this his main philosophy: ‘Our life is in an intolerable way absurd. Everything is so banal, so absurd, that you aim to grin at it. I am not doomster, but I tend to say probably not’. [21]
Durham work consists of installations, ready-mades and text, in which he show many possible ambiguities and paradoxes. He considers his ready-mades as one of the most ‘Native American elements’ in his work. Since the first confrontation with the Europeans the Native Americans were masters to let their new goods undergo a ‘Duchamp-like metamorphosis’. Cooking pots, beads and blankets were so transformed they were immediately identifiable as ‘Indian objects’.

Jimmie Durham, Karankawa, mixed media, 1983 (Lippard, p. 217)

Karankawa (1983) is a clear example of Durham’s ready-made objects. The processed skull was from a person belonged to the Karankawa, an extinct indigenous people, which Durham found at the beach of Texas. By putting the skull on a socle this person regains some of his dignity. Durham added the eyes, one outward (by a shell) and the other inward (through an empty candle holder).
An other work in which he uses the motive of the outward and inward eye is Self Portrait from 1986. It is one of his most macabre objects. We can see the template of a human body covered with scars and wounds and filled with texts, surmounted by a mask. With this work Durham might give the appearance that he introduces himself to the viewer. Among the texts are some excerpts from his essay The ground has already been covered, but are mixed with other text fragments. Irony and self-mockery are again a part of his strategies.
In the autumn of 1995 Durham exhibited in the Netherlands for the first time, with his installation The Center Of The World, in Museum ‘De Vleeshal’ in Middelburg. In the huge space Durham made a few subtle changes. First was a network of steel cables along the walls, which were laced as small objects, bones, walnuts and iron scrap. In the corner stood a chair showing a phone. On a small monitor in a different corner was a performance video display, which showed how Durham in the middle of a field was trying to install another phone. While he was doing this, there was a persistent ringing. At one point from outside of the image of the monitor someone threw with a stone the handset of the phone. But the sound of the ringing continued.
Somewhere on the wall was stuck a little note with the following message: ‘Please understand that, in spite of all appearances I am not your enemy. It is my duty to find the truth and I will. I hope it will cause as little trouble as possible’. [22]
Added to this installation Durham wrote a small booklet with poems, short stories, anecdotes and individual claims. The texts were written in the Cherokee [23], English, Japanese and French, the languages spoken in the various places where the artist had lived. These texts were more confusing than enlightening. For example: ‘Grandmother Spider said: “When I die bury me with my face to the East”. The Spring after, tobacco grew where her vagina was. That is the reason we smoke tobacco’. This seems another example of how Durham confronts the viewer (especially the viewer who is seeking for exotic and mystical truths of a ‘spiritual Indian’) by saddling him with semi-profound wisdom, as he did In his essay The ground has already been covered.
In the foreword of the booklet it seems Durham unveils some of his intentions. The main theme of this installations are perhaps surprising and illogical associative ‘connections’. Durham: ‘If you follow one line it seems logical, if you follow a second it could still be true, but with the third everything falls apart’.
The booklet ends with the poem ‘The Center Of The World’. Here Durham cuts the word ‘invisibilite’ in different smaller units and adds new elements, so that more new ‘connections’ are created, such as ‘business’ and ‘visibilité’. Finally, he suggests that the concept ‘The Center of the World’ was not chosen randomly for this location, because in Middelburg the telescope was invented (by Zacharias Jansen and Johannes Lipperhey in 1608), an instrument that has achieved again ‘new connections’.
In this installation he spectator is the ‘Center of the World’. All around him are logical and non-logical ‘connections’ and it is up to the spectator whether he uses these lines to come to interact. Durham doesn’t make it easy and frequently gives the signal ‘wrong connection’ (almost literally, see the telephones). In my view the ringing phone on the monitor view represents Durham futile attempts to make contact, as he tries in The Ground has already been covered in ‘Artforum’ ( ‘I could address the entire world if only I had a place to stand’). Although all options are open this again fits in Durham philosophy ‘probably not’.


An impression of Durham’s installation The Center of the World, which was also exhibited at ‘De Vleeshal’  in Middelburg (The Netherlands), 1995 (http://vleeshal.nl/en/tentoonstellingen/jimmie-durham-the-center-of-the-world)

Jimmie Durham, The Center of the World, at ‘De Vleeshal’ (detail)

Jimmie Durham, The Center of the World, at ‘De Vleeshal’ (detail)

Position and place

The first thing that strikes after discussing these artists is the enormous diversity. Now this fact is not as spectacular as the traditionally Native America was a great patchwork of very different peoples, languages and cultures. It is striking, when initially expected that decimated the Indian population at the beginning of the twentieth century would soon disappear, since the sixties a great revival can be observed from various political and cultural events, not necessarily exclusively belonging  to a specific tribal or cultural tradition.
Remains for us to see if the categories which Susan Vogel has developed for classification of contemporary African art, also applicable to the contemporary art of Native America (this was a part of the original assignment in 1996, FS, see also http://www.susan-vogel.com/publications.html). At first sight maybe a little bit. In the traditional reserves is sometimes referred to ‘Traditional Art’ or ‘Functional Art’. Furthermore you can find many examples of ‘Extinct Art’ (eg tourist ‘totem poles’ in Vancouver, fixed ‘sand paintings’ of the Navaho or other ‘traditional objects’, mainly commercial artefacts for the tourist markets).
Yet I believe there is a danger in applying these types of African art on the contemporary art of the Native Americans. The situation of America’s original inhabitants is completely different than those of black Africa. Africa consists largely of former colonial countries, which are now the third world. The Indians of North America belong to the ‘Fourth World’, indigenous peoples are now dominated by imported culture, in this case within the boundaries of a First World country. This fact is, as previously shown, often essential on their contemporary art. To quote Jimmie Durham again: ‘It would be impossible, and I think immoral, to attempt to discuss American Indian Art sensibly without making central political realities’. Although the Fourth World issues in some areas of black Africa will play a role, perhaps as in southern Africa, where a very small minority of Bushmen is dominated by White Africans, Asians, Bantus and Zulus, is generally an African problem other than those of the North American Indians.
However, the history and current status of the Indians in Canada and the United States (often a minority and exiles in their own country) is an essential element for a decent understanding and interpretation of the contemporary Native American art and culture .

Floris Schreve



[1] Dee Brown, Bury my heart at Wounded Knee, New York, 1970, (Dutch edition, Begraaf mijn hart bij de bocht van de rivier, Hollandia, Baarn, 1973, p. 381)

[2] Axel Schultze, Indianische Malerei des Nord Amerikas 1830-1970, Stuttgart, 1973, p. 75

[3] Lucy Lippard, Mixed Blessings; New art in multicultural America, New York, 1990, p. 117

[4] Lippard, p. 117

[5] Schultze, p. 75.

[6] Brown, p. 44, 48

[7] See about this history http://www.loc.gov/rr/program/bib/ourdocs/Indian.html[

[8] Lippard, p. 109

[10] Lippard, p. 109

[11] Jean Hubert Martin, Magiciens de la Terre, Musee Nationale d’ Art Moderne Centre Pompidou, Parijs, 1989, p. 92-93

[12] Lippard p. 109

[13] Ton Lemaire, Wij zijn een deel van de Aarde, Utrecht, 1988, p. 22

[14] Lippard, p. 119

[15] Lippard, p. 14

[16] Jimmie Durham, The ground has already been covered, in ‘Artforum’, summer 1988, New York, p. 101.

[17] Domenic van den Boogaard, Let Geerling, Outsiderart betekent uitsluiting; een gesprek tussen Ricardo Brey en Jimmie Durham, ‘Metropolis M’, nr. 4, Utrecht (The Netherlands) 1992, p. 24.

[18] Lippard, p. 204

[19] Hans Hartog Jager, Durham verstrikt bezoekers in netwerk van draad en botten, NRC Handelsblad (The Netherlands), 20-5-1995.

[20] van den Boogaard, Geerling , p. 24.

[21] idem, p. 25

[22] Jimmie Durham, The Center of the World, Middelburg, 1995, see http://vleeshal.nl/en/publicaties/jimmie-durham-document-3 .

[23] Although most of the Native American cultures of North America were non alphabethic (perhaps the Delaware, or Leni Lenape of the Eastern US Coast were an exeption) the Cherokee developed after the European invasion an alphabet of their own. This alphabet was developed by Sequoya (1760-1843), who used the phonetic European system by developing his own characters. The alphabet of Sequoya is still used by the Cherokee (see http://www.britannica.com/EBchecked/topic/535250/Sequoyah)

Neo-Nazi elements sold as Anthroposophy

anthroposophy part IV, see also (in Dutch) anthroposophy I, II, III, V, VI and VII

A Bridge too far?

Neo-Nazi elements sold as Anthroposophy


By Floris Schreve

also published on Egoisten, the website of Michael Eggert (Germany), see http://www.egoisten.de/files/schreve.html


‘The members of the board hereby declare on behalf of the Rudolf Steiner Nachlassverwaltung that they emphatically reject the use of Rudolf Steiner’s remarks in any way which calls for hate against groups of people or is directed in a hostile and discriminatory way against groups of people on the basis of race, nation, gender, religion, etc. They would see that not just as a violation of basic principles of human dignity but also as an abuse of the intentions of Rudolf Steiner’

The Board of the Rudolf Steiner Nachlassverwaltung, Dornach, October 2007

From ‘The Frankfurther Memorandum’[1]

Almost two years ago (autumn 2007, ironically almost at the same time the Board of the Nachlassverwaltung published this declaration) I searched the internet on the (Dutch) terms ‘antroposofie’ and ‘racisme’, trying to find an article I read years before (Jan Willem de Groot, Kosmisch racisme; over racistische elementen in de antroposofie on the website of Simpos[2] ). I found this article but also something else. The article Zogezegd racisme (‘So called racism’) of Thomas Voss, as it appeared in the google search engine, was part of a series of hundreds of articles on a Belgian website.[3] This website and magazine, De Brug (means ‘The Bridge’) called itself ‘anthroposophical’. Partly it appeared to me as anthroposophical as a lot of articles were dealing with Rudolf Steiner and with an affluent use of terms as ‘Atlantis’, ‘Lemuria’, ‘reincarnation’, ‘Archangels’, ‘Lucifer’, ‘Michael’ and above all ‘Ahriman’. But this was totally different stuff than I used to know as ‘anthroposophy’, as from my own memories of my primary school, the moderate and civilized Dutch anthroposophical magazine Jonas which I knew from my parental house and the basically non racist, quiet progressive and well educated, friendly and civilised people I knew with a strong sympathy for anthroposophy. Even after I read about the possibility of racist thought in Steiner’s work appeared in the newspapers and after the discussion began, and I started to believe there is some racism, this website was something I had never expected.
Long time ago, at my own Waldorf school (I did just my primary school at a Waldorf school) my teacher told me for the first time something about the second World War and about what happened with the Jews. Here I could read, in the name of the same anthroposophy, that this was a lie and that a few brave people, like the revisionists David Irving, Ernst Zündel and Robert Faurisson, had the guts to discuss this lie, known as the Holocaust.[4] They published also an interview with another Holocaust revisionist, Johannes Lerle.[5] And I could read on this site that ‘the Jews betray there fellow race members, when this is convenient to them’[6] (although it is a translation, the sentence has the same strange appearance in Dutch). And the lie of the Holocaust was a creation of Ahriman, together with some Anglo-Saxon Loges, Illuminati, capitalists and Zionists, to destroy the spiritual impulse of Central Europe.[7]
This was not the only thing which appeared to me as totally insane. A few examples. Ahriman had provoked the opium war, by kidnapping souls which were meant to incarnate in European bodies. But he putted them into Chinese bodies.[8] Homosexuals are displaced souls, born in a non fitting body as if they were ‘transsexuals’. But the reason why there are more homosexuals today (? Maybe homosexuality is more visible, since the acceptance and tolerance increased) is because of the increase of abortions. For that reason there are more displaced souls, who never got the chance to fulfil their Karma in the live which was meant for them, which was cut off.[9]
For me as a homosexual a bit hilarious (but to be honest also quiet insane and sick), but not for everyone. After this magazine published another tirade against homosexuals (we will discuss this article later), a reader (apparently homosexual) wrote an emotional letter that, although he was positively interested in anthroposophy and just started to read more about this philosophy, he felt deeply offended. De Brug published his emotional letter on the internet (lucky for him they didn’t show his name) with a reply (entitled The pain of being different) filled with speculations about his psychological condition and explained his ‘anger’ by his so called displaced state of being, because he is a homosexual (but subconsciously he realised himself that there was something wrong with him). For me the most appalling was this man described he and his partner were in their sixties and lived through long history of the strugle for acceptance. After their retirement, his partner became highly interested in anthroposophy (followed courses with Ron Dunselman). So also for me not very pleasant to read how this man was rejected offensively  by these anthroposophical radicals with all the almost abusive speculations about his personality. [10]
I don’t think it would be wise to speculate about the mental health of the authors of this magazine, but their articles are quiet often a little bit paranoid (just a little bit). What about a texts like these? A small collage: ‘Non-anthroposophists always see conspiracies of Freemasons, illuminati and Zionists (they always do, FS), while the real anthroposphist know these conspiracies are real, but that all these ‘occult fellowships’, including UFOs (apparently they are also organised by a secret occult fellowship, FS), are directed by Ahriman’. In the same article they admit that it is not easy to say something about UFOs, because ‘unfortunately Rudolf Steiner never spoke about this phenomenon, so we have to think by ourselves, which is (to be honest) not common use for us as anthroposophists’.[11] These real anthroposophists (not the weak hearted anthroposophists in the Netherlands, who installed the van Baarda commission to examine the possibility of racism in the work of Steiner[12] ) are comparable ‘with the Christians in the catacombs during the rule of the Roman emperor Nero. But finally his empire collapsed!’ So there is hope! (‘this could give us a bit of courage’, in their own words).[13]
Above all, anthroposophists are seen as victims. Victims of the materialistic science (Ahriman!), of the political correct elite, who tries to censor everyone with a non political correct opinion (also Ahriman! although I have not the impression that anyone tries to censor this strange magazine, because ‘the weak hearted mainstream’, in their view, has no problem to be associated with these ideas, at least till now). They seem almost to beg desperately: ‘Please, help us, we want to be like David Irving. Hated, discredited and persecuted. Help us to confirm our self declared victimization’.
Belgium, their own country, is not a real nation but a ‘black magic construction’! Founded by ‘the occult loges’ and inspired by Ahriman[14]. I know there is a large movement of extreme right Flemish nationalists, sometimes organized in mostly racist political parties, but this was quiet weird. Also the European Union is an ‘Ahrimanic construction’ and Ahriman and his fellows (probably ‘the occult loges’) are building a ‘World Termite State’ (‘Wereld Termietenstaat’, as they call it). Ahriman was even the genius behind 9/11! (because his face was seen in the smoke and dust of the collapsing twin towers, as they try to prove with a picture they compare with a sculpture of Rudolf Steiner of the head of Ahriman [15] ). And above all: ‘Ahriman does not want us to become wise!’ (‘The wiser we become, the more wisdom of former incarnations we will gather, but if we neglect this wisdom, than someone comes to steal it and who knows to use it: Ahriman!’).[16]
This website was linked to a larger website www.vrijgeestesleven.be (‘Freies Geistesleben’, in the Netherlands ‘Vrij Geestesleven’ is the oldest anthroposophical publishing house. But this was something different than the decent publisher of the Dutch translations of the work of Rudolf Steiner). Who enters this website will be welcomed with the following text: ‘Vrij Geestesleven’, for all the victims of local, federal (Belgium is a federal state) and European Soviet Governments: Revisionists, smokers, refusers of vaccinations. (only the last group seemed to me more or less related to anthroposophical ideas, FS) More categories will follow!’ (so there are more victims of the Belgian and European Soviet regime? FS) . The link behind the ‘revisionists’ leads to the website www.vho.org announced as ‘The World’s largest website for Historical Revisionism! The Holocaust Controversy – A Case for open Debate’. And probably it is the largest ‘revisionist’ site, with a lot of illegal downloads of the works of David Irving, Ernst Zündel cs. Also Norman Finkelstein’s The Holocaust Industry, which I believe it is abused by these Nazi types, is illegally published in different languages on this site (Finkelstein, an American scholar with an Eastern European Jewish background, has the opinion that the remembrance of the Holocaust is being misused to support Israel by all means, also against the Palestinians and to maintain the illegal occupation of the Palestinian territories. Not everyone agrees with his ideas, but this book definitively doesn’t belong on a neo Nazi site). However, on this site the book of Finkelstein is available in different languages, also in Dutch (they used the text as it was published by Mets & Schilt, probably illegal).
I had no idea what this had to do with anthroposophy. Reading these articles I sometimes thought this website is a sick but brilliant joke (of monstrous proportions, both in ‘quality’ as ‘quantity’). But finally it appeared not to be. But what is it? Anthroposophy or neo-Nazism? (if iis possible to combine these two things) Or total madness? And why was I almost the only one who saw this? Even now, when I putted a lot of attention on this ‘thing’ (earlier I called it ‘an orgy of insanity’ and I still agree with that), there were just a few anthroposophists who openly dared to criticize the insights as exposed on this website. In the first place I have to mention Ramon de Jonghe, who owns the website (Steinerscholen) where most of the discussions took place. Originally trained as a Waldorf school teacher, he runs this critical website and wrote recently a sharp analysis on everything what going on in the world of the ‘Steinerscholen’, as Waldorfschools are called in Belgium (in the Netherlands they are known as ‘Vrije Scholen’)[17]. Also Michel Gastkemper did, editor of the new Rudolf Steiner translations in the Netherlands, on his own weblog and on the site of Ramon de Jonghe. But till now they are the only ones from ‘anthroposophical inside’ (if Ramon de Jonghe considers himself, or is considered as such).[18]
When I discovered this website two years ago my curiosity had been triggered. I was intrigued by this phenomenon and started to find out and to read everything about this subject I could get. A lot of Rudolf Steiner, works of other anthroposophists, different kind of critics, both from the Netherlands and abroad and all those articles of this strange website, recommended as an anthroposophical magazine on every mainstream anthroposophical webportal of both the Netherlands and Belgium, together with decent journals as Flensburger Hefte, Info3 and Der Europäer[19]. De Brug is even sponsored by Demeter, or at least a banner of Demeter is shown on the homepage[20]. I have no idea if someone at Demeter realises what they support, just as some other anthroposophical companies and institutions who recommend or are linked with De Brug (recently one banner of a Dutch anthroposophical organisation disappeared).
I wanted to find out how it is possible that this medium is generally accepted by the mainstream, without any critical comment or whatsoever. And above all, how (or even ‘if’) these radical ideas fit in the tradition of Rudolf Steiner and the anthroposophy. This was the beginning of a lot of reading resulting in a series of articles on my blog and finally of a lot of long lasting debates with all different kind of anthroposophists and critics.[21] In this article I will discuss some insights of mine since that time, first some of the ideas of Steiner himself and than focus on this strange magazine/website I discovered two years ago.

There is a kind of racial doctrine

As an ex pupil of a primary Waldorfschool in the Netherlands (I didn’t go to high school at a Waldorfschool) and grown up in a family with a strong sympathy for anthroposophy, I followed the discussion about racist elements in the anthroposophy and thought of Rudolf Steiner in the Dutch newspapers during the nineties. In the beginning I wasn’t convinced that the things were that bad as some critics pointed out [22](at that time mainly Toos Jeurissen, author of Uit de Vrije school geklapt; racisme en antrpoposofie, een stellingname and several articles). Gradually my opinion changed when I finally started to read the original German text of Die Mission einzelner Volksseelen (GA 121, 1910). After studying this and several other texts of Rudolf Steiner, as Vom Leben des Menschen und der Erde (GA 349, 1923), Menschheits-entwickelung und Christus Erkenntnis; Theosophie und Rosenkreuzertum; Das Johannes Evangelium (GA 100, 1908), Aus der Akasha Chronik ( GA 11, 1907) and some other works, I gradually became to believe that there is a structural problem of racism in the anthroposophy, even when you regard this in the context and the time of Rudolf Steiner himself. Although the Report of the so-called van Baarda-Commission (the commission installed by the Dutch Anthroposophical Society, which had the assignment to examine the possibility of racism in the entire work of Rudolf Steiner) concluded that there is no racist doctrine in the work of Steiner (just sixteen passages which would be severe discriminative under the current Dutch law) in my view they missed the real point.
I will mention three ‘cases’. First Steiner’s notorious remark in Die Mission einzelner Volksseelen (GA 121:4): ‘Nicht etwa deshalb, weil es den Europäern gefallen hat, ist die indianische Bevölkerung ausgestorben, sondern weil die indianische Bevölkerung die Kräfte erwerben mußte, die sie zum Aussterben führten’. The commission qualified this statement in the so called third category ‘passages without discrimination of any kind’. They ‘defended’ this quote with the argument that genocide was not the only reason for the decimation of the population of the native Americans. There were also imported diseases from Europe the commission report states, referring to a recent study of Jarred Diamond, Guns, Germs and Steel; The fates of Human Societies, New York/London, 1999.[23] In my view a quiet opportunistic argument to justify Steiner’s concept of the native Americans as a decadent and dying race, representing ‘der Abenddämerung der Menschheit’ . Above all this argument is completely ignorant to the fact that this representation of the native Americans is a part of a larger concept in which each race has it ‘s own place, see also fig. 2. Steiner (in GA 121:4): ‘Diese Linie besteht auch für unsere Zeit (see figure 2). Der afrikanische Punkt entspricht denjenigen Kräften der Erde, welche dem Menschen die ersten Kindheitsmerkmale aufdrücken, der asiatische Punkt denjenigen, welche dem Menschen die Jugendmerkmale geben, und die reifsten Merkmale drückt dem Menschen der entsprechende Punkt im europäischen Gebiete auf. Das ist einfach eine Gesetzmäßigkeit. Da alle Menschen in verschiedenen Reinkarnationen durch die verschiedenen Rassen durchgehen, so besteht, obgleich man uns entgegenhalten kann, daß der Europäer gegen die schwarze und die gelbe Rasse einen Vorsprung hat, doch keine eigentliche Benachteiligung. Hier ist die Wahrheit zwar manchmal verschleiert, aber Sie sehen, man kommt mit Hilfe der Geheimwissenschaft doch auf merkwürdige Erkenntnisse (…) Wenn wir dann diese Linie weiterziehen, so kommen wir weiter nach Westen nach den amerikanischen Gebieten hinüber, in jene Gebiete, wo diejenigen Kräfte wirksam sind, die jenseits des mittleren Lebensdrittels liegen. Und da kommen wir — ich bitte das nicht mißzuverstehen, was eben gesagt wird; es bezieht sich nur auf den Menschen, insofern er von den physisch-organisatorischen Kräften abhängig ist, von den Kräften, die nicht sein Wesen als Menschen ausmachen, sondern in denen er lebt -, da kommen wir zu den Kräften, die sehr viel zu tun haben mit dem Absterben des Menschen, mit demjenigen im Menschen, was dem letzten Lebensdrittel angehört. Diese gesetzmäßig verlaufende Linie gibt es durchaus; sie ist eine Wahrheit, eine reale Kurve, und drückt die Gesetzmäßigkeit im Wirken unserer Erde auf den Menschen aus. Diesen Gang nehmen die Kräfte, die auf den Menschen rassebestimmend wirken. Nicht etwa deshalb, weil es den Europäern gefallen hat, ist die indianische Bevölkerung ausgestorben, sondern weil die indianische Bevölkerung die Kräfte erwerben mußte, die sie zum Aussterben führten. Von der Eigentümlichkeit dieser Linie hängt das ab, was auf der Oberfläche unserer Erde mit den Rassen sich abspielt, was von den Kräften, die nicht unter dem Einfluß der normalen Geister der Form stehen, bewirkt wird. Wo Rassencharaktere in Betracht kommen, da wirken sie in dieser Weise. In unserer Zeit wird der Rassencharakter aber allmählich überwunden’.[25]
As we see, Steiner’s remarks are not an isolated description of historical events considering the native Americans, but they are part of a esoteric doctrine with an holistic worldview, in



Fig. 1: Hermann Poppelbaum, Zur Metamorphose der Menschengestalt, in ‘Gäa-Sophia, Jahrbuch der Naturwissenchaftlichen Section der Freien Hochschule für Geisteswissenschaft am Goetheanum Dornach’, Band 3, Volkerenkunde, Stuttgart, Den Haag, Londen, 1929.

which every race needs a fitting place. The African race represents the stage of childhood, the Asiatic the teenager, the European adult stage of humanity and the native Americans the latest fase of coming at age.
Another example of defending Steiner with all means is how the commission discussed a passage from Steiner from 1923 (Vom Leben des Menschen und der Erde; über das Wesen des Christentums, GA 349, Dritter Vortrag Farbe und Menschenrassen). This was a lecture given for the workers who built the Goetheanum. For this public Steiner used some more drastic metaphors, more plastic than he normally did, like in this descriptions of the ‘black race’. A few examples of his three pages exposure considering ‘der Neger’: ‘Nun nehmen Sie einen Baum an. Der steht zunächst auf der Oberflache der Erde, nimmt etwas Licht auf, aber viel Licht verschluckt er, viel Wärme verschluckt er. Nun, das geht solange, bis er unter der Erde geblieben ist, was wird er? Schwarze Kohle! Schwarz wird er wie ein Baum war, Lichtund Wärme in sich aufgenommen hat (…) Wenden wir das auf den Menschen selber im Weltenraum an. Sehen wir uns zunächst die Schwarzen in Afrika an. Diese Schwarzen in Afrika haben die Eigentümlichkeit, daß sie alles Licht und diese Wärme vom Weltenraum aufsaugen. Sie nehmen das auf (…) Dadurch, daß er das tut, wirken über den ganzen Menschen hin die Kräfte des Weltenalls. Überall nimmt er Licht und Wärme auf, überall. Das verarbeitet er in sich selber. Da muß etwas da sein, was ihm hilft bei diesem Verarbeiten. Nun, sehen Sie, das, was ihm da hilft beim verarbeiten, das ist namentlich sein Hinterhirn. Beim Neger ist daher das Hinterhirn besonderes ausgebildet. Das geht durch das Rückenmark. Und das kann alles das, was da im Menschen drinnen ist an Licht und Wärme, verarbeiten. Daher ist beim Neger namentlich alles das, was mit dem Körper und mit dem Stoffwechsel zusammenhängt, lebhaft ausgebildet. Es hat, wie man sagt, ein starkes Triebleben, Instinktleben. Der Neger hat also ein starkes Triebleben. Und weil er eigentlich das Sonnige, Licht und Wärme, da an der Körperoberfläche in seiner Haut hat, geht sein ganze Stoffwechsel so vor sich, wie wenn in seinem Innern von der Sonne selber gekocht würde. Daher kommt sein Triebleben. Im Neger wird da drinnen fortwährend richtig gekocht, und dasjenige, was dieses Feuer schürt, das ist das Hinterhirn. Manchmal wirft die Einrichtung des Menschen noch solche Nebenprodukte ab. Das kann man gerade beim Neger sehen. Der Neger hat nicht nur, durch dieses Kochen in seinem Organismus, sondern er hat auch noch ein furchtbar schlaues und aufmerksames Auge. Er guckt schlau und sehr aufmerksam (…) Der Schwarze ist ein Egoist, der nimmt alle Licht und Wärme auf’.[26]
These remarkable passages about ‘der Neger’ in relation to the racial determined symptom of ‘kochen’[27] (cit. 124 of the report) were explained and defended by the commission as following: ‘The formulations of Steiner arouse some alienation for the public in these days. But by physiological research we could examine if there is any empirical evidence for these statements, but that is not within the goals of this report’.[28] That is almost everything the commission has to say about these remarkable statements of Steiner. Although the Commission qualified five passages of this lecture as severe discriminative (five of the sixteen passages of the total oeuvre of Steiner the commission found discriminative), all the above cited assertions on ‘the black race’ were classified as ‘non discriminative but could be discriminative interpreted without the context of the anthroposophy as a whole’ (this category was used for a lot of these kind of statements by Rudolf Steiner).
Finally the commission tries to argue with several different passages of Steiner, that in his view the ‘differences between races’ were significant in the past, but have no meaning anymore for today.[29] Interesting is in this part of the report they also choose this quote of Steiner (from Die Mission einzelner Volksseelen) to argue that the differences between races lost their meaning in the past and that the racial differences are not important anymore: ‘Die Rassen sind entstanden und werden einmal vergehen, werden einmal nicht mehr da sein. Sie wiederholen sich nicht etwa immer in der gleichen Art, wie es bei Sinnett falsch im «Esoterischen Buddhismus» dargestellt wird. In der alten lemurischen Zeit müssen wir das Aufgehen der Rassenmerkmale, der Rasseneigentümlichkeiten suchen; wir müssen dann deren Sich-Fortpflanzen bis in unsere Zeit verfolgen, müssen uns dabei aber klar sein, daß, wenn unsere gegenwärtige fünfte Entwickelungsepoche von der sechsten und siebenten abgelöst wird, keine Rede mehr sein kann von einem Zustande, den wir als Rasse werden bezeichnen können. Wenn wir uns diese Entwickelung aber so vorstellen, als ob sie immer nur gleichmäßig so fortrollte, dann haben wir nur eine Art Mühlrad im Kopfe, sind aber weit entfernt von dem Verständnisse dessen, was in der Welt wirklich vor sich geht’.
Ironically, Helmut Zander mentions also this quote, but to argue the opposite (in my view more convincing). Zander: ‘Rassen seien ein Intermezzo der Menschheitsgeschichte. »Die Rassen sind entstanden und werden einmal vergehen, werden einmal nicht mehr da sein.« (GA 121,76 [1910]) Erneut artikulierte Steiner sein antimaterialistisches Leitmotiv, aber bei näherem Hinsehen bleibt dies ein gänzlich unpolitisches Argument. Die Rassenentstehung, die erst in der lemurischen Zeit begonnen habe, werde in der sechsten und siebten »Entwickelungsepoche« verschwinden (ebd.), das heißt: frühestens ungefähr im 9. Jahrtausend. Für eine politische Erledigung der Rassenfrage und für die Geltung von Steiners Rassentheorien ist dies eine lange, eine zu lange Zeit. Daß die Vielfalt von Völkern und Rassen ein Reichtum der Pluralität sein könnte, tritt im übrigen nicht in Steiners Blickfeld’.[30]
In my view is the most interesting aspect of this particular issue, when Steiner discusses the native Americans in the sixth lecture of Die Mission einzelner Volksseelen (GA 121: 6), he says: ‘Sehen Sie sich doch die Bilder der alten Indianer an, und Sie werden gleichsam mit Händen greifen können den geschilderten Vorgang, in dem Niedergang dieser Rasse. In einer solchen Rasse ist alles dasjenige gegenwärtig geworden, auf eine besondere Art gegenwärtig geworden, was in der Saturnentwickelung vorhanden war; dann aber hat es sich in sich selber zurückgezogen und hat den Menschen mit seinem harten Knochensystem allein gelassen, hat ihn zum Absterben gebracht. Man fühlt etwas von dieser wirklich okkulten Wirksamkeit, wenn man noch im neunzehnten Jahrhundert sieht, wie ein Vertreter dieser alten Indianer davon spricht, daß in ihm lebt, was vorher für die Menschen groß und gewaltig war, das aber die Weiterentwickelung unmöglich mitmachen konnte. Es existiert die Schilderung einer schönen Szene, bei welcher ein Führer der untergehenden Indianer einem europäischen Eindringling gegenübersteht’.[31]
‘Wenn man noch im neunzehnten Jahrhundert sieht’… And these pictures of ‘die alten Indianer’ were taken in the Lemurian era just as when these meetings took place with the ‘europäischen Eindringling’.[32] At least all his remarks about the Native Americans are about the situation in ‘Unsere Zeit’ (he cites even a Native American chief from the 1830’s!), not about the situation in Atlantis, Lemuria or before Christ, as suggested by some anthroposophists who tried to defend Steiner’s ideas about races, as Thomas Voss or Dieter Brüll.[33]

Fig. 2: Steiner’s model of the human races as explained in the fourth and the sixth lecture of

Die Mission einzelner Volksseelen

      (GA 121), presented on a anthroposophical website (


      , see original figure:


      Fourth lecture (scheme of four human races, modelled to the different stages of age): Der afrikanische Punkt entspricht denjenigen Kräften der Erde, welche dem Menschen die ersten Kindheitsmerkmale aufdrücken, der asiatische Punkt denjenigen, welche dem Menschen die Jugendmerkmale geben, und die reifsten Merkmale drückt dem Menschen der entsprechende Punkt im europäischen Gebiete auf. Das ist einfach eine Gesetzmäßigkeit (..) Wenn wir dann diese Linie weiterziehen, so kommen wir weiter nach Westen nach den amerikanischen Gebieten hinüber, in jene Gebiete, wo diejenigen Kräfte wirksam sind, die jenseits des mittleren Lebensdrittels liegen. Und da kommen wir — ich bitte das nicht mißzuverstehen, was eben gesagt wird; es bezieht sich nur auf den Menschen, insofern er von den physisch-organisatorischen Kräften abhängig ist, von den Kräften, die nicht sein Wesen als Menschen ausmachen, sondern in denen er lebt -, da kommen wir zu den Kräften, die sehr viel zu tun haben mit dem Absterben des Menschen, mit demjenigen im Menschen, was dem letzten Lebensdrittel angehört. Diese gesetzmäßig verlaufende Linie gibt es durchaus; sie ist eine Wahrheit, eine reale Kurve, und drückt die Gesetzmäßigkeit im Wirken unserer Erde auf den Menschen aus. Diesen Gang nehmen die Kräfte, die auf den Menschen rassebestimmend wirken. Nicht etwa deshalb, weil es den Europäern gefallen hat, ist die indianische Bevölkerung ausgestorben, sondern weil die indianische Bevölkerung die Kräfte erwerben mußte, die sie zum Aussterben führten. Von der Eigentümlichkeit dieser Linie hängt das ab, was auf der Oberfläche unserer Erde mit den Rassen sich abspielt, was von den Kräften, die nicht unter dem Einfluß der normalen Geister der Form stehen, bewirkt wird. Wo Rassencharaktere in Betracht kommen, da wirken sie in dieser Weise. In unserer Zeit wird der Rassencharakter aber allmählich überwunden’ (p. 80-81, online version


      Sixth lecture (scheme of five races, modelled to the planets, see the astrological signs): ‘Wenn wir den Punkt, den wir vor einigen Tagen in unseren Darlegungen in Afrika gefunden haben, uns jetzt näher dadurch charakterisieren, daß, weil die normalen Geister der Form zusammenwirken mit denjenigen abnormen Geistern der Form, die im Merkur zentriert sind, die Rasse der Neger ensteht, bezeichnen wir okkult ganz richtig das, was in der schwarzen Rasse herauskommt, als die Merkur- Rasse. Jetzt verfolgen wir diese Linie weiter, die wir dazumal durch die Mittelpunkte der einzelnen Rassenausstrahlungen gezogen haben. Da kommen wir nach Asien und finden die Venus-Rasse oder die malayische Rasse. Wir kommen dann durch das breite Gebiet Asiens hindurch und finden der mongolischen Rasse, die Mars Rasse. Wir gehen dann herüber auf europäischen Gebiet und finden die europäischen Menschen, in ihrem Ur-Charakter die Jupiter Menschen. Gehen wir über das Meer hinüber nach Amerika, wo der Punkt, der Ort ist, an dem die Rassen oder Kulturen sterben, so finden wir die Rasse des Finsteren Saturn, die ursprüngliche indianische Rasse, die amerikanische Rasse. Die Indianische Rasse ist also die Saturn Rasse. Auf diese Weise Sie, wenn Sie sich okkult die Sache immer genauer vorstellen, die Kräfte, die diesen Weltenpunkten, diesen fünf Planeten, ihre äußere materielle Offenbarung erfahren haben. ( p. 113, online version





Races and evolution in Steiner’s worldview

In my view the report of the Dutch Anthroposophical Society did not succeed to prove there is no racial doctrine in the work of Rudolf Steiner. I showed just a few examples but there are many more of the same kind. I agree with Helmut Zander, who stated in an interview: ‘Rudolf Steiner ist auch in der Evolutionslehre ein Kind des 19. Jahrhunderts. Er hat geglaubt, dass sich die Menschen von einem sehr primitiven Zustand zu einem hoch entwickelten entwickeln. Und dann gibt es natürlich degenerierte Rassen und solche, die einfach diese Entwicklung nicht mitgemacht haben. Das halte ich für keinen Ausrutscher, sondern für einen zentralen Teil seiner Weltanschauung (..) Er schwimmt in diesem Typus des rassistischen Denkens mit, wie gesagt, nicht als einer der Hurra-Patrioten, aber eben auch nicht als jemand – und davon gibt es auch im 19. Jahrhundert viele -, die gesagt haben, das ist wissenschaftlicher Humbug, Rassen gibt es eigentlich nicht’.[34]
There are some accusations against Steiner I do not agree with. That his teachings about races are closely related or even the same as the racial theories of the Nazis. There may be a historical connection with Guido von List and Jörg Lanz von Liebenfels and the so-called ‘Ariosophie’ (Liebenfels was, just as Steiner, highly influenced by the thought of Helena Blavatsky and the Theosophy). But these connections are indirect, at least for so far I know.
There may be a few similarities. In Die Mission einzelner Volksseelen Steiner mentions sometimes the term ‘arische Kaukasische Rasse’ (sixth lecture), and in his description of the history of the following ‘Nach-Atlantische Kulturepochen’ (at the end of the fourth lecture) he follows the same scheme which was often used by several descriptions of the Mythical roots of the Aryan race (the Aryan Myth). The main concept of this Aryan Myth (acc. Gobineau and later Lanz and von List) was that the superior and ruling race of this era originated in India slowly travelled to the west, on its way creating one sublime culture after another. This is quiet similar to Steiner’s vision on history, the notion of the so-called Kultur-Epochen. He describes this notion many times in different works and in different stages of his live. In 1923 (GA 349:3) he stated: ‘Und so ist es wirklich ganz interessant: Auf der einen Seite hat man die Schwarze Rasse, die am meisten irdisch ist. Wenn sie nach Westen geht stirbt sie aus. Man hat die gelbe Rasse, die mitten zwischen Erde und Weltenall ist. Wenn sie nach Osten geht, wird sie braun, gliedert sich sich zu viel dem Weltenall an, und stirbt aus. Die Weiße Rasse ist die zukünftige, ist die am Geiste schaffende Rasse. Wie sie nach Indien gezogen ist, bildete sie die innerliche, poetische, dichterische, geistige indische Kultur aus. Wenn sie jetzt nach westen geht, wird sie eine Geistigkeit ausbilden, die nicht so sehr den innerlichen Menschen ergreift, aber die äußere Welt in ihrer Geistigkeit begreift’.[35]
Most of the time Steiner didn’t use the word ‘Aryan’ in a ‘conventional’ way or in the way nationalists or national socialists used it. In most cases he used the word ‘Aryan’ in the way Helena Blavatsky did, who spoke several times about the ‘Ffth Aryan rootrace’. In her view, as exposed in The Secret Doctrine the rootraces represented the humanity during a certain era. There was, for example, the Lemurian Rootrace, the Atlantean Rootrace and after the downfall of Atlantis the Aryan Rootrace, divided in several subraces, like the ancient Indian, the ancient Persian, the Greek-Roman, etc. Also the subraces represented different cultural episodes or stages in the development of mankind. Certainly ‘eurocentric’ or even ‘aryo-centric’ but not strictly racial. Nevertheless, she discussed the Rootraces in terms as: ‘(before the Sixth Root-Race dawns), the white (Aryan, Fifth Root-Race), the yellow, and the African negro — with their crossings (Atlanto-European divisions). Redskins, Eskimos, Papuans, Australians, Polynesians, etc., etc. — all are dying out. Those who realize that every Root-Race runs through a gamut of seven sub-races with seven branchlets, etc., will understand the “why.” The tide-wave of incarnating Egos has rolled past them to harvest experience in more developed and less senile stocks; and their extinction is hence a Karmic necessity’.[36]
In Aus der Akasha-Chronik ( GA 11, 1907) Steiner used the same terms as Blavatsky (Wurzelrassen, Unterrassen), but in the years after (as in Geheimwissenschaft, GA 13, 1909) he abandoned these terms and changed them in ‘Zeitalter’ and ‘Kultur Epochen’. But in general in Steiners teachings eurocentrism is dominant, with a very special role and mission for the European (Aryan) white race. Steiner in Aus der Akasha-Chronik: ‘Die größte Masse der atlantischen Bevölkerung kam in Verfall, und von einem kleinen Teil stammen die sogenannten Arier ab, zu denen unsere gegenwärtige Kulturmenschheit gehört. Lemurier, Atlantier und Arier sind, nach der Benennung der Geheimwissenschaft, Wurzelrassen der Menschheit. Man denke sich zwei solcher Wurzelrassen den Lemuriern vorangehend und zwei den Ariern in der Zukunft folgend, so gibt das im ganzen sieben. Es geht immer eine aus der andern in der Art hervor, wie dies eben in bezug auf Lemurier, Atlantier und Arier angedeutet worden ist. Und jede Wurzelrasse hat physische und geistige Eigenschaften, die von denen der vorhergehenden durchaus verschieden sind. Während zum Beispiel die Atlantier das Gedächtnis und alles, was damit zusammenhängt, zur besonderen Entfaltung brachten, obliegt es in der Gegenwart den Ariern, die Denkkraft und das, was zu ihr gehört, zu entwickeln’.[37]
Although these passages of Rudolf Steiner and Helena Blavatsky look like pure Aryan obsessed racism, it is important to stipulate they don’t use the regular definition of a ‘race’, when they discuss the phenomenon ‘Rootrace’ . With the concept ‘Rootrace’/ ‘Wurzelrasse’ they mean the dominant part of humanity during a certain era. In our time, in their view these are the ‘Aryans’. But this is a broader notion of the concept Aryan then used for example by the Nazis. With Rootrace they mean the dominant and cultured part of humanity during a certain episode.
On the other hand Blavatsky is very clear that ‘negroes’, Papuans and ‘other primitive peoples or races’, even the black race and the yellow race are not a part of the Aryan rootrace. Steiner is more indirect, but in other works he is quiet explicit that for example the Native Americans are decadent dissents of the Atlantean race and not a part of the ruling Post Atlantean Rootrace . In the Akasha Chronik he calls the population of Oceania decadent dissents of the ancient Lemurians. Steiner: ‘Denn in der lemurischen und noch in der atlantischen Zeit waren Steine und Metalle viel weicher als später. – (Dem widerspricht nicht, daß noch Nachkommen der letzten Lemurier und Atlantier vorhanden sind, die heute ebenso feste Formen aufweisen wie die später gebildeten Menschenrassen. Diese Überbleibsel mußten sich den geänderten Umgebungsverhältnissen der Erde anpassen und wurden so auch starrer. Gerade darin liegt der Grund, warum sie im Niedergang begriffen sind. Sie bildeten sich nicht von innen heraus um, sondern es wurde ihr weniger entwickeltes Innere von außen in die Starrheit gezwängt und dadurch zum Stillstande gezwungen. Und dieser Stillstand ist wirklich Rückgang, denn auch das Innenleben ist verkommen, weil es sich in der verfestigten äußeren Leiblichkeit nicht ausleben konnte.)’[38]
If there are dissents of the Lemurians, we may conclude that they are not a part of the fifth rootrace. So we can conclude that with the term rootrace stands for not just an era but for a part of humanity that is dominating a certain era. Second conclusion, also in Steiner’s view the Aryans are the dominating race, the rootrace. And the Native Americans were not a part of it. Steiner in Die Mission einzelner Volksseelen (GA 121: 6): ‘Was war für den Indianer das Größte? Es war, daß er noch ahnen konnte etwas vonder alte Größe und Herrlichkeit eines Zeitalters, welches in der alten Atlantische Zeit vorhanden war, wo noch wenig um sich gegriffen hatte die Rassespaltung, wo Menschen hinaufschauen konnten nach der Sonne und wahrzunehmen vermochten durch das Nebelmeer eindringenden Geister der Form. Durch ein Nebelmeer blickte der Atlantier hinauf zu dem, was sich für ihn nicht spaltete in eine Sechs-oder Siebenheit, sondern zusammenwirkte. Das, was zusammenwirkte von den sieben Geistern der Form, das nannte der Atlantier den großen Geist, der in der alten Atlantis dem Menschen sich offenbarte. Dadurch hat er nicht mit aufgenommen das, was die Venus-, Merkur-, Mars- und Jupiter-Geister bewirkt haben im Osten. Durch dieses haben sie gebildet all die Kulturen, die in Europa in der Mitte des neunzehnten Jahrhunderts zur Blüte gebracht wurden. Das alles hat er, der Sohn der braune Rasse, nicht mitgemacht. Er hat festgehalten an dem großen Geist der unfernen Vergangenheit. Das, was die anderen gemacht haben, die unfernen Vergangenheit auch den großen Geist aufgenommen haben, das trat ihm vor Augen, als ihm ein Blatt papier mit vielen kleinen Zeichen, den Buchstaben, von welchen er nichts verstand, vorgelegt werden’.[39]
We may conclude that in Steiner’s view the Native Americans were decadent dissents (Steiner uses the qualification ‘decadent’) of the Atlanteans. In Menschheits-entwickelung und Christus Erkenntnis; Theosophie und Rosenkreuzertum; Das Johannes Evangelium (GA 100; 7) Steiner says the following about the Native Americans: ‘Um uns hineinzuarbeiten in der Art und Weise, wie die Geisteswissenschaft über die Evolution denkt, müssen wir vom Nächstliegenden ausgehen. Nicht alle heute auf der Erde lebenden Menschen stehen auf derselben Stufe der Entwickelung. Neben den Völkern, die auf einer hohen Kulturstufe stehen, gibt es Naturvölker, welche in der Kultur weit zurückgeblieben sind. Es hat sich in der heutigen Naturwissenschaft die Anschauung herausgebildet-und sie wird mit großer Zähigkeit festgehalten, obschon neuere Tatsachen dagegen sprechen-, daß die höherentwickelten Völkern abstammen. Diese Anschauung is den Ergebnissen der Geistesforschung nicht entsprechend. Erwähnen wir hier beispielweise die Völker, die durch Entdeckung Amerikas bekannt wurden, und schildern wir in Kürze eine Episode, die uns einen Einblick in das Geistesleben dieser Völker gewährt. Bekanntlich hatten die Weißen die Indianerbevölkerung immer weiter in das Innere des Landes Zurückgedrängt und das Versprechen, ihnen Ländreien zu geben, nicht gehalten. Ein Häuptling dieser Indianer sagte einmal zu Anführer eines europäischen Eroberungszuges: Ihr Bleichgesichter habt unsere Länder genommen und habt uns versprochen, uns andere zu geben. Aber der weiße Mann hat dem braunen Mann das Wort nicht gehalten, und wir wissen auch warum. Der bleiche Mann hat kleine Zeichen, in denen Zauberwesen stecken und aus denen erforscht er die Wahrheit, denn es ist nicht gut. Der braune Mann sucht nicht in solchen kleinen Zauberzeichen die Wahrheit. Er hört den ‘Großen Geist’ im Rauschen des Waldes, im Rieseln des Baches. Im Blitz und Donner gibt ihm der ‘Großen Geist’ kund, was recht und unrecht ist.
Wir haben in der amerikanischen Rasse eine primitieve Urbevölkerung vor uns, die weit, weit zurückgeblieben ist, auch in Bezug auf religiöse Weltanschauung. Aber sie hat sich bewahrt den Glauben an einen monotheistischen Geist, der aus allen Lauten der Natur zu ihr spricht. Der Indianer steht mit der Natur in so innigem Verhältnis, daß er noch in allen ihren Äußerungen die Stimme des hohen schöpferischen Geistes hört, während der Europäer so in der materialistischen Kultur steckt, daß er die Stimme der Natur nicht mehr wahrnehmen kann. Beide Völker haben denselben Ursprung, beide stammen von der Bevölkerung der Atlantis ab, die einen monotheistischen Glauben besaß, entsprung aus einem geistigen Hellsehen. Aber die Europäer sind hinaufgestehen zu eine höhere Kulturstufe, während die Indianer stehengeblieben und dadurch in Dekadenz gekommen sind. Diesen Entwickelungsvorgang muß man immer beachten. Er läßt sich darstellen wie folgt. Im laufe der Jahrtausende verändert sich unser Planet, und diese Veränderung bedingt auch eine Entwickelung der Menschheit. Die Seitenzweige, die nicht mehr in die Verhältnisse hineinpassen, werden dekadent. Wir haben also einen geraden Entwickelungsstamm und abgehende Seitenzweige, die verfallen (siehe Zeichnung, fig. 3, FS).
Von dem Punkte der atlantische Zeit, wo Europäer und Indianer noch miteinander vereint waren, weiter zurückgehend, kommen wir in eine Zeit wo die Körper des Menschen noch verhältmäßig weich, von gallertartiger Dichtigkeit war. Da sehen wir wieder Wesen sich

Fig. 3: Evolution model 1, from GA 100; 7

abzweigen und zurückbleiben. Diese Wesen entwickeln sich weiter, aber in absteigende Linie, und aus ihnen entsteht das Affengeschlecht. Wir dürfen nicht sagen, der Mensch stamme vom Affen ab, sondern beide. Menschen und Affen, stammen von einer Form ab, die aber eine ganz andere Gestalt hatte als die Affen und heutigen Menschen. Die Abzweigung erfolgte von einem Punkte, wo diese Uniform die Möglichkeit hatte, einerseits aufsteigen zum Menschen und anderseits hinunterzufallen, zum Zerrbilde des Menschen zu werden. Wir wollen die Abstammungslehre nur so weit verfolgen, als nötig ist, um den Zusammenhang zu finden mit dem, was in früheren Vorträgen gesagt worden ist. Bei den alten Atlantische Menschen war der Ätherleib noch außerhalb des physischen Körpers. Heute ist nur noch der Astralleib des Menschen, und zwar im Schlafe, außerhalb des physischen Körpers. Heute ist daher der Mensch nur im Schlafe imstande, die Müdigkeit des physischen Körpers zu überwinden, weil da sein Astralleib außerhalb des physischen Körpers ist und so die Möglichkeit hat, sich an demselben zu betätigen’.[40]

Fig. 4: Evolution model 2, from GA 100; 7

Again Steiner cites the native American Chieftain (he used the same quote in the sixth lecture of Die Mission einzelner Volksseelen, to argue the American Indians are a dying race), who spoke these words in the nineteenth century [41] (not in the pre-Christian age, when the differences between races would have disappeared, acc Dieter Brüll and several others), so Steiner’s descriptions of races are also about the contemporary situation. But the main topic here is that a ‘Wurzelrasse’ is not the humanity as a whole during a certain era, but the dominating race during an era. Because (acc Steiner) the native Americans were still a part, or decadent dissents, of the Atlantean rootrace. And in our era the dominating race is the Aryan race, from which the native Americans are not a part of.
Remarkable is that in Steiner’s view both the Aryans as the Semites (he means most of the time the Jews) are dissents of the so called ‘Ur-Semiten’, one of the cultured people/subraces of Atlantis. All the ‘post Atlantean cultures’ (but not all cultures of humanity, only the cultures he calls ‘Kultur-Epochen’, like ‘the Ancient Indian’, ‘the Ancient Persian’, etc.) are Aryan in Steiner’s view.
An important aspect of Steiner’s evolutionary view is that human beings as we know exists since the end of the Atlantean era. During the Atlantean ers, the Lemurian era, etc. man was present but not in his contemporary form. Like there is an evolutionary line of the material form of natural life, Steiner believed there is also an involutionary development (a declining line) from the spiritual world. Human kind in Atlantis and Lemuria were made of a more etherical stuff than the complete material human beings of today. Steiner describes this process in several works. His most extended description of his view on evolution is his chapter ‘Die Weltentwickelung und der Mensch’ from his magnum opus Geheimwissenschaft (GA 13). This chapter is more than hundred pages and probably to complex to give even a short summary.
Steiner’s view on evolution has summarised and well formulated explained by Henk van Oort, in his Dutch short introduction on anthroposophy Antroposofie; een kennismaking (‘Anthroposophy; an introduction’), published by Vrij Geestesleven, Zeist ( the real one, not the strange website from Belgium). He describes Steiner’s concept of evolution on the hand of the evolution model drawn by Hermann Poppelbaum (see fig. 5), biologist and anthroposophist of the first generation. I have translated his explanation of two paragraphs:
‘The following visualisation will probably clarify the complex concept: Let us imagine that the ‘essence of human’ is present in a large floating balloon. This ‘human essence’ needs to develop apparently in a certain direction before the balloon lands on earth. The balloon floats to the earth. The moment of landing is constantly postponed because elements of this human essence separates and leave the balloon. First the balloon decreases less rapidly and, secondly, the space is increasing for developing the human essence. Many elements are successively emitted: starting with the minerals, then plants, invertebrates, fish, amphibians, reptiles, birds, mammals, primates and finally humans. There are two parallel levels on this development: the

Fig. 5: The anthroposophical evolution model, drawn by Hermann Poppelbaum, as it appeared in Mensch und Tier (1928). Texts translated in Dutch. Most of the text will be clear, except probably the descriptions on the involution and evolution line. Above left: ‘Spiritual essence’. Along the involution line: ‘spiritual development declining’. Left under: ‘fysical body’. Along the evolution line: ‘fysical development ascending’.

spiritual essence (= the balloon falls to the earth) and the physical medium, which leaves the balloon and materialise itself after landing on the earth. The hardened forms evolve each in their own earthly way. When the plants and animals are on the earth, is the process begin Darwin calls ‘evolution’. Steiner completes what Darwin says, he doesn’t exclude Darwin’s theory. The existing animal forms are the result of centuries of specialization. Every animal is a specialist (…) then when the primates, the apes, are leaving the imaginary balloon to incarnate on earth. Then the predecessors of humans are following. Under these early human forms we reckon the Peking Man (360.000 BC), the Pithecanthropus (100.000 BC) and Neanderthals (75.000 BC). The current man comes not from these precursors and certainly not from the ape men, as it becomes clear. When all these precursors arrived in the visible world, in the imaginary balloon, there was one form left. The latter form occurs gradually in the visible around 50,000 BC. This is what we call homo sapiens. According to Rudolf Steiner, these first people figures were as thin as the scent of a flower. The materialising process is continuing. Slowly the physical body materialises to cartilage. Then there is a hardening till the current hardness is achieved.
If you think back in time, keeping in mind that the bones were still soft, you may never be found fossil remains of the ancestors of the current humans. Cartilage, or soft material, now has been lost and didn’t fossilise like hard bones’.[42]
I think this is a quiet effective explanation, except for one thing. For so far I know Steiner doesn’t discuss, or hardly discuss (on ‘racisme debat’, one of the contributors claimed that he does somewhere, but these passages are unknown to me) earlier forms of man, like the Neanderthals, etc.. Steiner talks about ‘human races’. If we change the words ‘Peking Man’, ‘Pithecanthropus’ and ‘Neanderthals’ in ‘Indianer’ we can explain his two evolution models from GA 100. ‘Beide Völker haben denselben Ursprung, beide stammen von der Bevölkerung der Atlantis ab, die einen monotheistischen Glauben besaß, entsprung aus einem geistigen Hellsehen. Aber die Europäer sind hinaufgestehen zu eine höhere Kulturstufe, während die Indianer stehengeblieben und dadurch in Dekadenz gekommen sind’ and ‘Von dem Punkte der atlantische Zeit, wo Europäer und Indianer noch miteinander vereint waren, weiter zurückgehend, kommen wir in eine Zeit wo die Körper des Menschen noch verhältmäßig weich, von gallertartiger Dichtigkeit war. Da sehen wir wieder Wesen sich abzweigen und zurückbleiben. Diese Wesen entwickeln sich weiter, aber in absteigende Linie, und aus ihnen entsteht das Affengeschlecht. Wir dürfen nicht sagen, der Mensch stamme vom Affen ab, sondern beide. Menschen und Affen, stammen von einer Form ab, die aber eine ganz andere Gestalt hatte als die Affen und heutigen Menschen’. So the Native Americans left ‘the balloon’ too early and became ‘decadent’. According to the second drawing of GA 100 is the ‘real homo sapiens’ (in the terms of Henk van Oort) ‘der Arier’ (I will nuance this by stipulating that Rudolf Steiner considered all human races as human).
It is interesting to have a look on two fundamental quotes of Rudolf Steiner, both from two essential works. First a passage from Aus der Akasha-Chronik (from chapter 6 ‘Die letzten Zeiten vor der Geschlechtertrennung’), also discussed in the van Baarda Report, as passage 54: ‘In diesen Tieren hat man also Wesen zu sehen, welche auf einer früheren Stufe der Menschenentwickelung stehenbleiben mußten. Nur haben sie nicht dieselbe Form behalten, die sie bei ihrer Abgliederung hatten, sondern sind zurückgegangen von höherer zu tieferer Stufe. So sind die Affen rückgebildete Menschen einer vergangenen Epoche. So wie der Mensch einstmals unvollkommener war als heute, so waren sie einmal vollkommener, als sie heute sind. – Was aber im Gebiet des Menschlichen geblieben ist, hat einen ähnlichen Prozeß, nur innerhalb dieses Menschlichen, durchgemacht. Auch in mancher wilden Völkerschaft haben wir die heruntergekommenen Nachfahren einstmals höher stehender Menschenformen zu sehen. Sie sanken nicht bis zur Stufe der Tierheit, sondern nur bis zur Wildheit’.[43]
The van Baarda Report comments this passage (quote 54) as following: ‘In the article (originally Aus der Akasha-Chronik was published as a series of articles in the journal Luzifer-Gnosis, FS) where this passage comes from, a fundamental part of anthroposophical thought on development is being explained: the evolution was not only as a development from lower to higher organisms. The origin of the evolutionary development lays in the spiritual world.
The human kind was originally a spiritual being. In the long history as terrestrial arose essentially as a secondary development in addition to humans and the animal world, the plants and mineral world (see again the model of Poppelbaum to understand this assumption, FS). Both the terrestrial and the spiritual man made in this long history evolved. The animal is in that sense the precursor of man, but the (spiritual) man is the precursor of the terrestrial animals and terrestrial humans. The last remains ‘im Gebiet des Menschlichen’, from which the animals were separated.
The origin of the forerunners of current animals took place in what in anthroposophy is known as the ‘Lemurian era’. The original animals were then derived and according to Steiner human body shapes were developed higher than the current species. The ethereal formed human bodies didn’t leave any fossil remains, because they were not yet sufficiently hardened. The current monkeys are dissents of relatively higher developed animals, which are dissents of the ethereal formed people of that time. In this sense, Steiner called ‘die Affen rückgebildete Menschen einer vergangenen Epoche. So war der Mensch einstmals unvollkommener war als heute, so waren sie einmal volkommener als wie heute sind’. People have been further developed, the monkeys were in their human-stage ‘more perfected’ than they are today.
With regard to what he called ‘wilden Völkerschaft’ Steiner opposed the idea that they are at the beginning of a development of civilization. In his view they were descendants of the groups, at that time precursors of the present people who were highly developed, but returned in their development and had become primitive’.[44]
I think this time the report explained this perfectly well. But in my view the best parts of the report are when it explains anthroposophy. These parts are outstanding. But in qualifying passages like this in my view the report misses the point. Because I think this is the essence of Steiner’s racial teachings. The commission explains perfectly well why the Native Americans are a degenerated and decadent race (‘they had become primitive’, as the commission says). But that is racism, or at least ‘racist taught’.
Another crucial passage of Steiner can be found in probably his most important work Die Geheimwissenschaft in Umriß (GA 13) in the long chapter ‘Die Weltentwickelung und der Mensch’ (more than 100 pages, almost a separate book): ‘Diejenigen Menschen-Rassen-Formen, welche sich vor diesem Zeitraum verfestigt hatten, konnten sich zwar lange fortpflanzen, doch wurden nach und nach die in ihnen sich verkörpernden Seelen so beengt, daß die Rassen aussterben mußten. Allerdings erhielten sich gerade manche von diesen Rassenformen bis in die nach-atlantischen Zeiten hinein; die genügend beweglich gebliebenen in veränderter Form sogar sehr lange. Diejenigen Menschenformen, welche über den charakterisierten Zeitraum hinaus bildsam geblieben waren, wurden namentlich zu Körpern für solche Seelen, welche in hohem Maße den schädlichen Einfluß des gekennzeichneten Verrats erfahren haben. Sie waren zu baldigem Aussterben bestimmt.
Es hatten sich demnach seit der Mitte der atlantischen Entwickelungszeit Wesen im Bereich der Menschheitsentwickelung geltend gemacht, welche dahin wirkten, daß der Mensch sich in die sinnlich-physische Welt in einer ungeistigen Art hineinlebte. Das konnte so weit gehen, daß ihm statt der wahren Gestalt dieser Welt Trugbilder und Wahnphantome, Illusionen aller Art erschienen. Nicht nur dem luziferischen Einfluß war der Mensch ausgesetzt, sondern auch demjenigen dieser anderen Wesen, auf die oben hingedeutet worden ist und deren Führer nach der Benennung, die er später in der persischen Kultur erhalten hat, Ahriman genannt werden möge. (Der Mephistopheles ist dasselbe Wesen.) Durch diesen Einfluß kam der Mensch nach dem Tode unter Gewalten, welche ihn auch da nur als ein Wesen erscheinen ließen, welches den irdisch-sinnlichen Verhältnissen zugewandt ist. Der freie Ausblick in die Vorgänge der geistigen Welt wurde ihm immer mehr genommen. Er mußte sich in der Gewalt des Ahriman fühlen und bis zu einem gewissen Maße ausgeschlossen sein von der Gemeinschaft mit der geistigen Welt’.[45]
This long passage, in the report quote 48, is the only passage Steiner discusses theme ‘race’ in this chapter of Geheimwissenschaft. You could think this theme became less important in Steiner’s view on evolution (the report says the same), but I think that is very questionable, because one year later, he gave his lectures in Norway, known as Die Mission einzelner Volksseelen. On this passage the commission has a short comment: ‘In the following quote the words ‘Menschen-Rassen-Formen’ and ‘Rassenformen’ mean ‘the form of human races’. The word ‘form’ stands both for the forms of human races as for the appearance of the human body. With the use of the word ‘form’ Steiner emphasises that the race is the appearance of the human physical form, not his essence. Because these forms were not fitting anymore for the post-Atlantean situation, most of the Atlantean varieties died out’.[46]
‘Reincarnation as an alibi’. Although I heard this argument very often from different anthroposophists, in several debates, I read it in several articles, written to defence Steiner’s view on races and even long before from different sympathizers with the anthroposophy, when I confronted theme with racist remarks of Steiner. But the most interesting is, Steiner confirms his view on races again. Apparently there are decadent ‘leftovers’ from Atlantis, for whom there was no place anymore in the new situation. Therefore these degenerated forms had to die out, because they didn’t fit in the new situation. Steiner said this many times. Here with just one general remark, but much more detailed in Die Mission einzelner Volksseelen and in 1923, one and a half year before his death in 1925, in Vom Leben der Menschen un der Erde (GA 349): ‘Die Gelben wandern nach Osten hin¬über. Wenn die Gelben nach Osten hinüberwandern, dann wer¬den sie braun. Da entstehen dann die Malaien; die werden braun. Warum? Ja, warum werden sie braun? Was heißt denn das: sie werden braun? Nicht wahr, wenn sie gelb sind, werfen sie einen bestimmten Grad von Licht zurück; das andere nehmen sie auf. Wenn sie braun werden durch die andere Art, wie sie jetzt in der Sonne leben, weil sie ja von einem anderen Erdstück kommen, dann werfen sie weniger Licht zurück. Sie nehmen mehr Licht in sich auf. Also diese braunen Malaien sind ausgewanderte Mongo¬len, die sich aber jetzt, weil die Sonne anders auf sie wirkt, ange¬wöhnen, mehr Licht und mehr Wärme aufzunehmen. Bedenken Sie aber: nun haben sie nicht die Natur dazu. Sie haben sich schon

Fig. 6: Ilustration from GA 349; 3

angewöhnt, sogar ein solches Knochengerüste zu haben, daß sie nur einen bestimmten Grad von Wärme aufnehmen können. Sie haben nicht die Natur, so viel Wärme aufzunehmen, als sie jetzt als Malaien aufnehmen. Die Folge davon ist, daß sie anfangen, unbrauchbare Menschen zu werden, daß sie anfangen, Menschen zu werden, die am Menschenkörper zerbröckeln, deren Körper abstirbt. Das ist in der Tat bei der malaiischen Bevölkerung der Fall. Die stirbt an der Sonne. Die stirbt an der Östlichkeit. So daß man sagen kann: Während die Gelben, die Mongolen, noch Men¬schen in der Vollkraft sind, sind die Malaien schon eine abster¬bende Rasse. Sie sterben ab.
Wenn die Neger – was sie allerdings heute weniger tun kön¬nen, heute sind die Verhältnisse schon anders, aber in Urzeiten war das schon so, wie ich es erzähle -, nach dem Westen hinüber-wandern – eine Schiffahrt hat es ja immer gegeben, und es waren ja außerdem durch den ganzen Atlantischen Ozean noch Inseln, der Atlantische Ozean war ja früher auch ein Kontinent -, also wenn die Schwarzen nach dem Westen auswandern, da können sie nicht mehr so viel Licht und Wärme aufnehmen wie in ihrem Afrika. Da kommt ihnen weniger Licht und Wärme zu. Was ist die Folge? Ja, ihre Natur ist eingerichtet darauf, so viel als mög¬lich Licht und Wärme aufzunehmen. Ihre Natur ist eigentlich eingerichtet, dadurch schwarz zu werden. Jetzt kriegen sie nicht so viel Licht und Wärme, als sie brauchen, um schwarz zu werden. Da werden sie kupferrot, werden Indianer. Das kommt davon her, weil sie gezwungen sind, etwas von Licht und Wärme zu¬rückzuwerfen. Das glänzt dann so kupferrot. Das Kupfer ist sel¬ber ein Körper, der Licht und Wärme so ein bißchen zurückwer¬fen muß. Das können sie nicht aushalten. Daher sterben sie als Indianer im Westen aus, sind wiederum eine untergehende Rasse, sterben an ihrer eigenen Natur, die zu wenig Licht und Wärme bekommt, sterben an dem Irdischen. Das Irdische ihrer Natur ist ja ihr Triebleben. Das können sie nicht mehr ordentlich ausbil¬den, während sie noch starke Knochen kriegen. Weil viel Asche hineingeht in ihre Knochen, können diese Indianer diese Asche nicht mehr aushalten. Die Knochen werden furchtbar stark, aber so stark, daß der ganze Mensch an seinen Knochen zugrunde geht.
Sehen Sie, so hat sich die Sache entwickelt, daß diese fünf Ras¬sen entstanden sind. Man möchte sagen, in der Mitte schwarz, gelb, weiß, und als ein Seitentrieb des Schwarzen das Kupferrote, und als ein Seitenzweig des Gelben das Braune – das sind immer die aussterbenden Teile. Die Weißen sind eigentlich diejenigen, die das Menschliche in sich entwickeln. Daher sind sie auf sich selber angewiesen. Wenn sie auswandern, so nehmen sie die Eigentümlichkeiten der anderen Gegenden etwas an, doch sie gehen, nicht als Rasse, son¬dern mehr als einzelne Menschen, zugrunde. Aber sie tun dafür noch etwas anderes. Sehen Sie, alles dasjenige, was ich Ihnen jetzt geschildert habe, das sind ja die Dinge, die im Leibe des Men¬schen vor sich gehen. Die Seele und der Geist sind mehr unabhän¬gig davon. Daher kann der Europäer, weil ihn Seele und Geist am meisten in Anspruch nimmt, Seele und Geist am meisten ver¬arbeiten. Der kann es am ehesten vertragen, in verschiedene Erd¬teile zu gehen’.[47]
In this long passages there are three passages which the van Baarda commission considered as severe discriminative (three of the sixteen in the total work of Steiner). So they were harsh on this lecture for the workers on building the Goetheanum in Dornach. Although Steiner’s formulations are quiet rough, what he says is not essentially different than what we saw before. There are some differences; for example he states that the predecessors of the Native Americans are Black Africans. Earlier, and more often, he said that the Native Americans were a kind of Atlanteans who survived, but became decadent. But this is the only thing in which he is not consequent. His description of the ‘Knochen’ (ashes on the skeleton, because in an earlier stage these Indians were ‘boiling negroes’) of the Native Americans, and his remark that they are ‘eine untergehende Rasse’, who ‘sterben an ihrer eigenen Natur’ is something we have seen before, in different varieties (‘Nicht etwa deshalb, weil es den Europäern gefallen hat, ist die indianische Bevölkerung ausgestorben, sondern weil die indianische Bevölkerung die Kräfte erwerben mußte, die sie zum Aussterben führten’, in Die Mission einzelner Volksseelen, or the description and the drawings from GA 100, where the native Americans are represented as a ‘decadent race’).
There are many, many more examples, too much to discuss them all. But that is not the aim of this article. The main conclusion is that there is a kind of structural racial teaching in the work of Rudolf Steiner, in contrary to the van Baarda Commission’s main conclusion: ‘Géén sprake van Rassenleer’ (‘No racial teachings’). There really is, whatever Steiner’s intentions were (see the declaration of the ‘Nachlassverwaltung’, which I have no reason to doubt).
According to Helmut Zander there are three central issues in Steiner’s racial teachings which are often defended by anthroposophists to argue Steiner was not a racist, but studying them in detail, these arguments are even quiet unvalid and even reveal the essence of the problematic side of Steiners racial teachings. Helmut Zander (in his major work Anthroposophie in Deutschland):

1. ‘Rassen sind für Steiner ein Epiphänomen der Materie und sollen den Menschen als Geistiges Wesen letztlich nicht betreffen: ‘Da alle Menschen in verschiedenen Reinkarnationen durch die verschieden Rassen durchgehen, so besteht, obgleich man uns entgegenhalten kann, daß der Europäer gegen die schwarze und die gelbe Rasse einen Vorsprung hat, doch keine eigentliche Benachteilung’ (GA 121, 78 [1910]). Weil der Mensch also in der Reinkarnation in andere Rassen und Völker inkarnieren müsse, seien rassische oder völkische Dimensionen der Anthropologie sekundär. Dies war Steiners Versuch, dem biologischen Determinismus zu wehren. Allerdings ist dies eine bloße Binnenperspektive hat ihre Tücken: Wenn das karmische Schicksal eine Folge guter oder schlechter Taten ist, is das Leben in einer ‘degenerierten’ oder ‘passiven’ Rasse eine Strafe (oder Vorleistung für ein besseren Leben). Kant etwa bekam dies zu spüren, da Steiner glaubte, ‘daß in Kant eine junge Seele lebte. Ja, die Tatsachen sagen es, da ist nichts dagegen zu machen. Und man könnte nun darauf hinweisen, daß die jüngeren Seelen sich allerdings in der Mehrzahl in den farbigen Rassen verkörpern, daß also die farbigen Rassen, namentlich die Negerrasse, vorzugweise jüngere Seelen zur Verkörperung bringen’ (GA 126, 35 [1910]). Diese bedeutet daß ‘Neger’, Indianer oder andere negativ stigmatisierte Menschen in dieser Verkörperung ihre Strafinkarnation ableisten.

2. Rassen seien ein kollektiver Faktor und beträfen das Individuum letztlich nicht: ‘Die Rasse kann zurückbleiben, eine Völkergemeinschaft kann zurückbleiben, die Seelen aber schreiten über die einzelnen Rassen hinaus’ (GA 104, 89 [1908]). Auch in derartigen Aussagen kann man Steiners Versuch lesen, den Biologischen Determinismus zu umgehen, Steiner wollte keine Fixierung auf eine blutsmäßige Abstammung. Aber zugleich drückt sich darin eine ungeheure Naivität gegenüber die kulturellen Prägekraft gesellschaftlicher Verhältnisse, und eben dies sind ‘Rassen’ auch, aus. Zudem bleibt auch hier die Evolution das unangetastete Gesetz der Kultur: Wer zurückbleibt, gehört zu Konkursmasse. Die Abwertung aktueller Völker und Rassen bleibt bestehen.

3. Rassen seien ein Intermezzo der Menschheitsgeschichte. ‘Die Rassen sind entstanden und werden einmal vergehen, werden einmal nicht mehr da sein’ (GA 121, 76 [1910]). Erneut artikulierte Steiner sein antimaterialistisches Leitmotiv, aber bei näherem Hinsehen bliebt dies ein gänzlich unpolitischen Argument. Die Rassenenstehung, die erst in der lemurischen Zeit begonnen habe, werde in der sechsten und siebten ‘Entwickelungsepoche’ verschwinden (ebd.), das heißt: frühestens ungefähr im 9. Jahrtausend. Für eine politischen Erledigung der Rassenfrage und für die Geltung von Steiners Rassentheorien ist dies eine lange, zu lange Zeit. Daß die Vielfalt von Völkern und Rassen ein Reichtum der Pluralität sein könnte, tritt im übrigen nicht in Steiners Blickfeld’.[48]

So Helmut Zander argues the following (summarized in my own words):

1. Although, in Steiners view, every individual incarnates within different races, Steiner is very explicit about the different ‘qualities’ of these races. The ‘white race’ is the far best compared with other ‘races’, like native Americans or black Africans. So you could say there are more or less racial conglomerates of ‘Straf Inkarnationen’ (using this effective characterization of Zander).

2. The race is just a temporary step and just one factor in the development of an individual soul, on its journey through different incarnations. In Steiner’s view the individual can’t be reduced to its ‘race’. But this assertion doesn’t mean that in Steiner’s view all races are equal (the reincarnation alibi argument). This defence doesn’t release certain ‘races’ of their negative stigmas. Some races are degenerated when they don’t fit anymore in the general evolution of mankind and become, in Zanders words: ‘leftovers of the bankrupt property’.

3. In the several articles, discussions but also in de van Baarda rapport, very often has been argued by anthroposophists (see also Dieter Brüll and Thomas Voss) Steiner believed that races were an important factor in the past, but they lost there meaning in the present time. Zander shows one passage of the 4th lecture of the Mission einzelner Volksseelen, but there are many more of such passages, that the differences between races will disappear in the far future (acc. Zander’s calculation in the 9th millennium![49]).

But Zander continues and he discusses one aspect I think it is crucial in Steiner’s total vision on the development of mankind considering the ‘races’. Zander:

‘Schießlich unterschätzen derartige Interpretationen von Einstellen die Bedeutung einer zentralen Konstruktionsstelle in Steiners Denken: der Evolutionsdoktrin. Steiner sah die Entwickelung von Rassen, wie die Kosmologie oder die Bewußtseinsgesichte, als evolutiven Prozeß, der letztlich alle Dimensionen des Kosmos, des Leben oder der Kultur unterwarf. Hier liegt ein zentrales Problem seiner Rassismen, sie sind der Ausdruck eines tief im 19. Jahrhundert verwurzelten Evolutionsdenkens, das alle Bereiche seiner Weltanschauung prägte. Steiner formulierte mit seinem theosophischen Sozialdarwinismus eine Ethnologie, in die Rede von ‘degenerierten’, ‘zurückgeblebenen’ oder ‘zukünftigen’ Rasse keine ‘Unfälle’, sondern das Ergebnis einer konsequent durchgedachten Evolutionslehre waren. Ich sehe im Gegensatz zu viele Anthroposophen keine Möglichkeit, diese Konsequenz zu bestreiten. Ein weiteres Zentralen Problem liegt im Rassenbegriff: Anthropologen bestreiten heute, daß dem klassischen, auch kulturellen Begriff der Rasse ein genetische Substrat unterliegt.
Zurück zur Einfangsfrage dieses Kapitels, mit deren Beantwortung die Deutung der Geschichte zur Stellungnahme in einer aktuellen Debatte wird: Gibt es einen Rassismus bei Steiner? Wenn Rassismus die Bindung wichtiger Elemente der Anthropologie an augenblicklich existierende Rassen bedeutet, seien die biologisch oder spirituell definiert, dann kann man Steiner als Rassisten bezeichnen. Es wäre hilfreich, wenn manche Anthroposophen zugestehen würden, daß dies keine schlicht polemische Aussage ist, sondern in der kontextualisierenden Deutung des historischen Materials gründet. Zugleich aber gibt es bei Steiner Versuche, die deterministischen Konsequenzen dieses Denkens zu brechen, und es wäre gut, wenn viele Kritiker zu Kenntnis nehmen würden, daß Steiner kein Rassist sein wollte; aus diesem Grund spreche ich lieber von Steiners Rassentheorie als von Rassismus. Aber diese abgemilderte Begrifflichkeit birgt für die politische Debatte das Problem einer möglicherweise voreiligen Salvierung Steiners. Denn es gibt philanthropischen Anthroposophen solche, die rassistisch denken, wie es bei den Kritikern verständnisvolle neben blindwütigen gibt. Wir waren einen großen Schritt weiter, wenn man die historisch bedingten und in meiner Wahrnehmung vorhandenen Rassismen bei Steiner und die politischen Konsequenzen analytisch differenzieren könnte, bei Anhängern wie Kritikern Steiners.
Solange Anthroposophen sich hier zurückhalten, weil man Steiners höhere Einsicht nicht in Frage stellen will oder mit dem Argument, die Anthroposophie kenne keine Dogmen, aus rassistische Deutungen von Anthroposophen innerhalb der Anthroposophischen Gesellschaft deckt, bleibt die Debatte explosiv. Es gibt meines Erachtens nur einen Weg, Steiners Rassentheorie zu entschärfen: Indem man sie als Zeitgebundene Vorstellungswelt historisiert, sich insoweit davon distanziert und in normativer Hinsicht als Irrtum verwirft. So führt ein Weg von Steiners evolutionär hierarchisierte Rassentheorie zu einer egalitären Philantropie. Aber vor einer solchen Revision schrecken viele Anthroposophen weiterhin zurück, weil dies den Einstieg in die Kritik von Steiners ‘höheren Einsicht’ bedeuten würde’.[50]

So far this long passage of Zander. I have to say I just agree with these last conclusions and suggestions of Zander. In my earlier articles, although much more provocative and polemical, and far less empathically than Zander does, I wrote that the racial doctrines of Steiner are deeply interwoven with his concept of evolution and his view of the ‘quest’ of the development of the human kind. I argued more or less the same in this article. So I believe this is the main problem, but possibly also the most important challenge of anthroposophy in our current time. Although I am myself not a believer I never had any problem with the spiritual content of anthroposophy, just with the racist elements, or maybe better (in the words of Zander) ‘racial theories’. Nevertheless I believe this is the fundamental point. The same kind of thing was also said by Jana Husmann Kastein, also from the Humboldt University (I cited her article several times before).[51]
But whatever you may think of these factually nineteenth century and colonial ‘misconceptions’ of Evolution, as they were fit in a well constructed mystical and esoteric worldview (which in my view the problematic aspect of anthroposophy), there is no ground nor justification for denying the Holocaust in Steiner’s name, as some of his followers are doing. I think every even orthodox but decent anthroposophist should agree with that.
But let us have a look on Steiner’s position on Judaism and try to find out if there is any justification in the work of Steiner, which may ‘justify’ (from an anthroposophical point of view) some of the anti-Semitic texts of De Brug.

Steiner on Judaism

A different issue is the question of anti-Semitism in the work of Rudolf Steiner. The opinions about this sensitive issue are different. In the Netherlands one of the fiercest critics of Steiner’s racial theories Gjalt Zondergeld (Professor of History at the Free University of Amsterdam) stated (in an essay, written with the historian Evert van der Tuin, published in 1988 and republished in 2002): ‘Steiner was not anti-Semitic in the way the national socialists were. In the past we may have made to easy the connection with the Nazis’ (referring their earlier publications in the early eighties). ‘In the fierce debate, following after our first publications on this issue, the prominent anthroposophist Professor Dieter Brüll defended Steiner, by pointing at the current problems of Israel. He stated that Steiner was thinking of ‘solving the Jewish problem’ by racial mixing, because Steiner was against ‘racial messianism’, as Judaism in Steiner’s opinion stands for. The remarkable thing was that Brüll used the term ‘Jewish Race’.[52]
The same kind of argument in defending Steiner was used by the Belgian chemist and prominent anthroposophist Dr. Jos Verhulst. In an article, later republished in ‘De Brug’ he stated: ‘In the article ‘Is anthroposophy racist?’ (De Morgen, June 23, 2000, p. 34) the following ‘serious discrimination’ quote of Steiner was mentioned: ‘The Judaism itself has long survived, has no justification within the modern life of peoples, and that it still exists in the present, is a failure of world history of which the consequences could not be occurred. Here we mean not only of the Jewish religion, but also the spirit of Judaism, the Jewish way of thinking’. Verhulst continues: ‘At the first sight this statement of Steiner seems pure anti-Semitic and racist. But the things are not what they look like. The sentences immediately preceding the quote shows that Steiner means with the spirit of Judaism ‘the Jewish variant of racial segregation and group’. Steiner has always been the most consistent pronouncing against anti-Semitism. But in his criticism he did not spare Zionism and the Jewish obsession with traditional racial purity (…) This ‘Jewish thinking’ is still alive. For example, the Jewish Professor Deborah Lipstadt, who was charged unsuccessfully for libel in court by the revisionist David Irving (!), is an active advocacy against ‘mixed’ marriages (…) Steiner had a realistic and differentiated view on Judaism, he knew many Jews, several of them were good friends and he lived for a while with a Jewish family as a private teacher for their disabled child, who was educated successfully. He had been attacked himself by anti-Semites. But he was not a supporter of the traditional Jewish tendency to live in racial segregation in relation to the other men, in his view an aberration. If that is racism, I am racist too’.[53]
This strange argument to defend Steiner was later used by other anthroposophists. I heard this myself in the fierce debates I participated in, with different Dutch and Belgian anthroposophists. ‘Steiner was not a racist, but the Judaism is racist. He was even so anti-racist that he corrected the Jews on their own racism’.[54] The remarkable fact that Jos Verhulst is mentioning the notorious revisionist and martyr/hero of the international neo-Nazi movement David Irving (why mentioning Irving in this particular case?) is not an incident, as we have seen earlier.
Steiner’s passage (from his Homunkulus review, an epic poem of Hammerling, in Magazin für Literatur in 1886): ‘Das Judentum als solches hat sich aber längst ausgelebt, hat keine Berechtigung innerhalb des modernen Völkerlebens, und dass es sich dennoch erhalten hat, ist ein Fehler der Weltgeschichte, dessen Folgen nicht ausbleiben konnten’ has been discussed many times. Finally the van Baarda Commission categorized is passage as severe discriminative (one of the sixteen passages of Steiner the Commission found ‘there was serious discrimination’).
But on the other hand, Steiner criticized also anti-Semites, which he considered as not very intelligent. That he called them ‘Ungefährliche Leute’ is a naivety you can’t blame him for; this was long before the National Socialism became a serious factor in German politics.
There is one quote of Steiner which wasn’t discussed in public; at least in the Netherlands. It has been mentioned by the van Baarda Commission, but they also missed the point. In my view this is the most serious and close to real anti-Semitism. In Menschheitsentwickelung und Christus-Erkenntnis (GA 100, 1907) Steiner says: ‘Und diejenigen, die so recht am Alltäglichen haften, die sich nicht verbinden wollen mit dem, was der Zukunft entgegengeht, werden mit der Rasse verschmelzen. Es gibt solche Menschen, die bei dem bleiben wollen, was althergebracht ist, die nichts wissen wollen von dem, was weiterschreiten heißt; die nicht hören wollen auf solche, die über die Rasse hinüberführen zu immer neuen Gestaltungen der Menschheit. Die Mythe hat in wunderbarer Weise diese Tendenz erhalten. Nicht besser könnte sie das darstellen, als indem sie auf einen der Größten hinweist, der das Wort ausgesprochen hat: ‘Wer nicht verlässt Vater und Mutter, Weib und Kind, Bruder und Schwester, der kann nicht mein Jünger sein’, und dagegen das Traurige in einem Menschen darstellt, der da sagt: Ich will nichts von einem solche Führer wissen!- und ihn zurückstößt. Wie könnte man das klarer ausdrücken als in dem Bilde dessen, der den Führer von sich weist, und der nicht aufzusteigen vermag! Das ist die Sage von Ahasver, dem Ewigen Juden, der da staß und den größten Führer, den Christus Jesus von sich stieß, nichts wissen wollte von der Entwickelung, und der deshalb bei seiner Rasse bleiben muß, immer wiederkehren muß in seiner Rasse. Das sind solche Mythen, die der Menschheit zum ewigen Gedächtnis gegeben sind, damit sie weiß um was es sich handelt’.[55]
The Commission mentions this passage in a series with others, to argue that the ‘differences between races’ (in Steiner’s view) are something from the past. The report hardly discusses this specific quote and almost ignores the remarkable things Steiner has to say. The commission makes one short remark:
‘Anthroposophy can’t be understood with just the ratio, but also with the intuition. Our open-mindedness will be tested when we know that the saga of the ‘Wandering Jew’, Ahasverus, who turned his back to Jesus on his way to Golgotha and for that reason he has to wander the earth and to wait for the return of Christ, is factually a representation of a man who refuses to participate in the development of humanity and for that reason will incarnate in the same race. (!) Superficial conclusions that Ahasverus would represent Judaism in general, that the rejection of Christ would have something to do with the rejection of Christianity and that several incarnations in the same race only happens with the Jewish ‘race’, are totally unjustified’.[56]
Are they? I am not that sure that it is ‘totally unjustified’ to assume that in this case Steiner had other ‘races’ in mind than the Jews, or this should mean that all the non-Christian peoples (races!) of this planet are ‘doomed’ to their own ‘race’. Earlier I discussed Steiner’s passage from Die Mission einzelner Volksseelen (GA 121: 4): ‘Da alle Menschen in verschiedenen Reinkarnationen durch die verschiedenen Rassen durchgehen, so besteht, obgleich man uns entgegenhalten kann, daß der Europäer gegen die schwarze und die gelbe Rasse einen Vorsprung hat, doch keine eigentliche Benachteiligung’. But do we have to assume that we just benefit from this ‘Überwindung des Rassencharakters’ when we recognise Christ? Steiner says something like that in the same cyclus (at the end of his lecture of 22 November 1907 in Basel) when he states that ‘the mantle of Christ will unite the four main races of humanity’[57] , but I don’t think there is any reason to assume that he means the same in this case, or probably ‘except the Jews’. And why does the commission advice us to understand this passage with our intuition and not with our ratio? But anyway, this is not a very elegant passage of the report. I may have been sometimes quiet harsh about the report, in this article and in earlier comments, but the report is, except for the good parts- mainly the passages where anthroposophy in general is explained, full with of statements like this (see in this article also the call for a physiological research in case of Steiner’s statements on the ‘kochende Neger, mit furchtbar schlaue Augen und er nimmt alle Licht und Wärme auf’, in GA 349).
The most significant thing is Steiner uses the term ‘ewige Jude’, ignored by the commission. The use of this term, in relation to the ‘Ahasverus Myth’ places this passage (not the entire work of Steiner or Rudolf Steiner himself) in a long (Christian) anti-Semitic tradition. Steiner mixes this with typical anthroposophical ideas, like reincarnation and ‘salvation’ of ‘racial deformations’, originated by the ‘Dynameis Geister’, or ‘abnormen Geister der Form’ in the Lemurian Era, but something we will overcome in the future, probably with the help of Christ. But than he makes an exception for the Jews, because they didn’t recognise Christ, is an original Christian concept, later used in the nationalistic German rhetoric. We find this idea also in the work of Richard Wagner, especially in his opera ‘Der Fliegende Hollander’. Wagner uses the personage Ahasver who rejected the Salvation by Christ as a metaphor for the ‘Wandering Jew’. Later this anti-Semitic notion was used for the Nazi propaganda film Der ewige Jude, in 1940 (Steiner uses also this term). Originally, the ‘Ahasverus Myth’ even came from the mystical Jewish tradition, but this legend was used in the German nationalistic tradition, as a symbol for the eternal non-Christian ‘Heimatloser’ [58] unrooted element as the counterpoint of the Aryan Man. I don’t think there could be any misunderstanding about the interpretation of this passage.
But for this article it is sufficient to mention this remarkable passage. The only thing I want to is that this quote of Rudolf Steiner is, for so far I know, the passage which comes most close to national socialist thought, although even the term ‘ewige Jude’ wasn’t an original Nazi concept, like almost nothing was original in the Nazi thought, so enough reason to be not to conclusive. Further the Nazis didn’t believe in ‘Salvation’ for the Jews, just as they didn’t believe in reincarnation. We may conclude that this concept was very ‘Wagnerian’ and later used both by Steiner and the Nazis. But the use of the term ‘ewige Jude’ is not a triviality which could be ignored.
Peter Bierl pays a lot of attention to Steiner’s view on Judaism in his book Wuzelrassen Erzengel und Volksgeister (2005). At the beginning of his chapter on this subject he summarizes Steiner’s development of thinking about Judaism as following: ‘Anhand der veröffentlichten Briefe, Zeitungsartikel, Vorträge und Bücher lässt sich belegen, dass Steiners Haltung gegenüber Juden sich im Lauf der Zeit veränderte. In einem Zentralen Punkt blieb sich Steiner treu. Ob als deutschnationaler Student und Journalist, als Verfechter eines Idealistischen Individualismus, der sich für Dreyfus engagierte, oder als Esoteriker: Er war überzeugt, dass das Judentum sich überlebt habe; Assimilation bedeutete für ihn, dass jede eigenständige jüdische Identität verschwinden sollte. Daraus resultierte auch seine scharfe Abneigung gegen den Zionismus. Nach der Wende zu Esoterik um 1901 leitete Steiner seine Sicht des Judentums aus der Wurzelrassenlehre ab, kombiniert mit Motiven des traditionellen christlichen Antisemitismus. Je mehr er sich von den Theosophie entfernte und christliche Elemente in die Anthroposophie aufnahm, desto stärker betonte Steiner, die Juden leugneten Christus und seien eine verderbte, Wurzellose Rasse’.[59]
Also interesting is this passage: ‘Wie andere völkische Ideologen behaupten Steiner und seine Anhänger, dass die Juden besonders rassisch dächten und sich von der Fixen Idee der Reinheit des Blutes leiten ließen, ‘es liegt bei ihnen im Blut, des Einheitsgott, das Momon zu vertreten’ (see Jos Verhulst and in his particular case the possibility of ‘völkisch’ thought is not exaggerated, as we will see later, FS). Hans Razum meinte, ‘jahrtausendelange Inzucht charakterisiert die Rassenpolitik der Juden’; aber diese Reinheit des Blutes helfe nichts, wenn die ‘geistige Kulturaufgabe’ eines Volkes erfüllt sei. Mission erfüllt, Verfall programmiert, lautet die anthroposophische Grundregel (in my view Bierl explains it well, see all the earlier discussed passages of Steiner about the Native Americans, FS). Aus einer angeblich besonders starken Blutsbindung der Juden schlussfolgerte Steiner abstrakte Strenge und Unerbittlichkeit. Er leitete daraus allerlei Klischees ab: Monotheismus gleich geistige Erstarrung, die Juden lebten nach einem ‘unfruchtbaren Gesetz’, seien ausgedörrt und versteinert’.[60]
He pays also some attention to the passage of Steiner from GA 100. Bierl: ‘In Blavatskys Theosophie werden die Juden, im Gegensatz zu Ariern, als bösartige, verschlagene, machthungerige Rasse dargestellt.[61] Steiner verknüpfte diese Lehre mit dem Christlichen Motiv der jüdischen Gottesmörder und Gottesleugner und erklärte seinen Zuhörern (1907) dass die Juden darum rassisch nicht aufsteigen könnten: ‘Wie könnte man das klarer ausdrücken als in dem Bild dessen, der Führer von sich weist und der sich nicht aufsteigen vermag! Das ist die Sage von Ahasver, dem Ewigen Juden, der da saß und den größten Führer, den Christus Jesus, von sich stieß, nichts wissen wollte von der Entwickelung, und der deshalb bei seiner Rasse bleiben muss, immer wiederkehren muss in seiner Rasse’ (we have seen this passage before, FS). Nach der antisemitische christlichen Überlieferung ist der Jude Ahasver auf ewig verflucht, weil er Jesus auf dem Kreuzweg eine Ruhepause verweigerte.
Der Phantasierte Zusammenhang zwischen spiritueller Entwickelung und rassischer Höherentwickelung und die Vorstellung, die Juden als Gottesleugner seien Angehörige einer zurückgebliebenen Rasse, werden noch deutlicher in einem Vortrag, den Steiner ein Jahr später hielt (…)‘Und wenn andere Menschen, welche auf die großen Führer der Menschheit hören und die Seele mit dem ewigen Wesenkern bewahren, in einer vorgeschrittenen Rasse wiedererscheinen, so wird der, der von großen Menschheitsführer von sich stößt, immer in derselben Rasse wiedererscheinen, weil er nur die eine Gestalt hat ausbilden können. Das ist die tiefere Idee des Ahasver, der immer in derselben Gestalt wiederkehren muss, weil er die Hand des größten Führers, des Christus, von sich gewiesen hat. So ist die Möglichkeit für den Menschen vorhanden, mit dem Wesen einer Inkarnation zu verwachsen, den Menschheitsführer von sich zu stoßen, oder aber die Wandlung durchzumachen zu höheren Rassen, zu immer höheren Vervollkommnung. Rassen würden gar nicht dekadent werden, gar nicht untergehen, wenn es nicht Seelen gäbe, die nicht weiterrücken wollen zu einer höheren Rassenform. Schauen Sie hin auf Rassen, die sich erhalten haben aus früherer Zeit: Sie sind bloß deshalb da, weil da Seelen nicht höher steigen könnte’.[62]
The passages of GA 100 and GA 102 shows also something else; whatever Jos Verhulst and some other defenders of Steiner may say (using the argument that the Jews themselves are ‘racial obsessed’) this is not what Steiner says. Jews have to incarnate in the same race, because they didn’t recognise Christ. Although there are strong parallels with the traditional Christian anti-Semitism (the Jews are doomed, because they didn’t recognise or even murdered Christ) it is interesting to see how this notion mixed with Steiner’s idea of the Mission of people and races.
The words of this passage, original from GA 102, are a reprise of what we have seen earlier. Some races became decadent, but the higher souls incarnated in newer and better forms. The sad thing is that some contemporary anthroposophists still use these kind of arguments to defend Steiner, also in the many debates I participated in, totally unable to identify this as racism. This was in case of the Native Americans. The argument was, although the natives had a great spirituality and philosophy about Nature and Harmony (all those clichés), in the current Indians are incarnated lower souls, see their poverty, casinos and addiction problems in their reservations ( the natives were literally called ‘a sick race’). Another opponent (from outspoken ‘orthodox signature’ and editor of an important anthroposophical magazine in the Netherlands) said that he didn’t like it, but Steiner had said this was ‘eine Gesetzmäßigkeit’, so it was no fun, but these are the facts. But the higher souls of the former spiritual natives have now incarnated in new forms, so nothing wrong with that.[63] But what can you expect from individual anthroposophists as even de van Baarda-report uses arguments like these? Because what do they have to say about this passage (cit. 40 in the report)?
‘The essence of this quote is ‘Rassen würden gar nicht dekadent werden, gar nicht untergehen, wenn es nicht Seelen gäbe, die nicht weiterrücken können und nicht weiterrücken wollen zu einer höheren Rassenform’. Also here, Steiner uses the word Race in a Theosophical way, somewhere further he mentions some peoples from Atlantis. The different physical possibilities of races, are called ‘Rassenformen’, but they are always at service of the souls who want to incarnate on earth. On earth there have to be physical bodies which are necessary for the next stage of development of those souls, or fitting with the individual needs of these souls. If every soul went through a certain development, the races which were necessary for this development are dying out, because there is no need for any soul to incarnate in such a race. So the human soul is not dependent on a race, the human souls themselves decide which races will appear on earth. With the decadency of a race Steiner means that the bodies of that race were stagnated in their development. When there are still souls incarnating in such a race, these are souls who didn’t develop themselves. And with decadent, Steiner means not developing anymore, which means stagnation. But this is never meant definitively for a soul, because the has always the possibility to incarnate again in a body which fits in the necessary development of the human kind’.[64]
Again reincarnation as the universal alibi for racism. ‘Mission erfüllt, Verfall programmiert’, calls Bierl this universal law of Steiner. ‘Daß is einfach eine Gesetzmäßigkeit’, says Steiner in the fourth lecture of Die Mission einzelner Volksseelen and immediately followed by this explanation: ‘Da alle Menschen in verschiedenen Reinkarnationen durch die verschiedenen Rassen durchgehen, so besteht, obgleich man uns entgegenhalten kann, daß der Europäer gegen die schwarze und die gelbe Rasse einen Vorsprung hat, doch keine eigentliche Benachteiligung. Hier ist die Wahrheit zwar manchmal verschleiert, aber Sie sehen, man kommt mit Hilfe der Geheimwissenschaft doch auf merkwürdige Erkenntnisse’[65]
Remarkable is that Helmut Zander doesn’t mention this example of the Ahasver Myth. He mentions another example: ‘…in der Substanz der Evolution des Judentums kein Vermögen mehr besteht, heraufzureichen zu den Offenbarungen des Gottesreiches (GA 148, 60);…Es nicht mehr für diese Erde möglich die Offenbarung des alten Judentums, denn die alten Juden sind nicht mehr da, um sie aufzunehmen. Das muß als etwas Wertloses auf unserer Erde angesehen werden’.[66]
Zanders general remark on Steiners position on Judaism is nuanced: ‘Ein kritischer Blick auf seine Evolutionsbegründeten Abwertungen des Judentums hat sich ihm gleichwohl nicht eröffnet, hier liegt das Kernproblem seines theosophischen Antisemitismus. Ihm war auch nicht klar, in welch großem Ausmaß er mit derartigen Hierarchisierungsmodellen evolutionistische Entwürfe der Ethnologie und Religionswissenschaft um 1900 aufnahm. Bis heute fällt es Anthroposophen schwer, die Ambivalenz Steiners zwischen der Verteidigung jüdischer Positionen einerseits und seinem Antijudaismen und Antisemitismen andererseits zu realisieren’.[67]
I think it would be wise to be not to conclusive about this sensitive issue. But there is one thing we can be sure of. Radical anti-Semitism or Holocaust revisionism are not to justify in the tradition of Rudolf Steiner, beside that it is also immoral in general. But also based on Steiner’s ideas about Judaism or even races in general, there is absolutely no ground for the severe aberration of anthroposophy I will discuss in the next part.

How Ahriman and the occult fellowships are building their ‘World Termite State’ and made up the ‘Holocaust Myth’ to suppress the Christian Impulse from Central Europe

Jens Heisterkamp, prominent anthroposophist in Germany, one of the authors of the Franfurther Memorandum and editor of Info3, on the Russian anthroposophist Gennady Bondarew: ‘Während Bondarew als Ziel von West Alliierten und Sowjets im Zweiten Weltkrieg die ‘Ausrottung der Bevölkerung Mittel- und Osteuropas’ ausmacht, finden sich in Bezug auf die Ausrottungsaktionen der Deutschen nur vielsagende Auslassungen von Seite 241 der Publikation an, wo es um das Schicksal des europäischen Judentum während der nationalsozialistischen Herrschaft geht, erklärt der Verlag in einer Fußnote: ‘Die heute in Westeuropa allgemein geltenden Rechtsvorschriften zwangen die Redaktion, dieses Kapitel um einige Abschnitte zu kürzen. Es bleibt zu hoffen, das der geneigte Leser den Gedanken des Autors trotzdem zu folgen vermag’. Dies fällt allerdings nicht schwer. Jene ‘Rechtsvorschriften’ beziehen sich ebenso wie die durch Klammern ausgedeuteten Passagen Bondarews auf die mittlerweile auch in der Schweiz strafbare Leugnung der Massenvernichtung der europäischen Juden im Dritten Reich. ‘Müssen wir uns jeden Schwindel, jede Lüge anhören und uns damit ihren Folgen generationslang unterwerfen?’ fragt Bondarew. (…) Zurück bleibt der Eindruck eines heillosen Sektierums. Was immer Bondarew in Russland während der schweren Jahre des sozialistischen Regimes geleistet haben mag- dieses Buch ist eine Schande für Rudolf Steiner und der Anthroposophie’.[68]

Also in the Netherlands there was even a ‘Bondarev affair’. It hardly reached the media, except ‘de Groene Amsterdammer’. In an article of Rene Zwaap, on 15-10-1997, we could read that Ron Dunselman, chair of the Dutch Anthroposophical Society, made a strong effort at the Ministry of Foreign Affairs to withdraw a visa for the Russian anthroposophist Bondarew, who was invited to come to the Netherlands, ironically by the prominent Dutch anthroposophist Willem Frederik Veltman and the banker Rudolf Mees, a strong supporter of anthroposophical initiatives in the Netherlands. The reason was Dunselman, who ordered to translate some fragments of the Russian version of Bondarev’s book Antroposophie auf der Kreuzung der okkult-politischen Bewegungen der Gegenwart, after rumours of anti-Semitism, concluded this man was a structural racist and anti-Semite.
Things appeared far more worse than he expected. Bondarev appeared not only a severe anti-Semite but also a Holocaust revisionist, basing himself on the ideas of the French Holocaust denier Robert Faurisson (we will see this name again). Although supported by the organisation of Veltman and Mees, who even invited former foreign minister and ex UN High commissioner on the Minorities and Human Rights, Max van der Stoel, to join the committee of recommendation, for Dunselman this was enough reason to try to keep Bondarev away from a congress he was invited to speak, in The Hague, October 1997. Although this was a little bit a blamage for a general respected ex minister Max van der Stoel and some other prominents (according to this article van der Stoel appeared to be a former classmate of WF Veltman, for that reason he joined the committee) the Dutch anthroposophical community made a principal statement. This gave some troubles within the anthroposophical ranks of the Netherlands; for example WF Veltman, one of the most prominent but also an outspoken conservative member of the Dutch anthroposophical society, withdraw his membership.[69]
This happened at the moment that the Dutch Anthroposophical Society was in the middle of the ‘racism affair’. A year before, two parents of children on a Dutch Waldorfschool contacted the media after they found some racist text and a drawing in the school cahiers of their children. A large newpaper opened with the article ‘Op de Vrije school hebben negers dikke lippen’ (‘on Waldorschools, negroes have thick lips’). After this first rumours, one of these parents, Toos Jeurissen, wrote a brochure ‘Uit de Vrije school geklapt; Antroposofisch racisme; een stellingname’. Again this arose a lot of publicity and finally Mr. Christof Wiechert, vice chairman of the Dutch Anthroposophical Society was interviewed on the radio. He explained some passages of Steiner by pointing at the vitality surpluses of the black footballplayers of Ajax and on the tragic events of the massacre of Wounded Knee, to suggest that Rudolf Steiner was right with his insights about the native Americans as a dying race. After this happened, on a special general assemblee, the Dutch anthroposophists decided to install the van Baarda Commission to research the work of Steiner for possible racism. This story has been told many times, at least in the Netherlands.
But the most interesting thing here is, we have seen the Dutch anthroposophists acted quiet effectively in the case of Bondarev. Lobbying for refusing someone’s visa is quiet a radical measure, I think. Maybe to much (you can also declare you don’t support or agree with these ideas), but anyway the Dutch anthroposophists acted (like the German anthroposophists acted in the case of Andreas Molau [70]). My question is, why even promoting (on all the Dutch anthroposophical websites) a magazine and website which is at least as radical as Bondarev? I never had the opportunity to read Bondarev’s texts, but I can’t imagine that it is even more worse than this. Let’s not forget that Bondarev’s most radical texts were not even translated in German (only a softened version,though some texts are translated in English and available on the internet like here). The difference with this website is, that it is all in Dutch and available on the internet. So why even promoting this ‘medium’? I will show here a long fragment, translated into English and German, of one of the articles of ‘de Brug’. From The Ahrimanic Society; Ahriman, state, multiculturalism and Holocaust  (the original Dutch text can be found here: http://users.telenet.be/antroposofie/vanaf40/b46met/b46.htm ). Click here for the German translation (edited by Michael Eggert). Here the English version (translation FS with some editing of Ramon de Jonghe):

‘In the sequence of Post-Atlantic culture periods, we see a resonance between the first and seventh, second and sixth, and third (Egyptian-Babylonian) in our fifth post-Atlantic period. That does not mean that the fifth culture period must be a repetition of the Egyptian period. It should be a mirror in which the new element, the Christ-impulse, is included.

Ahriman tries to make a repetition of it in which every reference to Christ is missing. It seems that he, the Antichrist, is creating a kind of anti-religion in the lives of many with the main doctrines: multiculturalism and holocaust.

– Multi-culture: the mendacity of this ‘concept’ was yet again demonstrated following the accession of Turkey to the EU. Adultery was no longer punishable. Several commentators pointed out that business and trade compliance of a contract while suddenly obvious – where a voluntary personal commitment of faith to marriage – is not a contract that should be respected.

Matthias Storme in ‘De Doorbraak’ (No. 9 October 2004):

“The great majority of the cultures, the compliance with the voluntary loyalty obligation is still important to the social order and, if not physical then at least before its intangible spiritual entity of man. But the new high priests of the ‘Eureligion’ know of course much better: their materialistic and family hostile ideology is the only one who is still permitted. That a democratically elected parliament in a country that thinks otherwise can not be accepted, the concept of multi-culture can only be used for traditional social institutions to move aside and, of course, not to keep them. In the new ‘Eureligion’ virtues as natural loyalty and faith fit no longer, but is a suspect idea from an obscurantist past. The idea that we are committed to forming a co-based family of faith is unacceptable in that religion: man must be liberated from all those heavy bands and constantly be open for new consumer experiences, constantly ready to use the market goods, which must be replaced by new, nicer, more modern. ”

– The ‘Holocaust’.

In the Western world everyone is free to think what he wants on a particular historical fact. Has someone the opinion that Napoleon never had a campaign in Russia, and he writes a book with arguments for that proposition, he can do. But there is one topic that should not be examined, and that is the ‘holocaust’, the dogma of the systematic slaughter of 6 million Jews during the Second World War.

In most Western countries it is prohibited by law to comply with this ‘fact’.

Why only to this ‘fact’? Stalin and Mao were responsible for the deaths of millions of people, but nobody seems to be disturbed by these facts. Why systematically revive and picture the German war action?

There is obviously no doubt that the Anglo-Saxon occult lodges know that a threat for them only can come from Central Europe. And as to frustrate each operation of a spiritual impulse, Germany is depicted as the origin of all evil.

Where the Mystery of Golgotha is the spindle in the spiritual development of humanity for all mankind, a shining beacon in the joint search for the right way to realize the Christ Impulse in the world, we are on a central mental-rejection point, the black hole in human history which everyone must avoid and that humanity unites in a common hatred against …. the spiritual impulse from Central Europe! Because it is no coincidence that the Holocaust was to be kept alive for a constant hatred against the German people, against Germany as an area for which humanity should be careful and vigilant. Even before the war the hate propaganda already began.

Previously, in the cinema new movies were always shown before the film began. In 1981 died Jack Glenn, the man who made movies in the United States. Occasionally, this guy made arrangements of world events played by actors in a theatrical sequel decor. One of his movies was ‘Inside Nazi Germany’, launched in 1938. It contained a scene of a concentration camp, filmed on Staten Island with New York actors. Much of the film was included in the Third Reich by a freelance cameraman, but Louis Roche Ment, the producer, had the feeling that the film was censored by the German authorities and ordered Glenn to dramatize the Nazi brutality. Millions of Americans who saw these new movies in their local cinema, were convinced that what they saw was reality. How many of those situations that we’re presented today would not get the work of movie artists?

The fact is that after the war the Allies hired Hollywood producers to make propaganda films for army use.

David Irving’s commentary:

“A few years ago came, I think on BBC2, a program on ‘documentaries’ of this Glenn. The documentary revealed that the scenes of SA brown hordes who molest their enemies who were in the streets of Berlin and the Jews in Vienna who were cleaning up the sidewalk, were filmed in the scenes of Hollywood. The Japanese soldiers babies on their bayonets tasks and other atrocities were also hate propaganda scenes from Hollywood. I am not saying that these facts do not actually have occurred. But modern television makers are now using those images to fill their own reports, just as material from the former Soviet GPOE is used as authentic. For years they have deceived the public and fed the wheel of hate. ”

On the website of David Irving (http://www.fpp.co.uk/online/index.html ) we can also read how a film crew from the U.S. army directed the ‘discovery’ of a bag with golden teeth of concentration camp victims in the (empty) safes of the Reich Bank. Another clever piece of propaganda.

Why is Spielbergs film ‘Schindler List’ recorded in black and white? Shortly after the release of the film, the first cameraman in a German magazine declared that they intentionally wanted to create documentary impression so that later (even less critical – fdw) generations would be easily convinced of the veracity.

The film is however based on a novel, the product of the imagination of a writer, Thomas Kenneally. But there is something strange that happened. In the first edition of the book, before the film was released, the word ‘fiction’ appears five times. In the second edition three times and in the third edition the word ‘fiction’ disappeared. Some weekend newspapers even list the book as non-fiction “!

Why are the so called ‘revisionists’ as Norman Finkelstein, David Irving, Robert Faurisson, Ernst Zündel stubbornly prosecuted as if they were heretics during the Inquisition period? For the same reason as then: they have set themselves outside the community of believers who cherish the dogma: Germany is the source of all evil.

In Canada, Ernst Zündel is imprisoned for 22 months (December 2004) in solitary confinement because of his conviction; he has never hurt anyone, but only expressed his opinion. The lawsuits against him seem like Kafka’s books: the former head of the secret service that has followed him for years now is his judge. Each question of the defence is rejected because of national security.

The Antichrist, cunning to change things in their opposite, tries to replace the Holy Spirit by a very worldly, very empty, concept with the name Holocaust, not coincidentally in English sounding as ‘Holy Ghost’.[71]

So far this long fragment of this remarkable ‘article’(more a collection of slogans) from de Brug. Although one of rougher category, it is not the only one in its kind. But let’s also have look on a kind of  ‘propaganda wallpaper’ (fig. 7), they placed in the same issue (I don’t know what else this could be).

Fig. 7 ‘propaganda-wallpaper’ from de Brug (http://users.telenet.be/antroposofie/vanaf40/b46met/b46.htm) Rudolf Steiner as an alternative to ‘Bush’ and ‘Bin Laden’. Translation: Left (under ‘Uncle Sam’): ‘Fight for me to save the values of our materialistic God. Choose freedom of religion, commercials will show the way. Economic Freedom = Social Darwinism. Here (lacks) Brotherhood’. Right (under ‘Osama Bin Laden’): ‘Fight for me to save the values of our spiritual God. You don’t need freedom: Allah will show the way. Spiritual equality = denying the individual. Here (lacks) Freedom’. Middle part (under Rudolf Steiner): ‘In the sphere of law everyone is equal. One man = one vote. Direct democracy keeps the western economic and the eastern spiritual tendencies within their boundaries. Here (lacks) Equality’. (they probably mean ‘uniformity’, although it is typical for ‘de Brug’ to promote inequality, FS). Something different than Steiner’s idea of the Social Threefolding.

In another article, The Ahrimanic personality, after a description of how the demonic the character of the Rothschild family is) we can read:

‘In these circuits, we find the occult brotherhoods. That they might predominantly by Jews at this time is no longer relevant. If it suits their purposes, they also betray their ‘fellow race members’ (‘hun rasgenoten’, FS) (There are several interesting studies on what kind of networks financed Hitler). As you can deduce from the article above even their own family members are not safe if they are willing to receive the ahrimanic inspirations.

We said that the efforts of occult lodges are designed to suppress every spiritual impulse of the Central European spirit. From there alone could come the only model for society that can fulfil the needs of mankind in the era of the consciousness soul. But this model, the Social Threefolding, means the end of the dominance of certain elites. These elites can maintain their power, when the people get no fruitful and inspired ideas about build up an alternative to deal with money, about direct democracy, about ‘Geisteswissenschaft’. And that is exactly what only can come from Middle Europe. From the Belgium-Brussels the European Moloch got prepared, decorated with western thinking, which seduced Central Europe. The Eastern areas were powerless and waiting for the impulse from Central Europe. It is because of the powers of the same centre that Hitler and Stalin could come to power. Nazism and Bolshevism have disappeared now, but the totalitarian system are restructuring themselves, both in Europe as in North America. Many Ahrimanic types work together to realise these systems’.[72]

Also this passage seems totally paranoid. The same lack of structure, but also the same hate against almost everything and above all the radical anti-Semitism(‘If it suits their purposes, they also betray their ‘fellow race members’). Beside that in this case Hitler is also ‘Ahrimanic’.
But the sympathy for the ideas of David Irving and Ernst Zündel, etc., goes even further. For their magazine they published an interview with another ‘Holocaust revisionist’, Johannes Lerle, who is also an anti-abortion activist. The reason why they publish the words of this personality is explained as following:

‘So executing criminals is not human, but apparently to murder unborn, innocent children is called human. There is obviously more behind this than what the legislators themselves do believe there is; a useful and cost-benefit principle in morality. Through the years of indoctrination, we believe abortion is not a moral problem, it is nothing more than the disposal of some ‘pregnancy tissue’. So the people were all just deceived by the idea that the principle that life must be slain if we decide there is no chance for a live in dignity (..) And all those women who want to maintain this principle ‘baas in eigen buik’? (means literally ‘boss of your own belly’. This was the slogan of the Dutch feminist abortion activists during the seventies, FS). In fact they are desperate, like the Indians who were forced by the Spanish conquistadors to work to death in the silver mines, desperate killed their own offspring. They saw no future for their children’.

‘This policy will result in a complicated chaos of Kharmic connections. Even the Angels and their hierarchies will be confused! Maybe this is a probable reason why nowadays there are so many broken families: were they originally meant to live together?’ [73] (so we are confusing the higher spiritual hierarchies that much with our abortion policies, that they putted people together who were never mentioned to be together? FS)

After this remarkable conclusion they published an interview with a militant Catholic anti abortion activist and Holocaust revisionist, Johannes Lerle, after the following introduction:

‘We as anthroposophist has to be alert for the sake of our fellow citizens. And perhaps we should be as inventive as Johannes Lerle!’ The interview follows:

‘Dr. Johannes Lerle from Erlangen in Germany is a known anti-abortion activist.

In June 2007 he was 1 year convicted for… negationism, particularly ‘because of instigating the people by denying openly the Nazi atrocities’.

How come we read in an interview with him on the Catholic website http://www.kreuz.net What our negationism called in German: Holocaust-leugner means literally ‘denying the Holocaust’. We translated this as the first questions (and answers) to understand.

Dr. Lerle, are you a ‘Holocaust Leugner’?

If a dissentient is called a denier (Leugner), then you are in the religious sphere. There are people who deny the Holy Trinity, the Immaculate Conception, the Resurrection, etc.

What do you mean?

The expression holocaust ‘Leugner’ that you use, reveals that this obviously is an article of faith. Because csidering historical facts you can deny whatever you want.


You may ignore many historical facts: the war crimes of the Soviet Army in the “liberation” of Germany, the war and post-war crimes of our so called American friends, even the child murders in their parental body, on a much larger scale than the Nazi horror …. All one can deny, except the crimes Hitler.

Is that a problem?

Yes, a great problem. Because the fundamental right of free speech should only be limited by general laws, and not the exception for laws that deny the crimes of Hitler are punishable, while all other crimes and problems with impunity and denied excused them.

And the genocide of the Jews?

An Exceptional inconsistent with the Constitution, the Holocaust into a religion doctrine imposed by the State. To deny it is forbidden, just like heresy in earlier centuries.

So the holocaust is a new religion?

Yes. But the problem is it that only God can provide an article of faith, nobody else. And about the Nazi gas chambers is simply nothing in the Bible. Therefore, it can’t be considered as a religious dogma.

No article of faith of God, but surely of the people?

Of course. But people can wander, and people can lie, even deliberately.

Do you have reasons to believe that?

I wasn’t born during the Hitler time. But I have learned at school the lie that the Nazi regime made soap of human bones and lampshades of human skin.

What did you conclude on this?

I heard myself that that they lied to us about Hitler’s crimes. In Germany we say: ‘Einem Lügner glaubt man nicht, wenn er auch die Wahrheit spricht’.[74]

This is going on in the same way. I show this very detailed (maybe too) but I think it is important to show what this magazine is doing. For me there is still the question why? Because the main aim of this website is (in there own words): to spread the thoughts of Rudolf Steiner, because we believe the world needs them’

Holocaust denying is not the only activity of this magazine which should be questioned. There is more, maybe to many.

Another interesting fragment comes from the article ‘The Ahrimanic Future’. Although this is a concept of Steiner himself (as they explain), the way they describe this is typical for de Brug:

‘This expression is for anthroposophists a concept for a phase in human development which is largely still has to come and a powerful and intelligent creatures who try to neutralize the Christ-impulse. Several inspired artists have already described how this future will look like. We have in mind of course ‘1984’ by George Orwell and ‘Brave New World’ by Aldous Huxley, but many lesser-known science-fiction authors, cartoonists and filmmakers have the same picture of a depressing future had a future in which the people as an amorphous mass consumer a soul and spirit free existence in a society by a small elite with sophisticated techniques governed. Since 1998, the business rapidly affected. This is not only determined by anthroposophists. The Internet is overloaded with websites of the various facets of this trend and highlight different assumptions and present conspiracy theories. The difference of these theories with the anthroposophical interpretation is that we assume that this is organised by a spiritual entity, an organized power of non earthly or materialistic origin, while non-anthroposophists search the guilty ones within the earth atmosphere (Freemasons, Lodge, Illuminati, Zionists, capitalists ) or outside the earth atmosphere, where they assume work of more or less material intelligences (UFOs, etc.). We are aware that the organizations and groups that we see working in the direction of a ‘World-termite State’ (original ‘Wereld termietenstaat’, they use this expression on different places, FS) is also the implementation of a superhuman intelligence, called Ahriman. The world today is massively overwhelmed by his influence, we can see the lies’.[75]

In another article, describing this ‘Ahrimanic future’, we can read the following:

‘Since the last 2000 years the Luciferian type had replaced gradually by the ahrimanic type. If we read the descriptions of Caesar how inspired the Nervians fought against the Romans till the last man died, we conclude that in terms of individual courage they were higher developed than the average Roman. The Romans fought with more technology, in certain tactical setups, so with the cold, calculated reason. And they won. Also in the last world war, it is significant how the Germans fought with honour, compared with Americans (That the propaganda has managed to reverse this view illustrates yet again the great potential of the occult groups)’.[76]

You could say that the people who wrote these articles are completely insane (sometimes it is more Starwars than anthroposophy, with Ahriman as the Dark side of the Force, or the Dark Lord of the Sith). Maybe, but they are very capable to read Rudolf Steiner, as they discuss a lot of his work on several places on this website, even his complete scheme of evolution, based on the different texts of Geheimwissenschaft about the past and future.[77] And that is not the easiest stuff concerning anthroposophy. Both editors of this magazine are respected members of the Belgian anthroposophical community. On several websites you can find their names (I don’t want to mention their names here, but everyone can find out who searches this website). They have several functions in the anthroposophical scene and are giving lectures on different anthroposophical subjects, also at the Rudolf Steiner Academie in Gent, one of the most respected anthroposophical institutes of Belgium. And they are not the only ones who write these kind of articles in this magazine. There are also others (different guest authors). So if these people are invited to give lectures about complex anthroposophical concepts (like the Ahrimanic future) I will take them seriously.
In this article I will mention one name of someone who wrote several articles for this magazine and who is also very active in the environment of this site (as shown before, in the introduction of this article, this website is a part of a collection of sites of the same kind, which are all connected, like for example ‘Vrij Geestesleven’). Jos Verhulst, a prominent anthroposophist in Belgium and also respected in the Dutch anthroposophical scene. He is the author of several books (mainly about Steiner’s ideas of evolution, which he tries to implement or to correspondent with accepted scientific insights). He also wrote a lot of articles which are accepted in the ‘more serious’ (anthroposophical) media. Earlier I cited his article on Steiner’s passage on Judaism, in which he also used David Irving as an example. But Verhulst is not a marginal figure in the anthroposophical scene of both the Netherlands and Belgium. So here a few passages of what he writes in de Brug in his article with the optimistic title A short preview on a terrible future:

‘Remarkable how quick the boundaries are moving of what can be said and what can’t be said. In the shadow of the Holocaust, which acts as an Ersatz-Mystery of Golgotha of the secular world religion, the taboos are increasing. Guy Verhofstadt (the Belgian Prime Minister at that time, FS) is ashamed now for the reasonable words, he wrote just ten or fifteen years ago on Islam in his ‘Burgermanifest’ (means ‘Civil Manifest’, FS). Opinions which thirty years ago could be published in the newspapers, are now a reason for prosecution for ‘incitement to hatred’. The sky above the Free Word is darkening rapidly, and the world becomes a stifling web of restrictions on speaking and even thinking.

But everything is more or less organised. Somewhere, situated in a centre X, rather than in a classic organized body, but more a diffuse anti-cultural breeding ground, there is a kind well structured ‘factory of memes’, that step by step pushes our world forward in a terrible direction. The real leader is not human but a spirit of anti-civilization, which more and more the powerful of the earth are willing to receive. I don’t know the exact nature or location of this source, but that it exists is as clear as the hunter is clearly aware of the existence of his prey, of which he has tracked the imprints in the snow. Who is watching how ideas and social norms are accelerated moving in the same direction, can not hide for this conclusion. This is not a ‘random drift’, nor a coincidental series of events. This is structural. Here is a corrupt kind of intelligence at work’.[78]

After this quiet paranoid theory (I think it is Ahriman) Verhulst is mentioning a lot of examples from Canada, most from the gay rights movement (I still wonder why this is such an issue for anthroposophists, but it apparently is, especially for the authors of the several articles on this website). But his main point is that he believes there are dark forces at work to censor every opinion, which is considered as ‘non political correct’. His conclusive part:

‘There is little doubt that the global anti-discrimination lobby accelerates towards a global ban on critical remarks on homosexuality.

Just as in Belgium in the Netherlands the political class converted to the anti-discrimination ideology . In our northern neighbour country, even the Constitution begins with the proclamation of this human hostile principle (this is nonsense, FS [79]). The consequences of such a step should be more reflected. What are the logical consequences of the fact that people are more open to disclose their criteria for choosing a marriage partner? This means nothing else than that the marriage choice itself is basically nationalized. The political class has the right to intervene with the introduction of the anti-discrimination laws, including the right appropriated to this life domain. It is one of the last stages of the collectivisation of family life. Individuals with such laws against the state step by step in the same ratio as the ratio has a rabbit against rabbit breeder. People have gradually manoeuvred into a position where they are in the eyes of the political class a kind of culture subjects. Do not think that this is far-fetched. About thirty years ago someone had said that the currently existing laws on real marriage, abortion, censorship, etc. ever reality would be, would love worn. However, it is now ready. What will be thirty years our part? What are the objectives that our guardians now have in mind? Nothing can be predicted with certainty, but an extrapolation of what during the previous decades was ‘achieved’ can be the basis for an ‘educated guess’. We may, for example, polygamous’ marriages’ expect the introduction of prostitution as a recognized profession, the imposition of quotas marriage – with premiums for ‘mixed marriages’. On the wish list are undoubtedly the abolition of the Christian calendar and the Christian era, mandatory Holocaust education (relevant measures were already Verhofstadt promised during his visit to Israel) and ethnic taxes (higher rates for people with a ‘guilty’ ethnic or racial background). Again: don’t think this is exaggerated. Towards this direction we will evolve. Don’t have any illusions. And the worst things have still to come’.

After this optimistic message of Jos Verhulst, de Brug concludes with a short editorial comment:

‘Sounds all rather depressing, but this is a step in the development of mankind which we should go through. For us it is a challenge to find the right ideas and thoughts to come and to distribute especially the thoughts of the social threefolding, that the human beings live together within three areas, each with its own principles.

The situation of the first Christians in the catacombs of Rome was also not very bright, Nero and his fellows accused them of burning down the city, that they were terrorists! But ultimately the Empire collapsed by its own unwieldiness. That may give us a little bit of courage …’ [80]

The issue Sigismund von Gleich

If you have a look on this collection of articles you might question what all this (quiet depressing and xenophobic) stuff has to do with anthroposophy. There may be some racism in the work of Steiner, but why transmitting the ideas of David Irving into the anthroposophy? And why all this self declared victimization?
This kind of pessimism or even fatalism, which also dominates these articles, has a certain tradition in anthroposophy. I think de Brug perfectly fits into that tradition. If there is one example of this pessimistic voice, it is Sigismund von Gleich, an original German anthroposophist who lived for a long time in the Netherlands. His magnum opus Der Mensch der Eiszeit und Atlantis (1936) is a more personal variant on Steiner’s view on the history of mankind, but sometimes even more racist. In de Brug, the editors published a short excerpt of this work. Maybe it is worthwhile to show it here (translation of the Dutch original, which is a very confusing text, even almost unreadable in Dutch, FS):

‘In the development of man and earth, we identify several larger and smaller units of time. The Earth went through different stages which we designate by the name of a celestial body, eg. Saturn, Sun and Moon. As you know we live now in the fifth culture period of the fifth period. After the fourth period, called Atlantis, followed by the Deluge. Then came the ancient Indian culture period, the ancient Persian, the Egyptian-Babylonian and Greco-Roman. It seems that in anthroposophy all large, well-known cultures have a place, except one: the Chinese. That has to do with the strong sequel of Atlantic elements in this culture. Sigismund von Gleich searched for the origins of various peoples, and discovered interesting connections. A number of terms he used in modern anthropology is no longer used (Indo Germanic became Indo-European, etc.), but for modern science will the spirit science is nonsense anyway. We will therefore begin the story with Noah:

‘Manu or Noah led the most practicable part of the fifth Atlantean race (the ‘Ur-Semites’ – fdw) from the sinking Atlantis to Inner Asia.[81] Therefore this race represents the Noah origin, of which was rescued from the deluge and developed to the fifth rootrace (after-Atlantic or Aryan). Noah had three sons: Japhet, Ham and Sem. How should we reveal these historical ethnologic insights from the spiritual science of the history of the ice age?

Japhet meant the bulk of the Indo-Germanic mankind. The people mentioned in Genesis, show clearly the name ‘Javanese’, like the Ionians, ‘Madai’ the Medes, ‘Gomer’ the Cimbres. Actually Japhet stands for the Euro-Caucasian humanity. The Greeks called him Japetos, whose son Prometheus was chained by Zeus-Jupiter in the rocks of the Caucasus. This image tells us: The promethean power of the brain of the Aryan-Caucasian people in the post-Atlantic period was developed, first in the high rocky mountains of the head, the Jupiter-thinking seated in the brains. Japetos and Prometheus are at the beginning of the Greek family tree. In antiquity, the Greeks and Ionians were regarded as a Zeus-Jupiter People, the people of thinkers. Rudolf Steiner described Plato as a typical representative of this spirit. The region of the Sea of Azov (or Asa Sea) to the peaks of the Caucasus, where Europe goes into Asia, was always called Asia. The Gothic and Scandinavian peoples called the foot of the Caucasus in their Nordic Saga, Asaland, or the wall of Asahai. It is the origin of the dynasty of the

Fig. 8 Map of the ‘post-Atlantean world’, as described by Sigismund von Gleich (published in de Brug, http://users.telenet.be/antroposofie/diabasis/b18chincul.htm

‘Asgardians’[82] , their gods and heroes, and in all myths Odin departed from there to the European North… Prometheus’ mother or wife was Asia. The lofty Caucasus itself as origin of the Asgardians still has the word ‘Asi’ in its last syllable. All the people there regard it as a holy mountain chain. Asia is the land of the gods and angels, but especially the Jupiter Beings of which the Aryan Caucasian or Indo-Germanic peoples of Europe belong to because they felt themselves the gods worked in them as the ‘form forces’ from the region of the Caucasus.

The origin of both the Indo-Germanic peoples as the Semites can be found in that part of the Atlantic rootrace, occupying the northwestern European part of Atlantis, to the area of Hyperborea, and the areas in Asia. This group of people we call ‘Noah’, as it has survived the deluge. This Noah, the seeds of Eurasian-Aryan humanity comes from Japhet, the ‘Indogermanicness’. Sem or the Semites sprang from the same blood, but formed a separate branch. In the Semite race works also the Turanian element *. The ‘Geisteswissenschaft’ has found that at one time the North Atlantic peoples flow together with the southern stream of Turanians who left Atlantis via Africa. The Semites emerged as a strange mixture. ‘Everything which was decadent of the Turanians worked transforming and eliminating in the Hebrew people’. (Rudolf Steiner explains in Das Mattheus Evangelium, ‘that the old Atlantic ‘Hellsehen’ is not manifested in a lower astral body of the Hebrews, but inwarded and hit the inner life’). Sem is the mixture of pre-Aryan element with the North Asian, Mongolian Turanian-world flow attached. This is what Sem while the pre-Aryan element, especially in the more Chinese element lived, although the Mongolian part had become strong. Finally, the Sem-Semite element of the subsequent time when the Eurasian-Aryan element, the Turanian had recast in a positive way – in contrast with the Chinese element.

The result is a very special polarity between Semites and the Mongolian-Turanian Chinese elements. The two are related, but opposite in their polarity! In both ethnic groups the blood is highly organized, working alongside the general human forces of the sun especially the forces of Mars in case of the Turanians. But in the Mongols these solar effects are overwhelming, while with the Semites there is the reverse situation. However, both varieties are very aggressive (oorlogszuchtig!). Rudolf Steiner describes this in detail in Die Mission einzelner Volksseelen (GA 121)[83]. It is one of the main imprints of the second period after Atlantic culture which the constellation of Gemini is the emergence of the Semites and the polar opposite Chinese, which in many respects belong to each other as light and shadow. The old Chinese culture, which around 3100 from Inner Asia (Turkistan) went east where it awoke, wanted to keep the Luciferian Spirit of Atlantis, but the old Persian and old Semitic-which developed parallel to them- dived bravely into the darkness of the matter and fought with the earth-darkness. The Light Culture of Iran stood against the dark magic of Turan and prepared the Christianity. Across the Persian dualism of Ormuzd and Ahriman stood the ancient Chinese of Yin and Yang – the heavenly and earthly in polarity. But at the same time formed from the Turanian-Semitic Aryan mixing the Twins, whose Hebrew branch prepared Christianity, while the Arab branch as a shadow of the post-Semitism turned against the latter. But in the ‘Hebrewship’ itself, which began with Abraham, with Ishmael as the ‘Arabness’, revealed the Gemini principle (in the course of history this happens all the time time). By the end of the Gemini Era the Semite element-originated in the region of the Caspian Sea and were created from the contact with Turanians, appeared for the first time in North Babylon and conquered by its lust for war Anatolia and the Levant, and some later Arabia, where a secondary centre was established.

Everyone who compares the real-Semitic Hebrew face type eg. with the classic Turkish (Turanian), will notify the great similarities. Semites and Chinese are peoples who are both masters in mathematics, and they have a perfect control over the monetary system and all trade! It should be remembered that, in addition to the Hebrew Semites traditionally the Assyrians, the Babylonians (2000 BC), the Syrians, and of course the Arabs are included. Mathematics and monism are the philosophies that have become classic, thanks to the Semites. It becomes clear how the teachings of the Atlantic Manu admitted one from Inner Asia to the West in the ‘Turanised Semiteness’ and eastbound in the Aryan affected the ‘Turanianship’/ ‘Chineseness’ (Sigismund von Gleich, or the translator are using the same kind of neologisms, FS). The Hebrew Ye-ho-va corresponds with the Chinese name of God ‘I-Hi-Wei’, whose trinity Lao-Tse profound described: ‘Who looks on thou and thou do not see it, which is the name I mentioned. Who listens and thou will hear him, which is the name called Hi, to whom be the hands and grabs him, which is the name of Wei. These three are not understandable, nor penetrable, so they are united’. [… ]

So we see again how misleading schemes sometimes can be. They give the impression as if there is any period or culture period is fully completed, while in reality forerunners and laggards along with the mainstream business. On the next page we try to identify what was discussed above (see fig. 8, FS). For completeness we mention that the Ham Hamite population arose, through a mixture of the fifth and sixth race of Atlantis. Hugo Obermaier wrote : ‘The ancient Egyptians are the main representatives of Hamites which are the white North Africans, like Europeans, but considering colour, hair type and face they are more related to the west Mediterranean race’.[84]

Beside this is historical, linguistic, etymological, anthropological, etc. (you name it) complete nonsense, it is sometimes also quiet racist. At least stereotyping. Why these remarks about ‘the Semites who have a perfect control over the monetary system and all trade’? The ‘normal science’ could be far from perfect, but this ‘spiritual science’ (Geiteswissenschaft) is nothing more than promoting stereotypes (at least this example of ‘Geisteswissenschaft’).
But, there is one remarkable thing to tell about the author, Sigismund von Gleich. Whatever you may think of these ideas, it seems that he was a principal dissident of the Nazi regime. He even fled to the Netherlands, before it was occupied by Germany. After the war he was one of the few in the Netherlands who openly criticized the Dutch colonial war against the post-war independence movement of Indonesia, of Sukarno. This has been described by Dieter Brüll, professor in Tax Law and prominent anthroposophist in the Netherlands (of German origin). Earlier the ideas of von Gleich were strongly criticized by Gjalt Zondergeld, professor in History at the Free University of Amsterdam and the first criticizer of Steiner’s views on races in the Netherlands. After Zondergeld published several articles Dieter Brüll wrote a now famous reply (at least in the circuits of conservative anthroposophists in the Netherlands) entitled ‘De Nieuwe Reactionairen’ (The new Reactionairies). In this article he defended von Gleich and praised him for his principal and brave attitude against the Nazis. Probably Brüll was right, so all respect to the person von Gleich. It doesn’t change my opinion on the ideas as described above. Beside this, von Gleich wrote some more texts after the war, during his time in the Netherlands. An example is his small publication The Holy Grail and the New Era of Christ (in Dutch ‘De Heilige Graal en de nieuwe tijd van Christus’). In this booklet he shows he didn’t change fundamentally. His ideas are quiet the same as his pre-war ideas. The difference is he writes some more positive about Judaism. The new target of his xenophobia has become the Islam. Two passages:

‘With a deep sense of sorrow and pain in the heart, many of us ask themselves: how many cruelties has the human kind to suffer before we reach the year 2000? And there are increasing numbers of people who feel or realise that the last years of this century will be crucial for the eternal faith of humanity. Most of the time we think of the superficial appearance of things. We fear the outbreak of the Third World War, revolutions, concentration camps, massive bloodshed, atom bombs and severe famines or epidemics, but less the spiritual collapse and the moral decay. Some of us may think of the possibility of unexpected natural catastrophes. The harsh afflictions which will suffer are more spiritual and will reach their climax around 2000. They are more related with the increasing but disastrous and immense disturbed changes of the condition of the soul and the moral orientation of the people, connected with the transformation of the rational and materialistic consciousness towards the spiritual inspired state of mind of the near future’.[85]

Unless the promise of a better future in the last sentence this seems typical anthroposophy in the same style of Jos Verhulst and the Ahriman obsessed articles of De Brug. This is a kind of dark and pessimistic anthroposophy I wasn’t familiar with, at least not in my own environment. But von Gleich continues:

‘While the old dreamlike clairvoyance of the Israelites changed in a deep religious or inspired thought, that was able to witness the presence of God, hardened this gift of the Ishmaelite Arabs of the desert in a way, that the seed originated for a form of intelligence, which denies the spirit and ‘ridicules’ the divine. Because of this the later Islamic monotheism is like a dead copy of the Israeli monotheism, although also the Law of Moses was revealed on Mount Sinai. Allah is the shadow of Jehovah!’[86]

Here we see the old von Gleich, like he was in 1936, although he changed his targets, which fits better in the post war climate. Suddenly he becomes almost a fan of Israel. He continues: ‘What a striking image (says von Gleich about his own metaphor, FS) for a dry, barren become power of the intellect – the desert, which all live is dead. The contemporary view of nature resembles a desert, where nothing is growing and the forces of life are nothing but a dead mechanism of atoms’.[87]

The interesting thing is that Dieter Brüll, in his defence of von Gleich, made the following statement (in the footnotes): ‘Who reads the books of von Gleich will be affected by the warmth of the way he describes the contribution to human civilization of the Arabs, the Chinese and the Jews’. [88] This is not a joke, Brüll really says this in his famous article ‘De nieuwe reactionairen’ (The New Reactionaries, the most effective defence against all accusations of racism in anthroposophy, according to an amount of conservative Dutch anthroposophists). Well, have a look yourself.

So far Sigismund von Gleich (old style or new style). Although, maybe one thing. In his defence of von Gleich against Zondergeld Dieter Brüll wrote the following (I quote the whole passage):

‘Like as if the Devil plays with Zondergeld he attacked exactly the ‘wrong racist’ Sigismund von Gleich. It is true that he published on Steiner’s ‘racial teachings’ before the Christian period (after the Christian era in the view of Steiner the racial differences lost their meaning). But he was just one of the most principal Nazi fighters in the earliest stage, who never made any concession. As the son of a Prussian General, he had distanced himself from his parental environment. Just once he acted as an officer, when the brown hordes came at his home for a search for ‘that Jew’. There was a guest and the slim man stood resolute amongst these thugs – Von Gleich: ‘Was suchen Sie hier?’ He didn’t give way for a moment from their side until they left without finding anything. He was also, on an evening, on the market in Nuremberg where the agitated mass burnt books of Jewish writers. But in a lecture for fifty people he quoted Heine, not necessarily for this lecture, but as a protest against this cultural disgrace. And then, after a ban on anthroposophy in Germany and he had emigrated to Holland, he often tried to warn the indifferent Dutch citizens for the brutality of the Nazis (but these were incidents? And Hitler had overcome unemployment, wasn’t he?). When the occupation gets behind him, he as a German, who ave lectures for living, he had the choice: Kultur Kammer of KZ. He refused to become a member. There followed a home search and all his manuscripts were confiscated. Finally he was called to appear in front of the Gestapo. Again the choice Kultur Kammer or KZ. ‘You see, I’ve already brought my suitcase’. Just after the liberation, he again fought against racism. For an audience full of ‘Dutch Imperialists’ (original ‘Rijkseenheders’) and other colonial types, he argued that the Netherlands were at a colonial war and that no argument could be found, why the whites had the right to patronize the Indonesians so heavily. And exactly this man should have written a racist oeuvre? Painful, Zondergeld. At the very least apologies to the relatives of von Gleich should be appropriate’.[89]

Before discussing the arguments concerning Sigismund von Gleich, I would like to discuss one other issue of this passage. That is Brüll’s remark between braces: ‘It is true that he published on Steiner’s ‘racial teachings’ before the Christian period (after the Christian era in the view of Steiner the racial differences lost their meaning)’. This short remark is the only thing Brüll says in the article about Steiner’s own ideas about races (except for one general remark in Steiner’s review on Homunkulus). Factually this is the one and only fragment he discusses Steiner. Further he discusses just critics and defenders of anthroposophy, except in the end. When he finished his argumentation he presents a kind of personal highlights of quotes of Rudolf Steiner, which could be interpreted as ‘anti-racist’. In most cases he just gives the year, not even a GA number. This to demonstrate how in his opinion Zondergeld works (just mentioning some isolated quotes without context). It is also the method of Lorenzo Ravagli who states the same about all critics of Steiner in Ravagli, ‘Rudolf Steiner und die Überwindung des Rassismus’ [89], but Ravagli’s article is much more extended and above all much more refined (but also not sufficient). But in ‘De nieuwe Reactionairen’ Brüll is just defending von Gleich and attacking some critics of the anthroposophy (Zondergeld, but also prof. JD Immelman, who wrote a critical analysis of the education method of the Waldorf Schools, but that has no relevance for this article). But his only statement/confession about how he thinks Steiner’s ideas about races are, is this small remark. And I am afraid that this statement: ‘after the Christian era in the view of Steiner the racial differences lost their meaning’ is completely untrue, although these kind of assertions were also done by other anthroposophists. Again the words of Helmut Zander: ‘Rassen seien ein Intermezzo der Menschheitsgeschichte. »Die Rassen sind entstanden und werden einmal vergehen, werden einmal nicht mehr da sein.« (GA 121,76 [1910]) Erneut artikulierte Steiner sein antimaterialistisches Leitmotiv, aber bei näherem Hinsehen bleibt dies ein gänzlich unpolitisches Argument. Die Rassenentstehung, die erst in der lemurischen Zeit begonnen habe, werde in der sechsten und siebten »Entwickelungsepoche« verschwinden (ebd.), das heißt: frühestens ungefähr im 9. Jahrtausend. Für eine politische Erledigung der Rassenfrage und für die Geltung von Steiners Rassentheorien ist dies eine lange, eine zu lange Zeit’.[91]
As seen before, we concluded that Zander is right. Think about the examples of the Native Americans, described as a dying race, during the nineteenth century or other contemporary situations. That the differences between races will disappear in Steiner’s view is correct, but in the far future. So definitively we can conclude that Brüll is wrong.
The reason I spend so much attention to this minor detail is that in the Netherlands there are some (more orthodox) anthroposophists who reject the van Baarda report (sixteen discriminative passages were for them unacceptable, one of these anthroposophists called this even ‘treason’) are always pointing at the article of Brüll as the best defence against accusations of racism, whatever the arguments may be. In the Netherlands ‘De Nieuwe Reactionairen’ became for this group a kind of a slogan; if you shout it loud enough you immunize Steiner of all critic. I hope I finally argued that this article is not sufficient to immunize Steiner of all critic on the issue of races. One suggestion for anthroposophists who don’t have this opinion: republish the article of Brüll on the internet in different languages, so everyone can find out themselves (probably an suggestion for the editorial of Driegonaal).
As we have seen in Brüll’s article (and I have no reason for doubts in this particular case, so concerning von Gleich’s attitude towards the Nazis I am willing to believe Brüll) Von Gleich wasn’t a friend of the National Socialists and he even resisted in a very brave way. For this, he earns without any doubt all admiration and honour. Also for his point of view concerning Indonesia, because there were just a few people in the Netherlands who had the same insight and history has proven that they were right.
There is one thing I think the Dieter Brüll apologetics should do (even principally), if they are serious with Brüll’s mission to advocate or rehabilitate Sigismund von Gleich. That is questioning why this principal dissident of the Nazis is used by a website/journal which constantly tries to question the Holocaust and for their mission are seeking support with Neo-Nazis. Maybe these Dutch (and Belgian) anthroposophists have no idea who these David Irving and Ernst Zündel really are. My suggestion is, please find out. I suppose one Google search is sufficient.

Freies Geistesleben?

As we have seen in De Brug there are several places where has suggested that the Holocaust is a lie (but ‘Freedom of Speech’) and that this magazine places even a link to the website of David Irving, the most notorious revisionist in the world who became a main figure within the international Neo Nazi Movement (the man has a strange history, from a respected academic to paria 92). But also other revisionists were mentioned, like Robert Faurisson and Ernst Zündel, and some others. This is not just happening in de Brug. In the ‘environment’ of this site are also other websites, which are even more extreme. While de Brug is concerning ‘anthroposophy’ there are some sister websites dealing with several subjects which are partly related to anthroposophy. One of these sites is http://www.vrijgeestesleven.be (Freises Geistesleben). And again, this site has nothing to do with the publisher of the works of Rudolf Steiner in the Netherlands. You can even question if this site, unless this name, has something to do with anthroposophy. If you enter this site you will find the following text:


neemt het op voor alle slachtoffers van lokale, federale of Europese SovjetOverheden: – rokersnegationistenvaccinatieweigeraars  Meerdere categorieën volgen nog …

‘Vrij Geestesleven’, defends all the victims of local, Federal or European Soviet Governments: smokers, negationists, refusers of vaccinations. More categories will follow’.

Except this, there are two links to two different sites. Left you have the link naar de map “antroposofie” (means ‘towards the directory anthroposophy’), which leads to De Brug and right a link naar de map “directe democratie” (means ‘towards the directory ‘Direct Democracy’), which leads to a site of the political initiatives of Jos Verhulst (I will also discuss some aspects of this site).
The link behind negationisten (means ‘revisionists’) leads to the website www.vho.org announced as ‘The World’s largest website for Historical Revisionism! The Holocaust Controversy – A Case for open Debate’.
Even when you have the conviction that there is racism in the anthroposophy (which I gradually have), that this racism is close related to national socialism (which I don’t), or that some individual anthroposophists are sometimes ‘too sensitive’ for several pseudo scientific, fantastic, wrong ideas (also morally), or just stupid (I have seen sometimes different examples of these categories), this is something I think almost no one could expect. Because here an anthroposophical magazine links itself explicitly and clearly to a neo Nazi website, although this site pretends not to be. And this is not an incident. In the case of de Brug we have already seen that they even recommended the website of David Irving (even mentioned in the index). Although there are no Swastikas or other Nazi symbols to welcome you (for example, on the site of David Irving you can buy pictures on poster format of Rudolf Hess), the content is, without any mistake, of neo Nazi origin. A few excerpts from the introduction:

‘Revisionists agree with establishment historians that the German National Socialist State singled out the Jewish people for special and cruel treatment. In addition to viewing Jews in the framework of traditional anti-Semitism, the National Socialists also saw them as being an influential force behind international communism and behind the so-called international “finance capital,” which they held responsible for the worldwide economic crisis and for the impoverishment of German workers. During World War II, Jews were considered to be enemies of the German State and a potential danger to its war efforts, much like the Germans, Italians, and Japanese were viewed in the U.S. Consequently, Jews were stripped of their rights, forced to live in ghettos, conscripted for labor, deprived of their property, deported, and otherwise mistreated. Many tragically perished. In contrast to establishment historians, Revisionists claim that the German State had NO policy to exterminate the Jewish people (or anyone else) in homicidal gas chambers or by killing them through abuse or neglect. Revisionists also maintain that the figure of six million Jewish deaths is an irresponsible exaggeration, and that no execution gas chambers existed in any camp in Europe which was under German control. Fumigation gas chambers, both stationary and mobile, did exist to delouse clothing and equipment to prevent disease at POW, labor, and concentration camps and at the fighting front. It is highly likely that it was from this lifesaving procedure that the myth of extermination gas chambers emerged’(..)

‘It is certain that if there had been “killing factories” in Poland murdering millions of civilians, then the Red Cross, the Pope, humanitarian agencies, the Allied governments, neutral governments, and prominent figures such as Roosevelt, Truman, Churchill, Eisenhower, and many others would have known about it and would have often and unambiguously mentioned it, and condemned it. They did not! The promoters admit that only a tiny group of individuals believed the story at that time—many of whom were connected either with Jewish or with Communist propaganda agencies. The rise of the Holocaust story reads more like the success story of a PR campaign than anything else’ (..).

‘Only two monographs were written so far on the question of how many Jews lost their lives during World War II. The first is a revisionist book concluding that some 300,000 perished. The second is authored by several recognized historians claiming that some six million died. Whereas the Revisionist book takes into consideration demographic changes of the Jewish population in all countries, the mainstream book compiles its figures by simply subtracting the number of Jews alive in Europe a few years after the war from those alive in Europe several years before the war. It ignores that the Jewish population in America, Israel, and other countries outside of Europe had increased by almost six million in this period of time, as a result of a new Exodus. Thus, those who had left Europe were simply declared to be Holocaust victims’(…)

‘Still, at camps such as Buchenwald, Dachau, and Bergen-Belsen tens of thousands of relatively healthy internees were liberated. They were there in the camps when “The Photographs” were taken. There are newsreels of these internees walking through the camp streets laughing and talking. Others picture exuberant internees throwing their caps in the air and cheering their liberators. It is only natural to ask why you haven’t seen those particular films and photos while you’ve seen the others hundreds of times’(…)

‘If you wish to learn more about Holocaust revisionism, we recommend our free brochure with answers to the most frequently asked questions and links to articles and entire books available on this topic. Those wishing to verify the truthfulness of the statements made above, can visit our vast Internet database at http://www.vho.org and download many scholarly articles and books about this topic, including many references to primary sources, forensic research, and much more’.93

I think this is enough to show what kind of a website this is. Although these texts are much more cautious and tactical formulated (compared with the texts about Ahriman and the Holocaust in de Brug) I think everyone could see this is a real neo Nazi site.
The most important content of this site is the immense amount of downloads of literature. You can find a lot of titles of the Holocaust revisionists who were discussed earlier, like Irving, Faurisson, Zündel. But also of Norman Finkelstein, who is in my view misused by this neo Nazi site. Aan overview of the more than thousand downloads can be found here. A catalogue of the bookshop of VHO can be found here. It is worth to have a general look on this, while questioning why an anthroposophical website or magazine should be involved in these kind of things.

But this is not the only thing of this kind you could find on ‘vrijgeestesleven’. Behind the link naar de map “directe democratie” (direct democracy) normally you find the site of the political initiative of Jos Verhulst. At the moment they announced ‘closed because of Holiday’. I have some reasons to doubt this. In I didn’t know that websites have also holidays and second they placed the text of an old children song on the site, with the significant passage (translated in English): ‘And for those who mock on us, finally they will loose’ (original: ‘En zij die op ons kniezen, zullen gaan verliezen’). Probably they did this because some people (myself and some others) paid some attention on this site a few weeks ago.94
But that time, when they were not on holiday, one of the first things you saw, after entering this website was a banner ‘Free Ernst Zündel’. I am not the only one who saw this, more people paid some attention on this interesting detail, see again the debate on the site of Ramon de Jonghe.95 But perhaps, when they are back from holiday, they may want to explain why they placed that specific banner. Till now, ‘Vrij Geestesleven.be’ is keeping silence.
Some parts of Jos Verhulst contributions are still online, especially where he fulminates against political correctness (as against the Belgian writer Thom Lanoye, who appeared to be a candidate for the Belgian Green party). Lanoye, who spoke himself repeatedly against censorship, didn’t do this when a Belgian library banned a book of Robert Faurisson. According to Jos Verhulst Lanoye is a hypocrite, because he supports the literature of Herman Brusselmans (with to much sex in it, according to Jos Verhulst, he uses the word ‘zandbakseks’, means ‘sex in the sandpit’ and to be honest, there is a lot of sex, with a lot of humour, but probably not the humour Verhulst likes) and Brusselmans proclaims sexual freedom. But real freedom, Verhulst says, like legalizing the books of Faurisson, is something Lanoye doesn’t want to defend’.96 This is one of the strangest reproaches I have ever seen. The idea that you are angry with someone for defending Herman Brusselman, but refusing to defend Robert Faurisson. But that’s what ‘s going on. Verhulst: ‘Freedom! Let’s have a look at the freedom of thinking and speaking and reading and writing. Tom Lanoye ofcourse supports the abuse of freedom by Brusselmans. Sandpit Freedom for piss and shitwriters is not only harmless, but even serving the system, because they create the illusion of real freedom. But what about the political freedom? Agalev (the Belgian Green Party, FS) for which Lanoye is on a list for the elections, registered as an independent, but he does. What is this, the censorship initiative Agalev in Gent? In this city, at the initiative of Agalev an apparently dangerous book by Faurisson was removed from the library, that claims the authenticity of the diary of Anne Frank is in serious doubt’.
You may question who is more abusing freedom: Brusselmans or Faurisson? And I am afraid I strongly suggest that the last one is the most likely candidate, although I don’t say that Faurisson necessarily needs to be censored or even banned from libraries (my personal viewpoint is principally not so in a certain way I even agree with Verhulst especially on the issue of removing a book from the library, but that is a different issue). And since when is the literature of Brusselmans ‘low culture’ and the neo Nazi pulp of Faurisson ‘high art’? But anyhow, this is typical for the entourage of de Brug, In the same article Verhulst claims that the existence of the Belgian Waldorfschools is in great danger, because the state wants close them, because in their view Steiner would be a racist. Well I think you will help the acceptance of Rudolf Steiner the Waldorfschools seriously when you constantly promote an amount of Holocaust deniers in Steiner’s name, especially when you do this in the same article. As a parent who is not familiar with the Waldorfschool you could almost think the children at school have to read Faurisson.
These are the issues www.vrijgeestesleven.be and de Brug want to be associated with. The right of denying the Holocaust is the most fundamental human right de Brug is fighting for. You may ask why. Because they really believe that the holocaust never took place? That it is a myth, created by Ahriman, to destroy the Christian Impulse of Central Europe, necessarily for the ‘spiritual revolution’, when the ‘real Christians finally can leave their catacombs?’ Maybe. Probably they really believe they have to operate as an underground movement, as a new spiritual elite that is to be prepared in secrecy, while the outside world is ruled or dominated by occult fellowships, political correctness, sandpit sex and above all Ahriman. But till this moment they have there place within the anthroposophical scene and everyone seems to agree that their message is a part of the mainstream anthroposophy. There is no much reason for such a martyrdom they fantasize about in their most of the time totally confused articles.

The silent majority?

Maybe it is not worth to discuss a medium as de Brug seriously. There are probably some good reasons for. First most of these articles are completely over the top, extreme or confused, that they cause no damage, except probably the anthroposophy itself. ‘Sandpit sex’, how ‘Ahrimanic’ this possibly could be, is not an issue to make a lot of fuzz about. Even the insane statements about the connection of the increasing abortions and the imagined increase of homosexuality, Ahriman and the Holocaust, or David Irving. You could see them as the jester of the anthroposophy of Belgium and the Netherlands (although not everything is that funny). But you could say that if the anthroposophists have some idiots amongst them, let them play in their own obscure domain on the internet (also a kind of a sandpit). Second they apparently suffer so heavily on their self declared martyrdom that there are good reasons to let them believe they are like the Christians in the catacombs. In that position they are quiet harmless.
But in my view there are three reasons to spend this extensive attention on this medium. This has everything to do with the quantity, the ‘quality’ and the interaction with the mainstream, which already has a serious credibility problem. First the quantity: this by far the largest anthroposophical website of Belgium and the Netherlands, so the largest anthroposophical website in the Dutch language. It is larger than the major anthroposophical webportals as Antrovista, the official websites of the Dutch and the Belgian anthroposophical society and larger than any other site of the ‘serious’ anthroposophical media. If you search the internet on information on anthroposophy in Dutch, this site is one of the first which pops up in for example the google search engine (I found this website in this way). I think this is a problem, or I should consider this as a problem if I were an anthroposophist who is active in whatever organised way. If I were in that position I shouldn’t like the idea when people without any knowledge of the anthroposophy and are searching the internet to gather some more information which is available in Dutch this site is probably the first thing they would find. So I think this is something to worry about. Because the ‘quality’ of these articles, which leads to the second point.
Reading all these articles (some hundreds, probably more than thousand) a naïve reader could easily assume that anthroposophy is severe anti-Semitic or even neo-Nazistic (see the remarks about the Holocaust, the links to the site of David Irving, The VHO, etc.). I think this is totally intolerable. And I am not saying that these articles have to be removed from the internet, being censored, etc. but without any reaction, counter argument or whatsoever it is not unreasonable that anthroposophy is racist and is even connected with national socialist ideas (this is not my opinion, but in general this will give the appearance of this connection).
This leads to my second point; it looks like if these articles are even supported by subscribed by the mainstream anthroposophy of both Belgium and the Netherlands. Because on every anthroposophical main portal on the internet the Brug has recommended as ‘anthroposophical magazine’, together with Motief, Driegonaal, or international magazines as Der Europaër, Flensburger Hefte, Erziehungskunst or Info3. In the Dutch anthroposophical magazines the ‘different face’ of Jos Verhulst has much positive attention. His books, mainly dealing with evolution and anthroposophy have serious reviews.97 Probably these books deserve this attention within the anthroposophical context, but why accepting or being silent about the other things he is also promoting on ‘vrijgeestesleven’ and de Brug (as the other authors and the two editors of this magazine)? Because if Verhulst is considered as a contributor to anthroposophy in Belgium and the Netherlands, you have to question him for this holocaust revisionism he apparently likes to be involved with. But no-one does, or pretend is doesn’t exist, hoping the outside world is not watching.
I don’t think that no-one in the mainstream is aware of what is going on in the environment of de Brug, Vrijgeestesleven or Democratie nu. But why tolerating this without any protest or even one critical remark? This is my third and most important point. It is true that the anthroposophy had a traumatic period during the nineties, especially in the Netherlands. During the eighties appeared the first publication about possible racism in the work of Rudolf Steiner. These were followed by even more during the nineties, which got more and more attention of the media (especially the affair of the parents Toos Jeurissen and Angelique Opprinsen, who contacted the media). This followed by the dramatic interview on the radio with the vice-president of the Dutch anthroposophical society. That became the final apotheosis of a long lasting affair.
The Dutch anthroposophists tried to solve the issue with the van Baarda commission and the report, although it was almost impossible because it was not general available or discussed in public (I was lucky that I could get a copy). For me, and for some other critics this report was not convincing. I discussed some aspects of this report above but it is too extensive to discuss all of it for an article like this (the report is quiet voluminous, 720 pages). But I think there is a structural racial doctrine in the work of Steiner and I don’t think it is easy to reject the arguments of different critics. But probably the Dutch Anthroposophical Society has to make this report public (they never did), so everyone has the opportunity to study this. The Frankfurther Memorandum is even available on the internet, so why not the van Baarda Report?
But something different is to keep silence when in the name of the philosophy you pretend to represent, some, maybe marginal figures, think they can use this philosophy for spreading the word of David Irving, Ernst Zündel cs. I think than it is time to act, for both the Belgian and the Dutch anthroposophical communities. To make a public and convincing statement that promoting racism, severe anti-Semitism, homophobia or Holocaust revisionism, is not a part of what you represent, instead of promoting the medium which has itself structurally committed to these excesses.
Because if you tolerate this without any reaction, the mantra of the Dutch Anthroposophical Society and the commission report ‘Géén Sprake van Rassenleer’ (No racial teachings) has lost every credibility. I don’t believe this must be hard. Unless my criticism and my conviction that there is some racism I am still convinced, and I am probably not the only one, that Neo Nazism or Holocaust revisionism have nothing to do with Rudolf Steiner. So why do we have to read in an ‘anthroposophical medium’ that David Irving is telling the (possible) truth ad that Robert Faurisson ‘also possibly proved’ the diary of Anne Frank is a falsification? Show that this is serious, because when you don’t act responsible I believe that you will severely harm the reputation of Steiner. Although I consider myself as a ‘non-believer’ I still think that his general intentions were good, and promoting Neo-Nazism is definitively not in the spirit nor letter of Rudolf Steiner and the Anthroposophy. But a convincing statement or action is the very least the anthroposophical community can do. Because Neo-Nazism and anthroposophy are not a happy marriage. Prove me that I am right. I think this to serious. And closing your own eyes doesn’t mean that nobody else is able to see.

with thanks to Michael Eggert  (Germany) and Ramon de Jonghe (Belgium)

Selected bibliography:

Th.A. van Baarda, E.A.P. de Clerq-Zubli, H.P. van Manen (ao), Antroposofie en het vraagstuk van de rassen; eindrapport van de onderzoekscommissie, Antroposofische Vereniging in Nederland, Zeist, 2000

Helena P. Blavatsky, The Secret Doctrine; the Synthesis of Science, Religion and Philosophy, London, 1888, online version http://www.theosociety.org/pasadena/sd/sd-hp.htm

Peter Bierl, Wurzelrassen Erzengel und Volksgeister; die Anthroposophie Rudolf Steiners und die Waldorpädagogik (Aktualisierte und erweiterte Neuausgabe), Konkret Literatur Verlag, Hamburg, 2005

Gennady Bondarev, The Crisis of Civilization (Anthroposophie auf der Kreuzung der okkult-politischen Bewegungen der Gegenwart; ANTROPOSOFIYA na skryeshchyenii okkultno-politichyeskikh tyechyeniy sovryemyennosti), Lochmann Verlag, Moskou/Basel, 1995. Excerpts in English on http://www.altanthroinfo.9f.com/BondarevExcerpts.htm)

Dieter Brüll, De Nieuwe reactionairen, met een bijzondere aandacht voor het verschijnsel Zondergeld, in ‘Driegonaal’, 1986, no. 1(repr. in Driegonaal exta edition ‘(anti)racisme versus anthroposofie; een bijdrage tot oordeelsvorming’ (met bijdragen van Fred Beekers, Mark Bischot, Mouringh Boeke, Dieter Brüll, Stephan Geuljans, Jan Luiten, Arnold Sandhaus en Liesbeth Takken), maart 1996, see here .

Ramon Brüll, Jens Heisterkamp, Frankfurt Memorandum: Rudolf Steiner and the subject of racism, Info 3 Verlag, 2008, http://www.info3.de/ycms/download/memorandum_english.pdf

Sigismund von Gleich, De Heilige Graal en de Nieuwe Tijd van Christus, de Zevenster, Driebergen, 1952, (second revised edition with an introduction of Clemens von Gleich, 1982)

Sigismund von Gleich, Der Mensch, der Eiszeit und Atlantis (original 1936, excerpt in Dutch published in de Brug, http://users.telenet.be/antroposofie/diabasis/b18chincul.htm)

Guido und Michael Grandt, Waldorf connection; Rudolf Steiner und die Anthroposophen, Alibri Verlag, Aschaffenburg, 2001

Jana Husmann-Kastein, Schwarz-Weiß-Konstruktionen im Rassebild Rudolf Steiners, Berliner Dialog 29 Juli 2006, http://www.religio.de/dialog/106/29_22-29.htm

Toos Jeurissen, Uit de Vrije School geklapt; antroposofie en racisme; een stellingname, Baalproducties, Sittard, 1996 (published in English as Waldorf Salad with Aryan mayonaise, http://www.waldorfcritics.org/active/articles/waldorf_salad.html )

Ramon de Jonghe, Focus op de Steinerschool; onderwijs op maat van wie? , Unibook, 2009 (see also http://antroposofie.wordpress.com/2009/07/17/schotschrift/)

Ludwig Kuhlenbeck, Der Occultismus der Nordamerikanischen Indianer, Wilhelm Friedrich Verlag, Leipzig, 1886

Henk van Oort, Antroposofie; een kennismaking, Vrij Geestesleven, Zeist, 2006

Bram Moerland, Rassenleer met charisma; over het racisme van Helena Blavatsky en Rudolf Steiner, Haagse Academie voor Filosofie, 1989

Lorenzo Ravagli, Rudolf Steiner und die Überwindung des Rassismus, Institut für Soziale Dreigliedung, 7-2003, see http://www.dreigliederung.de/essays/2003-07-003.html

August de Roode, Evert van der Tuin and Gjalt Zondergeld, Antroposofisch racisme, of: als de Blonden uitsterven zullen de mensen steeds dommer worden, Nijmeegs Comite van Waakzaamheid, 1984

Rudolf Steiner, Aus der Akasha Chronik, Gesammelte Artikel aus Luzifer Gnosis, 1906, GA 011, online version: http://www.anthroposophie.net/steiner/ga/bib_steiner_ga_011.htm

Rudolf Steiner, Menschheits-entwickelung und Christus Erkenntnis; Theosophie und Rosenkreuzertum; Das Johannes Evangelium, GA 100, 1907 (Verlag der Rudolf Steiner-Nachlassverwaltung, Dornach, 1967)

Rudolf Steiner, Die Geheimwissenschaft im Umriß, GA 013, 1909, online version http://www.anthroposophie.net/steiner/ga/bib_steiner_ga_013.htm

Rudolf Steiner, Die Mission einzelner Volksseelen im zusammenhange mit der Germanisch Nordische Mythologie; Vortragzyklus gehalten in Christiana (Oslo) GA 121, 1910 (Nachlassverwaltung, im Selbstverlag, Dornach 1950), online version: http://www.anthroposophie.net/steiner/ga/bib_steiner_ga_121.htm

Rudolf Steiner, Vom Leben des Menschen und der Erde; über da Wesen des Christentums, (GA 349) 1923 (Rudolf Steiner Taschenbücher aus dem Gesamtwerk, Rudolf Steiner Verlag, Dornach, 1993), online version: http://www.anthroposophieonline.net/index.php?option=com_content&view=category&id=247:ga-349-vom-lebens-des-menschen-und-erde-&Itemid=19

Helmut Zander, Anthroposophie in Deutschland; Theosophische Weltanschauung und gesellschaftliche Praxis 1884–1945, Band 1&2, Vandenhoeck & Ruprecht, Göttingen, 2007

Gjalt Zondergeld, Goed en kwaad; vijftien opstellen, van fascisme tot pacifisme, van Rudolf Steiner tot Colijn, Garant, Antwerpen/Apeldoorn, 2002

The several discussed articles of De Brug can be found on http://users.telenet.be/antroposofie/diabasis/index.html (homepage) or http://users.telenet.be/antroposofie/diabasis/inhaztot.html (index) or at Vrij Geestesleven, http://www.vrijgeestesleven.be/ A copy of the complete index: http://florisschreve.web-log.nl/mijn_hersenspinsels_onder/inhoudstafel-brug-kopie.html . Articles discussed in this article are also available in one document (in order of appearance) see artikelen Brug a Bridge too far



[1] See http://www.info3.de/ycms/download/memorandum_english.pdf

[2] See http://www.stelling.nl/simpos/antro1.htm

[3] Homepage of ‘De Brug’ http://users.telenet.be/antroposofie/diabasis/index.html . The index of articles, with on the first page fifteen articles with the subject ‘Ahriman’ can be found on http://users.telenet.be/antroposofie/diabasis/inhaztot.html The article of Thomas Voss (German original appeared in Erziehungskunst) can be found on http://users.telenet.be/antroposofie/diabasis/b14rac.htm

[4] http://users.pandora.be/antroposofie/vanaf40/b46met/b46.htm

[5] http://users.telenet.be/antroposofie/vanaf40/b57net.htm

[6] http://users.telenet.be/antroposofie/vanaf40/b45.htm

[7] http://users.pandora.be/antroposofie/vanaf40/b46met/b46.htm

(see also note 4)

[8] http://users.pandora.be/antroposofie/vanaf40/b44deel1.htm.

[9] http://users.pandora.be/antroposofie/vanaf40/b50defhtm.htm.

[10] http://users.telenet.be/antroposofie/vanaf40/b49hyper.htm#001

[11] http://users.pandora.be/antroposofie/vanaf40/b48met/b48.htm#ahr

[12] According to this article the Dutch Anthroposophical Society lacked ‘Michaelic courage’, when they decided to start an investigation for possible racism in the work of Rudolf Steiner, http://users.telenet.be/antroposofie/diabasis/b14eur.htm

[13] Ibid.

[14] http://users.telenet.be/antroposofie/vanaf40/b44deel2.htm

[15] http://users.telenet.be/antroposofie/dornach/b33duivel.htm

[16] http://users.telenet.be/antroposofie/vanaf40/b40a.htm#10

[17] Ramon de Jonghe, Focus op de Steinerschool; onderwijs op maat van wie?, Unibook, 2009 (see also http://antroposofie.wordpress.com/2009/07/17/schotschrift/)

[18] The contributions on the issue of racism (and also on this particular issue) of Michel Gastkemper can be found on his site http://antroposofieindepers.blogspot.com/search/label/racisme

[19] For example www.antrovista.com, the largest anthroposophical webportal of the Netherlands. See under ‘tijdschriften’

[20] http://users.telenet.be/antroposofie/diabasis/index.html

[21] My articles on anthroposophy (in Dutch) on my blog, https://fhs1973.wordpress.com/category/antroposofie-en-racisme/.  The following debates were on the site of Ramon de Jonghe (Belgium), racisme-debat http://antroposofie.wordpress.com/2008/10/30/racismedebat/ and (about the magazine De Brug) http://antroposofie.wordpress.com/2009/03/21/brugklasje-van-angry-man/

[22] Before the van Baarda-commission was installed in 1996, there were several critical publications in the Netherlands about the issue of racism in the work of Rudolf Steiner. The most significant were (chronologically) August de Roode, Evert van der Tuin and Gjalt Zondergeld, Antroposofisch racisme, of: als de Blonden uitsterven zullen de mensen steeds dommer worden, Nijmeegs Comite van Waakzaamheid, 1984; Bram Moerland, Rassenleer met charisma; over het racisme van Helena Blavatsky en Rudolf Steiner, Haagse Academie voor Filosofie, 1989; Toos Jeurissen, Uit de Vrije School geklapt; antroposofie en racisme; een stellingname, Baalproducties, Sittard, 1996 (published in English as Waldorf Salad with Aryan mayonaise, http://www.waldorfcritics.org/active/articles/waldorf_salad.html ) and the article by Jan Willem de Groot, Kosmisch racisme; over racistische elementen in de antroposofie, Skript, Amsterdam, 1996, see http://www.stelling.nl/simpos/antro1.htm After the publication of Jeurissen, Mr. Christof Wiechert, vice-president of the Dutch Anthroposophical Society, was invited for an interview on the Dutch radio. He claimed that Steiner’s insights about the nature of black Africans and native Americans could be right, pointing at the successes of the team of Ajax, the Amsterdam soccer club (with a lot of black players, he pointed at their ‘energy surpluses’) and he mentioned the massacre of Wounded Knee in 1890 as possible evidence that the native Americans are a dying race. After these remarkable statements for the Dutch radio, in the Netherlands arose a lot of publicity. Finally the Dutch Anthroposophical Society installed a commission to investigate the work of Rudolf Steiner for possible racism. In 2000 they presented their report (720 pages). The commission found sixteen passages which could be severe discriminative under the current Dutch law, but their main conclusion was ‘There is no structural racist thought in the collected work of Rudolf Steiner’. This report was also used as a basis for the more recently published Frankfurter Memorandum, of the editing board of Info 3 in Germany. See here (http://www.info3.de/ycms/download/memorandum_english.pdf ) the text of the Frankfurther Memorandum and here (http://www.egoisten.de/autoren/staudenmaier/frankfurt_memo/frankfurt_memo.html ) a sharp analysis of the Memorandum by Peter Staudemaier.

[23] Antroposofie en het vraagstuk van de rassen; eindrapport van de onderzoekscommissie, Antroposofische Vereniging in Nederland, Zeist, 2000, p. 423

[24] Rudolf Steiner, Die Mission einzelner Volksseelen im zusammenhange mit der Germanisch Nordische Mythologie; Vortragzyklus gehalten in Christiana (Oslo) GA 121, 1910 (Nachlassverwaltung, im Selbstverlag, Dornach 1950), p. 80-81 (online version: http://www.anthroposophie.net/steiner/ga/bib_steiner_ga_121.htm

[25] Steiner, Die Mission einzelner Volksseelen, idem

[26] Rudolf Steiner, Vom Leben des Menschen und der Erde; über da Wesen des Christentums, (GA 349)1923 (Rudolf Steiner Taschenbücher aus dem Gesamtwerk, Rudolf Steiner Verlag, Dornach, 1993), p. 54, 55-56, online version: http://www.anthroposophieonline.net/index.php?option=com_content&view=article&id=3709dritter-vortrag-dornach-3-maerz-1923&catid=247:ga-349-vom-lebens-des-menschen-und-erde-&Itemid=19

[27] In Die Mission einzelner Volksseelen, sixth lecture (GA 121: 6) Steiner says almost the same: ‘Alles, was der äthiopische ihre besonderen Merkmahle verleiht, das kommt davon her, daß die Merkurkräfte in dem Drüssensystem des betreffende Menschen kochen und brodeln. Das kommt davon her, daß sie auskochen, was die allgemeine, gleiche Menschengestalt zu besonderen der äthiopischen Rasse macht-mit der schwarzen Hautfarbe, dem wolligen Haar usw.’ (Nachlassveraltung, 1950, p 116)

[28] Report van Baarda commission (Antroposofie en het vraagstuk van de rassen), p. 384

[29] Ibid., p 271-293

[30] Helmut Zander, Anthroposophie in Deutschland; Theosophische Weltanschauung und gesellschaftliche Praxis 1884–1945, Band 1, Göttingen, 2007, p.665

[31] Steiner, Die Mission einzelner Volksseelen (Nachlassverwaltung, 1950), p. 122

[32] In the Netherlands orthodox anthroposophists who even rejected the van Baarda report often state that there was one article written that rejects all accusations of racism against Rudolf Steiner, except of the article of Lorenzo Ravagli, Rudolf Steiner und die Überwindung des Rassismus, Institut für Soziale Dreigliedung, 7-2003, see http://www.dreigliederung.de/essays/2003-07-003.html or even Karl Heyer’s Wie man gegen Rudolf Steiner kämpft from 1932 (!). This was Dieter Brüll, ‘De Nieuwe reactionairen, met een bijzondere aandacht voor het verschijnsel Zondergeld’ (The new Reactionaries with a special attention the phenomenon ‘Zondergeld’), Driegonaal, 1986, no. 1 (see http://florisschreve.web-log.nl/mijn_hersenspinsels_onder/dieter-br%C3%BCll-de-nieuwe-reactionairen.html ), an article that is considered as the best defence against the accusations of racism by a number of Dutch conservative anthroposophists (who reject even the van Baarda-report). It was Brüll’s reply on the first publications about racism in the work of Rudolf Steiner by the Dutch historian Gjalt Zondergeld (Free University of Amsterdam). Brüll wrote this article as a defence of the Dutch but original German anthroposophist Sigismund von Gleich (whose Der Mensch, der Eiszeit und Atlantis was strongly criticized as a racist work, see for some quotes in Dutch this article, published in de Brug, http://users.telenet.be/antroposofie/diabasis/b18chincul.htm ). The only remark about Steiner’s own ideas Dieter Brüll makes is ‘After the Christian era, in Steiner’s view the meaning of the factor ‘race’ lost their meaning’, which is completely untrue when you consider Steiner’s remarks about the native Americans or his general exposure about when the differences between races will disappear (As in Die Mission einzelner Volksseelen, but also in other works).

[33] Different anthroposophists stated Steiner didn’t speak about the contemporary situation, when he discusses the ‘diffences between races’. Beside Dieter Brüll (see also note 10) it was said by Thomas Voss in the article Antroposofie en racisme (originally published in Erziehungskunst). This article can be found (in Dutch) on the site of de Brug, (http://users.telenet.be/antroposofie/diabasis/b14rac.htm (see also note 1)

[34] Deutschland Radio Kultur, see http://www.dradio.de/dkultur/sendungen/kulturinterview/655387/

[35] Rudolf Steiner, Vom Leben des Menschen und der Erde; über das Wesen des Christentums, Dornach, 1923, GA 349 (Rudolf Steiner Taschenbücher aus dem Gesamtwerk, Dornach, 1993), p. 67

[36] Helena P. Blavatsky, The Secret Doctrine; the Synthesis of Science, Religion and Philosophy, London, 1888, Part II ‘Antropogenesis’, additional commentaries on Stanza XII, online version http://www.theosociety.org/pasadena/sd/sd2-3-09.htm

[37] Rudolf Steiner, Aus der Akasha Chronik, Gesammelte Artikel aus Luzifer Gnosis, 1906, GA 11, chapter 2 ‘Unsere Atlantischen Vorfahren’, online version: http://www.anthroposophie.net/steiner/ga/bib_steiner_ga_011_02.htm#_Toc17205762

[38] Ibid., at the of the chapter Die Lemurische Rasse, http://www.anthroposophie.net/steiner/ga/bib_steiner_ga_011_04.htm#_Toc17205764

[39] Steiner, Die Mission einzelner Volksseelen, p. 123

[40] Rudolf Steiner, Menschheits-entwickelung und Christus Erkenntnis; Theosophie und Rosenkreuzertum; Das Johannes Evangelium, GA 100, 1907, 7th lecture, Die Abstammung des Menschen- Das Wesen des Christus als Gesit der Erde, (Verlag der Rudolf Steiner-Nachlassverwaltung, Dornach, 1967) p. 240-241

[41] On ‘racisme-debat’ one of the participants (Ton Majoor) showed the probable source of this speech, quoted by Steiner. The source of the text he quotes in GA 121 and GA 100, is probably Dr. Ludwig Kuhlenbeck, Der Occultismus der Nordamerikanischen Iindianer, Wilhelm Friedrich Verlag, Leipzig, 1886, p. 8-10. Ironically Kuhlenbeck’s text is very respectful to the Native Americans, especially witin the context of that time. He explains that their culture, unless the differences, is not necessarily less than ours, which can be considered as a very progressive point of view for someone in the end of the nineteenth century. These remarks of Kuhlenbeck are in sharp contrasting with Steiner’s remark, just after he used this quote in GA 100: Wir haben in der amerikanischen Rasse eine primitieve Urbevölkerung vor uns, die weit, weit zurückgeblieben ist, auch in Bezug auf religiöse Weltanschauung’. For the quote Steiner paraphrased a leader of the Choctaw (a small sedentary Native American nation, originally from the Eastern part of the US, later ‘transported’ to Oklahoma), known as Chief Mingo. Steiner used some quotes of a much more longer text (also Steiner picked sometimes some fragments of a longer story and reconstructed this as if this was one passage). Contributions of Ton Majoor on ‘racisme-debat’, from http://antroposofie.wordpress.com/2008/10/30/racismedebat/#comment-1706

[42] Henk van Oort, Antroposofie; een kennismaking, Vrij Geestesleven, Zeist, 2006, p. 59, 61

[43] Rudolf Steiner, Aus der Akasha-Chronik (GA 11), chapter 6 ‘Die letzten Zeiten vor der Geschlechtertrennung’, http://www.anthroposophie.net/steiner/ga/bib_steiner_ga_011_06.htm#_Toc17205766.

[44] van Baarda Report, p.309

[45] Rudolf Steiner, Die Geheimwissenschaft im Umriß, GA 013, 1909, chapter 4 ‘Die Weltentwickelung und der Mensch’ online version http://www.anthroposophie.net/steiner/ga/bib_steiner_ga_013_04.htm#_Toc14861974

[46] Van Baarda Report, p. 303

[47] Rudolf Steiner, Vom Leben des Menschen und der Erde, 1923 p.60-62, online version: http://www.anthroposophieonline.net/index.php?option=com_content&view=article&id=3709dritter-vortrag-dornach-3-maerz-1923&catid=247:ga-349-vom-lebens-des-menschen-und-erde-&Itemid=19

[48] Helmut Zander, Anthroposophie in Deutschland (Band 1), p. 634-636

[49] Zander’s calculation is based on the anthroposophical timescale. Earlier I made the same kind of calculation. To explain this as simple as possible: the post Atlantean eras (Kulturepochen) are each lasting 2160 years, based on the period during the equinox the sun rises in one constellation of the zodiac (acc. Henk van Oort, Antroposofie; een kennismaking, Zeist, 2006, p. 67) . We are living in the 5th post-Atlantean cultural era (Kultur Epoche). This era started in 1413. Steiner says in this passage of the 4th lecture of Die Mission (GA121) the differences between races have disappeared when the sixth and the seventh era are over. This means there is a big margin, but if we consider that our era finishes in 3573 and that we need two more eras of 2160 years, which means 4320 years, so the year 3573 plus 4320 years, it means that we are dealing with the year 7893, so within 5884 years from now and 106 years before the beginning of the 9th millennium, the moment when the post-Atlantean era (Zeitalter) will end. So the 9th millennium is a very realistic (but Zander says ‘frühestens’) calculation..

[50] Helmut Zander, Anthroposophie in Deutschland (Band 1), p. 636-637

[51] Jana Husmann-Kastein, Schwarz-Weiß-Konstruktionen im Rassebild Rudolf Steiners, Berliner Dialog 29 Juli 2006, http://www.religio.de/dialog/106/29_22-29.htm

[52] Gjalt Zondergeld, Goed en kwaad; vijftien opstellen, van fascisme tot pacifisme, van Rudolf Steiner tot Colijn, Garant, Antwerpen/Apeldoorn, 2002, in the essay (with Evert van der Tuin), Rudolf Steiners visie op rassen volken, p. 72

[53] Jos Verhulst, Was Rudolf Steiner een antisemiet?, published in ‘De Brug’, see http://users.telenet.be/antroposofie/dornach/antisem.htm

[54] As pointed out by an editor of a prominent anthroposophical journal (Driegonaal) in the Netherlands on http://antroposofie.wordpress.com/2008/10/30/racismedebat/#comment-277

[55] Rudolf Steiner, Menschheits-entwickelung und Christus Erkenntnis; Theosophie und Rosenkreuzertum, vierzehn Vortrage, gehalten in Kassel vom 16. bis 29. Juni 1907, GA 100 (Verlag der Rudolf Steiner-Nachlassverwaltung, Dornach, 1967), Vierzehnter Vortrag: Weitere Stufen der Rosenkreuzerschulung, pp.182-183. The van Baarda-report quotes this passage (cit. 39) on p. 293.

[56] Antroposofie en het vraagstuk van de rassen (The commission report), p. 294-295

[57] Steiner, Menschheitsentwickelung und Christus Erkenntnis / Das Johannes Evangelium, (GA 100:7, Verlag der Rudolf Steiner-Nachlassverwaltung, Dornach, 1967) p. 249-250

[58] Ironically In Die Mission einelner Volksseelen, but in the first lecture, Steiner pleads for the state of ‘Heimatloser Mensch’.

[59] Peter Bierl, Wurzelrassen Erzengel und Volksgeister; die Anthroposophie Rudolf Steiners und die Waldorpädagogik (Aktualisierte und erweiterte Neuausgabe), Konkret Literatur Verlag, 2005, p. 127

[60] Idem, p. 132

[61] This is true, and in case of Blavatsky it is even worse. In the Secret Doctrine she claims that the word Abraham originally means ‘No Brahmin’, like ‘a-Brahman’, or ‘anti-Brahman’ as counterpoint for the ‘Aryan’ Brahmans. Blavatsky: ‘The inflectional speech — the root of the Sanskrit, very erroneously called ‘the elder sister’ of the Greek, instead of its mother — was the first language (now the mystery tongue of the Initiates, of the Fifth Race). At any rate, the “Semitic” languages are the bastard descendants of the first phonetic corruptions of the eldest children of the early Sanskrit. The occult doctrine admits of no such divisions as the Aryan and the Semite, accepting even the Turanian with ample reservations. The Semites, especially the Arabs, are later Aryans — degenerate in spirituality and perfected in materiality. To these belong all the Jews and the Arabs. The former are a tribe descended from the Tchandalas of India, the outcasts, many of them ex- Brahmins, who sought refuge in Chaldea, in Scinde, and Aria (Iran), and were truly born from their father A-bram (No Brahmin) some 8,000 years B.C. The latter, the Arabs, are the descendants of those Aryans who would not go into India at the time of the dispersion of nations, some of whom remained on the borderlands thereof, in Afghanistan and Kabul, and along the Oxus, while others penetrated into and invaded Arabia’, Helena Blavatsky, The Secret Doctrine Part II Antropogenesis, ‘Stanza IX: ‘The final evolution of Man’, http://www.theosociety.org/pasadena/sd/sd2-1-10.

This is absolutely nonsense, although she uses the word ‘root’ (common linguistic term in describing Semitic languages, but not in this way). ‘Abraham means, like Ibrahim in Arabic, literally ‘affluent Father’, but factually ‘Father of many’, or ‘Patriarch’, which means that he was a father from whose offspring both the Jews and the Arabs are dissents. See this website for the explanation of the Hebrew word ‘Abraham’, http://en.wiktionary.org/wiki/Abraham#Etymology. In Arabic ‘Abu Rahim’ = ‘Father of many’, in a junction as ‘Ibrahim’ (literal transcription, Arab from the right to the left):

إبراهيم = ‘-ā (ī)-b-r-ā-h-i-m

[62] Bierl, p. 132-133. In the last passage he cited Rudolf Steiner from Das hereinwirken geistiger Wesenheiten in den Menschen, Vorträge, 1908. GA 102

[63] See the many contributions on ‘Racisme-debat’, http://antroposofie.wordpress.com/2008/10/30/racismedebat/

[64] Van Baarda-report, p. 295

[65] Steiner, Die Mission einzelner Volksseelen, p. 80-81

[66] Helmut Zander, Anthroposophie in Deutschland, Band 1, p. 832

[67] idem

[68] Cited from Guido und Michael Grandt, Waldorf connection; Rudolf Steiner und die Anthroposophen, Alibri Verlag, Aschaffenburg, 2001, p. 220-221

[69] Rene Zwaap, Russisch revisionisme, de Groene Amsterdammer, 15-101997, http://www.groene.nl/1997/42/Russisch_revisionisme or the full text in the forum of ‘Brugklasje van Angry Man’, on the site of Ramon de Jonghe’, http://antroposofie.wordpress.com/2009/03/21/brugklasje-van-angry-man/#comment-2185 (both in Dutch)

[70] Andreas Molau was a teacher of history on a Waldorfschool in Braunsweig, but became active in the extreme right NPD. The school decided that it was no longer possible to work with Molau, who wrote since 1996 articles for several extreme right magazines (under pseudonym, so unnoticed by the school). But the German Waldorfschools were clear they wanted nothing to do with neo Nazism. Peter Bierl, p. 9

[71] http://users.telenet.be/antroposofie/vanaf40/b46met/b46.htm it is interesting to compare this confused text with Bondarev’s view ( http://www.altanthroinfo.9f.com/ahriman.htm). Although a littlebit of the same kind, Bondarev’s explanation is much more sophisticted. So another this is the same kind of direction within anthroposophy, with the difference that de Brug is much more simplistic or even banal..It

[72] http://users.telenet.be/antroposofie/vanaf40/b45.htm

[73] http://users.telenet.be/antroposofie/vanaf40/b57net.htm#04

[74] idem

[75] http://users.pandora.be/antroposofie/vanaf40/b48met/b48.htm#ahr

[76] http://users.telenet.be/antroposofie/vanaf40/b45.htm

[77] http://users.telenet.be/antroposofie/vanaf40/b52a.htm

[78] http://users.telenet.be/antroposofie/vanaf40/b48met/b48.htm#toek

[79] The Dutch constitution (article 1) begins (just like in Belgium, as in the most democracies): ‘Everyone who is present in this country is equal to the law’. That is something different than the anti-discrimination laws. It simply says that there is no class justice. Since the French Revolution equality by law is accepted by all democracies

[80] http://users.telenet.be/antroposofie/vanaf40/b48met/b48.htm#toek

[81] The story of Manu has told by Steiner in Aus der Akasha-Chronik (GA11), in the 2nd chapter ‘Übergang die Vierte in der Fünfte Wurzelrasse’, http://www.anthroposophie.net/steiner/ga/bib_steiner_ga_011_03.htm#_Toc17205763

[82] The Asgardians, or the Gods of Asgard, were the members of the most important dynasty of Gods in the Nordic Edda. Wodan (Odin), Thor, Baldur and Freya belonged to this family of Gods

[83] In the sixth lecture of Die Mission einzelner Volksseelen, Rudolf Steiner says both the Mongols and the Semites are under influence of the planet Mars. But the Mongolians are also influenced by the Sun, while the Semites are more under the influence of the forces of the Moon. Jahwe, according Steiner one of the seven ‘Elohim’, works from the Moon, while the other six Elohim operates from the Sun. See http://www.anthroposophie.net/steiner/ga/bib_steiner_ga_121_06.htm

[84] http://users.telenet.be/antroposofie/diabasis/b18chincul.htm

[85] Sigismund von Gleich, De Heilige Graal en de Nieuwe Tijd van Christus, de Zevenster, Driebergen, 1952, (2e herziene druk met een inleiding van Clemens von Gleich, 1982) p. 7

[86] Idem. p. 25

[87] Idem

[88] Dieter Brüll, De Nieuwe Reactionairen, p. 24 (http://florisschreve.web-log.nl/mijn_hersenspinsels_onder/dieter-br%C3%BCll-de-nieuwe-reactionairen.html )

[89] Idem, p. 21

[90] Lorenzo Ravagli, Rudolf Steiner und die Überwindung des Rassismus, Institut für Soziale Dreigliedung, 7-2003, see http://www.dreigliederung.de/essays/2003-07-003.html

[91] Helmut Zander, Anthroposophie in Deutschland; Theosophische Weltanschauung und gesellschaftliche Praxis 1884–1945, Göttingen, 2007, Band 1, p.665

[92] I think it would be wise for everyone who concerns this subject (especially anthroposophists) to gather some knowledge about this early academic historian and later Holocaust revisionist. The English Wikipedia page is very extensive (much more than an average wiki and with a lot of links), http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/David_Irving. Information about the Irving Lipstadt process, mentioned by Jos Verhulst can be found here http://www.skepsis.nl/irving.html (in Dutch). At the site of De Brug there is already a link to his homepage, even the only external link in the index of the articles (under the W of World War II, but again http://www.fpp.co.uk/online/index.html). Also I can recommend a compelling documentary Mr. Death: The Rise and Fall of Fred A. Leuchter Jr. about Fred Leuchter, originally a ‘Gas-chamber expert’ from the US and inventor of the ‘injection machine’, now common use for executions in the US. He gradually came more and more in Neo Nazi circuits and was hired as an expert to prove that the gas-chambers of Auschwitz never existed. The story is quiet sick, but nevertheless it is a brilliant documentary.

[93] http://vho.org/Intro/GB/Flyer.html

[94] On the site of Ramon de Jonghe http://antroposofie.wordpress.com/2009/03/21/brugklasje-van-angry-man/. See for the ‘holiday message’ http://www.vrijgeestesleven.be/directe%20democratie/index.html

[95] idem

[96] See http://www.vrijgeestesleven.be/directe%20democratie/Archief/watispc.htm#correct

[97] Jos Verhulst and reactions of Wijbrand de Steur, Henk Verhoog en Ferdie Amons, Waarnemen en denken; mens en dier in de evolutie, Motief nr. 43, Juli/augustus, 2001, http://www.antroposofie.nl/literatuur/antroposofische_literatuur/artikelendatabase/ms/nws/df/motief43-5


Interview met de Iraakse kunstenaar Qassim Alsaedy – قاسم الساعدي


Voor mijn scriptie-onderzoek naar kunstenaars uit Arabische landen in Nederland heb ik zo’n twintig kunstenaars geïnterviewd. Meestal waren dat functionele gesprekken, vooral bedoeld om data te verzamelen. Zelden waren het mooie afgeronde verhalen. Dat lag niet aan de kunstenaars maar aan mij. Het ging mij in de interviews er vooral om zoveel mogelijk feitenmateriaal te verzamelen. Ook verliepen sommige gesprekken weleens wat chaotisch, sterk van de hak op de tak springend. Maar deze gesprekken waren veelal een middel en eigenlijk nooit het einddoel. Een enkele keer is er een mooi en gestructureerd interview uitgekomen, ook nog met een bijzondere kunstenaar. Mijn gesprek met Qassim Alsaedy (Bagdad, 1949) werd een onverwacht mooi geheel. Dat lag niet zozeer aan mij, maar vooral aan hem.


Zijn werk was me opgevallen in een catalogus uit Rijswijk, waar hij met vier andere gevluchte Iraakse kunstenaars exposeerde, georganiseerd door vluchtelingenwerk. Ik vond zijn werk er toen al uitspringen en besloot om een keer op atelier-bezoek te gaan om hem uitvoerig over zijn werk te bevragen.
Naast het bijzondere verhaal dat hij over zijn werk te vertellen had, bleek ook zijn levensverhaal buitengewoon indrukwekkend (voor zover je die twee zaken kunt scheiden, langzamerhand ben ik ervan overtuigd dat dit vrij moeilijk is). Nadat we eerst op een paar algemene zaken van zijn werk ingingen en zijn achtergrond en opleiding als kunstenaar in Irak, nam het gesprek een bijzondere wending. Wat mij betreft is dit een van de meest bijzondere verhalen over hoe kunst kan overleven die ik ooit gehoord heb, zelfs in een extreem totalitaire samenleving. Het gaat in een belangrijke mate over het nastreven van vrijheid en schoonheid, tegen de verschrikking van dictatuur en oorlog in. Het verhaal van een sterk individu tegen een tiranniek systeem. Van een goed kunstenaar en iemand die weigerde compromissen te sluiten met een verdorven regime of een totalitaire ideologie en daarvoor een hoge prijs moest betalen. Naast over zijn werk vertelt de kunstenaar over zijn verblijf in ‘al-Qasr an-Nihayyah’ (‘Het paleis van het Einde’, de voorloper van de tegenwoordig overbekende en beruchte Abu Ghraib gevangenis) en over zijn tijd bij het Koerdische verzet in de bergen van Noord Irak. Vervolgens zijn uitwijken naar Libie, waar hij Khadaffi’s krankzinnigheid van nabij meemaakte, om uiteindelijk in Europa terecht te komen.



Inmiddels is het de kunstenaar goed vergaan. Hij is verbonden aan een gerenommeerde galerie en exposeert in binnen een buitenland. In 2006 had hij zelfs een grote solo expositie in het Flehite museum te Amersfoort, die werd geopend door de nieuwe (dus ‘post-Saddam’) ambassadeur van Irak in Nederland. Ook is hij inmiddels meermalen op televisie verschenen en hebben diverse media geruime aandacht aan hem besteed (zie ook de linkjes in mijn blog over kunstenaars uit de Arabische wereld). Toe ik hem interviewde was dit echter nog niet het geval en behoorde hij tot de groep onbekende en ontheemde gevluchte kunstenaars uit Irak, waar het regime van Saddam Hoessein nog oppermachtig was.
Hoewel ik veel uit dit materiaal heb geciteerd (in mijn scriptie, lezingen en diverse artikelen) heb ik het interview nooit integraal gepubliceerd, terwijl het alleszins de moeite waard is, zelfs ongeredigeerd. Bij deze dan op mijn blog. Het gaat hier om de onbewerkte tekst van de band, maar die is al mooi genoeg. De werken die in het interview worden getoond zijn uit de tijd dat ik de kunstenaar voor het eerst sprak (periode 1999-2000). Het hier getoonde beeldmateriaal is overigens van recenter datum.




Mijn artikel uit ‘Leidschrift'(van de vakgroep geschiedenis van de Universiteit Leiden), waarin ik het werk van Qassim in de bredere context van de Iraakse moderne en hedendaagse kunst bespreek: http://www.leidschrift.nl/nl/archief/173-de-maatschappij-verbeeld-in-de-kunst/out-of-mesopotamia-de-versplinterde-identiteit-van-de-irakese-kunstenaar-in-diaspora

De hier getoonde werken komen uit de serie/installatie ‘Last Summer in Baghdad’, 2003/04. De kunstenaar maakte deze serie werken nav zijn eerste bezoek aan zijn vaderland, in de zomer van 2003, na de Amerikaanse inval en de val van het Baathregime.

Voor zijn meest recente werk, zie de website van Frank Welkenhuysen (zijn galeriehouder):


televisie uitzendingen gewijd aan (oa) Qassim Alsaedy:

Beeldenstorm (Factor, IKON)


RAM (VPRO, 19-10-2003)


Twee andere interviews:


Zie op dit blog ook Drie kunstenaars uit de Arabische wereld , Iraakse kunstenaars in ballingschap en de begeleidende tekst van de Tentoonstelling van Qassim Alsaedy uit 2011


INTERVIEW QASSIM ALSAEDY –  قاسم الساعدي (Baghdad 1949)

Could you tell me something about the art education in Bagdad?

I studied in Bagdad from 1969 till 1974. I lost one year in the political Underground Prison, to which I was kidnapped, for political reasons. Because I was sent to this awful place I studied five years on the academy for painting. Beside studying we were educated in the European culture. There was a great knowledge of the history of European painting.

Baldin Ahmad told me the art education in Bagdad is very European focussed.

We studied art according the Italian, French or other European methods. You have to see this training as a kind of key,  which can open doors when you want to see more, especially when you have dreams to be an artist. So you have to research when you want to be someone.

What I really want to know, why there was a lack of interest in the Arab and Islamic arts, for example the calligraphic tradition?

When we studied art history, we studied it in general. When you study the arts of the prehistory till the present, seven thousand years of culture in four years, it stays on a very general level.

I was told you were mainly educated about Rembrandt and Michelangelo.

We had maybe too little information about contemporary art. We learnt about Rembrandt, about van Gogh, maybe some later. Picasso, he was ok, but then it stopped.

So no Pop Art or Joseph Beuys?

We learnt about the arts before the First World War. After the First World War and the Second World War in Europe there became a huge complex of new ideas in art, in culture and in economy. For us it is very important what had happened later. I mean, what is the influence of war and peace? What had really happened? What is the realistic and what is the abstract? So you have to research it yourself, because the lessons in art history were so limited.

You work in an abstract way. The Arabic and Islamic art have a long abstract tradition. Are you influenced by this tradition?

First I have to tell you we studied according to the European style. The brushes, the canvas, all those supplies were European. Although we were trained like European artists I personally think Europe doesn’t need more artists, from other continents, working in the same way and thinking. I am convinced that the contemporary world culture needs some other air or some other elements, to enrich the blood of the international art. Anyhow, I believe that I, who grew up in Iraq, or Mesopotamia, or the Middle East, have to use a lot of elements to make art. In this way I can feed another and I can share these elements with the world. I can say, look, I have some things, and I like to say something different. It is a way to enrich yourself, some others and to enrich the world.In my background I can find a lot of elements. For example in Asia we use the lines. We use them more than the fields of colour. In our tradition lines are more active, making more life in the painting. It is for the simple reason we have sharp lights. It is because of the sun, there is a sharp contrast in light and shadow. For example in Holland the shadows are quiet misty, so that is the reason in Northern Europe the lines are less important than in Asia. So I use the lines because it is a part of my heritage.Beside we have also the sense for the letters. For me I have not the same aim of the calligrapher. I respect the form of the letters, but all the letters, from all the alphabets in the world. I studied different alphabets, how they can be used to make magic.


Using the letters in an alchemistic way?

Exactly. Well, we have the alphabet of Adam, our grandfather, there is the alphabet of David, of Jesus, of Mohammed, whatever, of all these prophets. You see, all these letters are factually abstract drawings. You can use them phonetic but they are abstract symbols. I am interested in reusing these materials, but not to make a text.For example here you see some lines, like traces on a wall, which became my theme later. Some of them seem like letters. But I mean I never want to make a text. It is interesting to see the traces of letters on a wall, the old writings. For me it is very humanistic because they are always traces of human life. So I like this form to make an image, not to make a sentence.

I read that the ancient ruins of Babylon and Ur play an important role in your work.

Yes, when I lived in Bagdad I travelled very often to Babylon, which is very close to Bagdad. It is interesting to see how people reuse the elements of the ancient civilisations. For example, my mother had an amulet of cylinder formed limestones. She wore this amulet her whole lifetime, especially using it when she had, for example a headache. Later I asked her: “Let me see, what kind of stones they are?” Then I discovered something amazing. These cylinderstones, putting them in the clay, left some traces like the ancient writings on the clay tablets. There was some text and there were some drawings. It suddenly looked very familiar. I asked her: “what is this, how did you get these stones?” She told me that she got it from her mother, who got it from her mother, etc. So you see, there is a strong connection with the human past, not only in the museum, but even in your own house. When you visit Babylon and look to the Ishtar Gate, you find the same traces of these stones. So history didn’t end.In my home country it is sometimes very windy. When the wind blows the air is filled with dust. Sometimes it can be very dusty you can see nothing. Factually this is the dust of Babylon, Ninive, Assur, the first civilisations. This is the dust you breath, you have it on your body, your clothes, it is in your memory, blood, it is everywhere, because the Iraqi civilisations had been made of clay. We are a country of rivers, not of stones. The dust you breath it belongs to something. It belongs to houses, to people or to some texts. I feel it in this way; the ancient civilisations didn’t end. The clay is an important condition of making life. It is used by people and then it becomes dust, which falls in the water, to change again in thick clay. There is a permanent circle of water, clay, dust, etc. It is how life is going on and on.I have these elements in me. I use them not because I am homesick, or to cry for my beloved country. No it is more than this. I feel the place and I feel the meaning of the place. I feel the voices and the spirits in those dust, clay, walls and air. In this atmosphere I can find a lot of elements which I can reuse or recycle. You can find these things in my work; some letters, some shadows, some voices or some traces of people. On every wall you can find traces. The wall is always a sign of human life.


Do these ancient civilisations have a message for our time?

First I have to say we have the European Art. Further we have some uneuropean elements you can find them in many places. Sometimes I think about the caves of the prehistoric Sahara civilisations. You can find them on the border of Libya and Algeria. There you can find a lot of written messages. They couldn’t really write like our way of writing, but you find a lot of drawings. When I lived in Libya I studied them. Some of those Primitives were my teachers. They draw layers over layers, to tell their messages. For me these drawings are very important. Later I used somehow of the drawings, but then in a modern way. In more recent European Art we learned children drawings are very important. As such are also the drawings of the childhood of mankind important, just as important as our own first drawings. We have to use those elements to create something new. I believe that this happened in a certain way in Europe. We have to reuse our heritage to make something new. You can think a lot of things are very old, but you can reuse those elements again and again. All these elements are still alive. It is difficult to say that things in a museum are old and have no life. If you say that, why don’t you close it. It is shown because it still has a meaning. We still like to see them, because we like to think of our childhood as human beings. Maybe we would like to communicate with those cultures, with those people. Maybe we would like to catch the spirit of history when we put our shadows on those things, the old statues or the old paintings. I enjoy history as I enjoy present time. I can find many things and it is also available for anyone to find some other elements or sources to create something new. I think the history and the art is still available in somehow, still alive for anyone who wants to communicate with the past or the present. They still give you spots of life and some sense of meaning. It gives you always the possibility to make a dialogue.

In the time you studied on the academy in the nineteen-seventies, in Bagdad an avant-garde group was founded called the “One Dimension Group”. They worked, just as you do, with abstract symbols and signs. Were you related to them?

The artist who created this group, Shakir Hassan al-Sai’id, was my teacher .

Really? It is amazing to see how things fall in their place. Some artists discussed in  historical books, such as the books of Wijdan Ali and Brahim Alaoui, are related to the artists living in the Netherlands which I am researching. For example Baldin Ahmad told me he was a student of Faik Hassan and Jawad Salim.

Faik Hassan was my teacher also, and Jawad Salim, who died very early,  was in a certain way also a teacher for me, but in a more symbolic way; for me he was a symbol of a good artist. But Faik Hassan was my teacher for painting in the primary school, while Shakir Hassan al-Sai’id was my teacher in the secondary school. But I never joined the one dimension group. Some of the work this group produced I like very much but in general it was not so clear what is really one dimension art. Shakir Hassan al-Sai’id had a certain concept, but it was difficult to say this is one dimension art. There were a lot of artists who joined that group, but they had no any idea what they were doing. Just using some letters or abstract lines and they saw it as one dimension art. When it looked a little bit to calligraphy, it was enough.

Another aspect of your work, I read in some articles, is that your paintings are a kind of messages to your mother, who isn’t able to read or write. Could you explain it for me?

Well, for me in my position, because I had to leave my country, it is very important how to communicate with my mother. You have to know she developed a kind of a writing system. Of course she couldn’t write but she used a kind of abstract drawings. For her it had the same meaning of a text. Some abstract lines, she liked to use the pencil. It was a really important lesson to me. At first, to learn to communicate and sending her something how I feel about some things and I believe she can feel those drawings, even there is no exactly meaning.  Those drawings she felt about it. I am sure because they were so basic humanistic. Later this meaning became something bigger. It became for me a symbol, a symbol for the land, a symbol for my country, a symbol of place, a symbol of the people. For this mother, the Great Mother, but also my mother, the woman who made me, my own mother and the Big Mother I make my messages. In this way I communicate with her, I still talk with her, because she is a great symbol. For the painting her soul, her existence, is really essential. For her I make my symbols, my elements, my language. I am drawing my things to her. So therefore are my lines still lines, because I write for her. The line is anyhow important so I still work with the line, so they are still active in my paintings.

Sometimes there are some realistic signs in your work, like flags, or the roofs of houses. For example your painting “Rhythms in Blue” (oil on canvas, 1997), shown at the exhibition “Versluierde Taal”(museum Rijswijk, 1999) looks a little bit on a city by night. Also the pyramid form is an essential motif in your paintings. Can you explain why?

Well, this work I like to talk about it ( http://florisschreve.hyves.nl/fotos/355737279/0/uiES/?pageid=C5R662MESRSO4K8S). The original painting, which is now in the gallery Kunstliefde in Utrecht, I made it in my flat in Bilthoven, which is on the eight’s flour. I like Utrecht and I can see the tower of the church. About the painting someone asked me: “Where is this place?” Well, for me it was Bagdad. While I was looking to Utrecht, I was thinking on Bagdad. So it is mixed, those two places.And the triangle, it is an old form. For me it has a spiritual meaning. It is the symbol of the people who are striving to the divine, like the Dom of Utrecht. You can also find the triangle as an important symbol in North Africa, like in Libya, where the triangle is a symbol of the goodness.

I read sometimes the suffering in your country plays an indirect role in your work, like the black fields of Kurdistan. Can you tell me more about this? Did you see them yourselves?

Yes I saw them because I lived there.

You are not Kurdish I read?

No, I am Arab, but I joined the movement which was against the regime. I worked there also as an artist. I exhibited there and made an exhibition in a tent for all these people in the villages, but anyhow, the most amazing was the Iraqi regime uses a very special policy against Kurdistan, against this area and also against other places in Iraq. They burned and sacrificed the fields by using enormous bombings. So you see, and I saw it by myself, huge fields became totally black. The houses, trees, grass, everything was black. But look, when you see the burned grass, late in the season, you could see some little green points, because the life and the beauty is stronger than the bastards. The life was coming through. So you saw black, but there was some green coming up. For example I show you this painting which is extremely black, but it is to deep in my heart. Maybe you can see it hardly but when you look very sensitive you see some little traces of life. You see the life is still there. It shines trough the blackness. The life is coming back.

Why did you move to Libya?

I moved to Libya because I had no any choice to go to some other place in the world. I couldn’t go for any other place, because I couldn’t have a visa. It was the only country in the world I could go. Maybe it was a sort of destiny. I lived there for seven years. After two years the Kuwait war broke out in Iraq followed by the embargo and all the punishments. In this time it was impossible for a citizen of Iraq to have a visa for any country in the world.


Also it was impossible for a refugee?

Of course it was possible for a refugee, but for me didn’t ask for a refugee status, because I said: “Well, when I am still capable to feed myself, I didn’t want to go to Europe and ask for support. I am an artist, who still can work.” If I can feed myself, if I can work, if I have one square meter to stand on, I am aware I am alive and will be still there, even when it is very difficult. When you lose this last square meter you have to look for an other place to stand.

So you worked in Libya as a lecturer on the art academy?

Yes, I worked as a teacher on the academy of Tripoli, but the most interesting thing I did there was making many huge wallpaintings. The impossible happened when the citycounsel of Tripoli supported me to do something like that. I had always the dream how to make the city as beautiful as possible. I was thinking about Bagdad when I made it.My old dream was to do something like that in Bagdad, but it was always impossible to do that, because of the regime. I believe all the people in the world have the right on freedom, on water, on sun, on air, but also the right on beauty. They have the right on beauty in the world, or in their lives. So one of my aims was to make wallpaintings and I worked hard on it. They were abstract paintings, but I tried to give them something of the atmosphere of the city. It is an Arabic, Islamic city with Italian elements. I tried to make something new when I studied the Islamic architecture. I worked on them with my students and so something very unusual happened, especially for the girls, because in our society it is not very usual to see the girls painting on the street. It was a kind of a shock, but in a nice way. It brought something positive.

The people in the street liked what you were doing?

Yes, they liked it very much, so they asked me to do same thing five years later.

After Libya you moved to different European countries?

First I exhibited at a very nice festival at Tunisia (International Festival of Plastic Arts, Almahris, 1990, 1991, 1992). For three years I was invited to join the festival. It was a good opportunity for me to meet many artists from many continents, from Europe and the others. There were a lot of artists from France, Belgium, Germany and other countries. Since this event I thought, look, let us do something, let us talking, let us be working together. Let us look for this crazy war which it is still going on. I am against the war anyway. What happened in Kuwait and what happened in my country is a very sad story. Let us stop talking with guns, and all the craziness. Let us talk in a civilised way. Let us talk in art and let us talk about what is good for all the people. Of course you can talk a lot about all these crazy people, from Hitler to Saddam Hussein, Mussolini, Stalin, etc. Let us talk in a good way. Let us do something. In this way we tried, me and some colleagues, to make a dialogue, to work together in art. To work together with the art from all the continents in an equal and nice way. So we did something in Tunisia, something in France (International Art Festival, Tonnay-Boutonne, 1993). I think the artists can make a good dialogue between all those people, better than the politics and the governments.

Do you have an explanation for the fact that contemporary art from the Arab World is such an isolated and unknown phenomenon?

I believe that the policy of all those education and information ministries is very bad. I mean, the ministries from the Arabic administrations. In the Arabic countries the culture and the art stand in the back. In general, the governments are not interested to show what their countries really have. The artists have to manage everything themselves. It is really hard that artists have to manage themselves to communicate, to find a place, or to enter the European cultural life. Since the last twenty years you see the artists try to find a place, to escape. Our teachers, most of them, have studied in Europe before they turned back to Iraq. But how to show what you have is really difficult. In Europe making art is much more easier because you don’t have those crazy leaders we have in Arab countries, those regimes, those horrible things.


Well I noticed that not only in Iraq, but even in Jordan there is no freedom of press.

In none of these countries there is any freedom. Maybe in Lebanon you could feel yourself a little bit free, but the other countries are absolutely very bad. It is very difficult to make good art in Iraq, in Libya, in Yemen, or in Sudan, they are all really horrible. You see for those terrible governments and ministries it is not important to send an exhibition every year, or maybe in three or five years, to send out what the country have in the field of art. Also it is difficult to show all you have in a good way, because some have the opportunity more than the others. It depends on your relationship with the government and the ministry.

Is there also a lot of misuse of good art by these regimes? For example, according Wijdan Ali and Brahim Alaoui, Ismail Fattah is one of the most important sculptors of the Arab world. According another publication, however, “The Monument; art, vulgarity and responsibility in Iraq”, by Samir al-Khalil (pseudoniem van Kanan Makiya), which was published in London, Ismail Fattah makes large monuments, everywhere in Bagdad, to honour the martyrs of the “Great War of the Fatherland” against Iran. In Wijdan Ali’s book, “Contemporary Art from the Islamic World” (Amman, 1989), which I believe it is very important because it is so unique in its kind, it is shocking to read how the author of the chapter about Iraq, May Mudaffar, writes about Ismail Fattah. She describes these monuments, but she never discusses the political background. Maybe it is impossible to do, because there is censorship in Jordan, but I think this example shows there is an enormous problem in integrity how to deal with art and how to have a decent art criticism.

In Iraq we have many good artists. But these artists didn’t sell themselves in a cheap way. Some artists respected themselves. But some others they sold themselves, in a cheap or an expensive way. The market was open and you could have the choice. You could be send to the jail, or worse to the political underground jail, or putted in the shadow. The other option was to be made very famous and to be a millionaire, but then you have to work with them. It already begun when we were at the academy. The Baath party was in power for one year (1968) and they had a problem; no artist was a member of this party, no artist wanted to join such a thing. So they came to the academy and said: ”Well we are the party which is in power, and we need some artists to make an exhibition”. They asked for the most talented students. So we were invited for a meeting to drink some tea and to talk. Well, ok we went to that meeting. They told us they liked to exhibit our works, in a good museum, with a good catalogue and they promised all these works would be sold, for the prize we asked.  It seemed that the heaven was open for us and we said, ok, that’s nice. Then they came with their conditions. We had to work according the official ideology  and they should give us specific titles. We refused their offer, because we were artists. When we agreed we would sold ourselves and it would be the first step to hell.Later they found some very cheap artists who joined them. All their paintings had been sold. It was really shit, but the prizes were high. One of them, I know him very well, he bought a new villa and a new car. And in this way they took all this rubbish from these bad artists, and showed them and said: “Well, this is from the party and these are  the artists from Iraq”. The others were put in the dark side of the cultural life. Really, you can find a lot of good artists, a lot of honest artists. When you see the list of good artists and writers who left Iraq, than you really can see what  kind of a country this is! For example one of the pioneers of modern art in Iraq, Mahmoud Sabri, who is making really very fine art, lives now in Prague. He was a good educated man, better than Faik Hassan and Jawad Salim, but he left Iraq for a long time. So it happened with a lot of other good artists. There are a lot of good artists, outside Iraq and some inside Iraq. However, the sculptor and ceramist you mentioned, Ismail Fattah, works for the regime for a long time. I admire him for his work in the sixties and I feel sorry for him now.


What is your opinion about the quality of institutions for contemporary art in the Arab world, for example the Darat al Funun in Amman, the Nicolas Sursock museum in Beirut, or the Sharjah Biennale in the United Arab Emirates?

I believe, the Darat al Funun and some others, they are very good.

Is there not also the problem of censorship?

Well, in Jordan you can exhibit what you want. For the Iraqi artists it was the only hope to reach Amman, because it was the only opportunity to exhibit your work. The border to Jordan is the only one which is open, because we are totally isolated from other countries. For us Amman is the only gate to the world, because most of the Iraqi artists became very poor, so they couldn’t go further. Most of the Iraqi artists exhibited there, but the pity thing is, they had to sell themselves in a little bit cheap way, because the art market in Jordan is so small, so limited, when you have such a number of Iraqi artists.  But in general, when you find in Jordan, which is such a poor country, four or five art centres, it is very nice.In Lebanon there are also good institutions for contemporary art. In the gulf countries they have no tradition to deal with art.

Money enough, I should say.

Yes, but no money enough to send them to the artists. But you see, in contrary to the ministries, some small particular initiatives are sometimes very good. I saw it in Tunisia and there is also a wonderful gallery in Tripoli, the Dar al Funon.

One of the most important questions I would like to ask for my research is, have you ever noticed some misconceptions about Arab culture in the west? Have you ever dealt with some prejudices about the “Orient”? I ask you this, because I would like to research in what way the notion of “Orientalism”, from the Palestinian philologist Edward Said, plays a role in receiving the art from Arab countries.

This is an important point. Look, in Iraq we studied the art history of Europe so we know a lot about it. But in Europe there is a very little information about our culture, on our art. Many of our teachers went to study in Europe. We have also a lot of institutions. We have three academies and a few museums. This is nothing compared by in Egypt, or in Lebanon, or even in Syria. But when you are in Europe and you tell you are an Iraqi artist, they put you in a very small and tiny corner. It means they ask you: “Do you work in a traditional way? Do you make traditional arts and crafts? Do you make decoratives, or calligraphs?”  I say then: “No, I am making modern art”. Some of them ask: “So you are an artist. Did you know something about art when you were in your country, or did you learn it here?” I say: “I worked in my country as an artist”. “Did you make paintings in your country?”. I say: “Yes!”. “Did you exhibit in your country and did you sell work in your country?” .”Yes”.Sometimes it is really painful. Why are we so isolated? Well, of course we have been isolated, from Europe, because we have a crazy regime. And it is not only our regime, also the Libyan regime, or whatever regime. But on the other hand, there is no regime like that in Europe. So they have the possibility to go there, to look, to communicate, to write and to show. I think here you have a lot of papers, magazines, TV channels, etc. So why are we so isolated?So therefore I say, let us talk. Let us work together and let us showing something. Let the artists themselves to do that. Not the ministries, not the regimes. I have nothing to do with politics and the policy of my government, or to any other government. Let us talk as artists, as educated people and as human beings. I am not very optimistic but it is not an impossible dream, isn’t it?

Floris Schreve

De Bilt, 8-8-2000

Voor recent werk, zie link: http://www.kunstexpert.com/kunstenaar.aspx?id=4481