TRC Blog: Textile Moments

The Stadskanaal embroidered kerchief, part 3

Following up on previous blogs, we can now relatively safely identify the embroidered kerchief from Stadskanaal. In the previous blog, we tentatively linked the kerchief to the internment camp 'Ons Belang', constructed in Stadskanaal immediately after the end of World War II, in order to house former collaborators with the Germans. We now have confirmation of this hypothesis: One of the embroidered names is that of Tony Bijland, to whose name is added the embroidered word 'zwemster' (swimmer [fem.]).

Tony Bijland was a female swimming champion who was particularly active in the early 1940s. Born in 1923/24, she trained in Hilversum with the HZC swimming club. In various war-time newspaper articles she is linked to the 'Nationale Jeugdstorm' (the Dutch variant of the Hitlerjugend). She joined the 'European youth swimming championships' in (German) Breslau in 1941. She was interviewed for the Deutsche Zeitung in den Niederlanden (Thursday, 13 July 1944; with photograph). Whether or not she sympathised with the German occupying forces remains unknown. We should not forget she was very young at the time, but it does explain her presence in the internment camp in 1945. How she ended up there, and how and why her name appeared on an embroidered handkerchief, remains a moot point.

Gillian and Willem Vogelsang, 14 April 2015

   

Stadskanaal kerchief, continued

The plot thickens. Last week we told you about a commemorative kerchief from Stadskanaal, a small town in the northeast of The Netherlands. We added that the kerchief included the embroidered signatures of some twenty-five names, plus references to the town of Stadskanaal, the name of 'Ons Belang', and two dates in the year 1945. This week we have received really interesting information from various sides.

As a result the story has unexpectedly taken a new twist. As pointed out to us (Deandra de Looff, many thanks!), the name of 'Ons Belang' was not only that of the local straw board factory, but also that of a temporary internment camp for men and women arrested for collaboration with the Germans. In fact, the camp was 'opened' on 7th May, some three weeks after the liberation of the area, and remained in use well into 1946. The camp was located on the premises of the straw carton factory, 'Ons Belang', hence of course the name of the camp. The initials J.K. that were embroidered on the kerchief, as we initially read them, could in fact also be read as I.K., for 'Internerings Kamp', as Deandra de Looff suggested. Furthermore, the embroidered names, as suggested by another correspondent, are not local, and likely represent people from outside Stadskanaal (thank you, Jacco Pranger).

The dates on the kerchief, which could be read as 17 May 1945 and 5 September 1945, may have been of great importance to the camp, the internees or their guards.

We will continue this intriguing piece of research, based on a simple handkerchief given to us by the owner of a local Leiden curio shop. It may well reflect a darker and hidden aspect of Dutch post-war history. We will keep you posted.

Gillian and Willem Vogelsang, 12 April 2015

   

Commemorative kerchief from Stadskanaal, May 1945

Saturday, 4th April 2015: While visiting a curio shop in Leiden, we were looking at some old textiles, including part of a mid-19th century Cashmire style shawl. But among the various textile items there was also an embroidered kerchief worked in a red and beige cotton thread. It is an example of a commemorative embroidery, albeit on a small scale. The embroidery includes a central text that reads Stadskanaal J.K. 17-5-1945 Ons Belang 5-9-45. Surrounding it are numerous signatures.

Embroidered kerchief, internment camp, 1945. TRC Collection

Embroidered kerchief, internment camp, 1945. TRC Collection

Stadskanaal is a town in the province of Groningen in the northeast of the Netherlands. Ons Belang ('Our interest') was the name of a company producing straw-board.  It was opened in 1910, one of numerous socialist co-operatives that were established in the early 20th century in the Netherlands. The date on the embroidery is no doubt of particular importance: the nearby major town of Groningen was liberated from the Germans by mainly Canadian troops in mid-April 1945.

Ons Belang changed its name several times in the 1960s and 1970s and in 1978 the company was closed down. If you have any information about the people, company or what happened on the 17 May 1945 at the company please let us know.

Gillian and Willem Vogelsang, 4 April 2015

 

   

Afghan woman with iron underwear

Perhaps I am becoming a bit of a fetishist, but after my blog of last week about some Afghan young men wearing a burqa to protest against the suppression of women's liberties in Afghanistan, there is another media report that drew my attention, again from Kabul. This time it is an Afghan performance artist, the 27-year old Kubra Khademi, who for eight (!) minutes walked the streets of Kabul wearing a kind of suit of armour over her normal clothing, with large metal breasts and buttocks, to protest against, as it is reported, the endemic harassment she and other Afghan women have to endure when they go out into the streets. A brave gesture, since she had to go into hiding after her performance. Yet, she told the reporter that there was one young boy, about ten years old, that got the message: "Look at that girl: she does not want to be touched."

Willem Vogelsang, 12 March 2015

   

Kimono exhibition in the SieboldHuis, Leiden

Back of a Japanese kimono created by Itchiku Kubota, on display in the SieboldHuis, Leiden, The Netherlands

Back of a Japanese kimono created by Itchiku Kubota, on display in the SieboldHuis, Leiden, The Netherlands

Last night a friend and I went to the opening of a new exhibition, called Zijden Pracht (‘Silk Splendour’) at the Japanmuseum SieboldHuis, Rapenburg 19, Leiden, The Netherlands. The kimomos on display come from the Kubota Collection, Japan. The exhibition is curated by Linda Hanssen.

The exhibition focuses on the hand dyed kimonos made by the Japanese master textile dyer, Itchiku Kubota (1917-2003). Some of the kimonos took forty dye baths, 300 colours and up to a year to be created. The garments can be viewed (and worn) as individual items, but some of them were made and decorated as part of a series ('winter', 'autumn', 'universe') and can thus be placed next to each other to create a scroll-like painting, with the design moving from one kimono to the next. The attention to detail, in the main design, background patterns, and the overall effect, is truly amazing. These are the work of someone who has not just mastered his craft, but has shown to be a true genius.

There are sixteen kimonos on display and they are truly unbelievable. If you have the chance to see the garments then it becomes much easier to understand the intense amount of work involved in creating just one of these kimonos, let alone the various series. And it will leave you reeling.

The exhibition will be on display until the 31st May 2015, and if you are in Leiden then this is a MUST for anyone who loves textiles. It is not often you get a chance to see such works of art (literally) and these kimonos are simply and utterly stunning items.

Gillian Vogelsang, 7 March 2015

   

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