Monday, August 27, 2007

Unstuffy diversity

Originally uploaded by Guido van Nispen
My landing to Amsterdam after weeks of holidaying was a smooth one. Uitmarkt is a free festival offering a preview to next season's cultural programming in Amsterdam. Sunny weekend and Uitmarkt made it feel like still being abroad.

Weekend's highlight was the El Hema project by Dutch cultural new media organisation Mediamatic. Let me explain it in short in my own words:

HEMA is one of the key Dutch household brands offering beautifully designed products in low prices. I and most people living in the Netherlands adore HEMA. Somehow their design concept reminds me of IKEA - beautiful does not have to be expensive.

Mediamatic wanted to test with El Hema what an Arabic version of HEMA would look like - what would the logo, the advertising and the products. The exhibition designed into a HEMA shop offered smoked halal sausage, T-shirts, scarves, wine and such. They were clear in their communication -rightly so- that the project focused on the Arabic cultures, not on islam.

When HEMA found out about the project, they sued Mediamatic for abuse of their copyrighted concept. But the story led to a happy end when HEMA realised that Mediamatic's goal was artistic and not commercial and actually the project just showed the importance of HEMA to the Dutch. Mediamatic's Director Willem Velthoven told me on Saturday that the Head of Marketing of HEMA is now in the jury of the design competition, HEMA approves the project and is already considering taking some of the products made by the artists and designers into their collection.

I think Mediamatic has once again mastered addressing stuffy subjects like multicultural society in a fresh manner. The exhibition is popular, fun, beautiful and intelligent and open for visitors until 4 November. I loved Willem's practical idealism when people asked him about the future:"After the exhibition it is up to HEMA and others what happens. We need to move to the next project." I think he is right - there is need for people setting things rolling and people who implement the realisation.

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