Football Hallelujah!

International exhibition project with six city/etnographical museums

Museum: Amsterdam Museum  website
Years: 2014-2017

Amsterdam Museum

Various domains of ICH are represented in the Amsterdam Museum. We are interested in the changes in oral traditions and language, which we collect in co-operation with the practitioners, the Dutch-speaking inhabitants of the city, for instance through the stories on our interactive website Geheugen van Amsterdam (Memory of Amsterdam) and through oral history interviews and personal testimonies in our exhibitions/museum collection. Some examples: For the Neighborhood shop exhibition we recorded on video the social interactions and conversations (and non-verbal communication) between shopkeepers and customers. In an exhibition about Amsterdam songs (street)language and the inclusion of words from other languages (Yiddish, Surinamese, Moroccan etc) in Dutch was one of the focus points. From an performing arts perspective music projects are also important for collecting practices such as singing in cafĂ©'s and festivals and interviewing artists. Collecting, showing and (internationally) comparing social practices/rituals played a major role in our exhibition on Football as the new religion. 

We also have a keen eye for new social practices such as the Keti Koti dialogue tables where rituals help to talk about the impact of slavery. The museum together with the practitioners has presented this ritual various times. We also pay attention the way ICH travels, f.i. the practice of Kopro Beki (on the Duch ICH list). The Surinamese-Amsterdam women that have revived this way of gift-giving originating in slavery, were included in our exhibition Black Amsterdam. 

As for the traditional craftsmanship: our conservators include (former) practitioners in the research around craft objects and document their creation and use. The Amsterdam Museum is represented on the board of the yearly Craft in Focus festival and is present during the festival. 

The Amsterdam Museum is moving more and more towards a museum of the contemporary (without forgetting the past). Contemporary collecting also means documentation of practices around objects. For exhibitions we work with communities and individuals that are involved in processes of selection, documentation, presentation and collecting. 

The Amsterdam Museum plays a role in discussions around ICH and the relation between material and immaterial heritage, especially in an urban context. We work with practitioners, also the ones that are not so aware of or keen on being part of an 'ICH community', for example graffiti writers, women wearing veils, football fans and hip-hop musicians. The museum takes a stand in respect to contested forms of ICH such as the Black Peter discussion, as we feel this discussion enables people to talk about the origins and changeability of social practices. 

Football Hallelujah!

Description of the project / practice / program

In the western world, the stadiums are getting fuller and the churches emptier. Is football fandom fulfilling needs and longings that were previously met by religion? Is football actually (like) a new religion? These questions inspired the international project Football Halleluja! that toured six European city and ethnographical museums. Football Halleluja! was an interactive exhibition for young and old about heroes, rituals, faith and superstition. It explored the similarities and differences between football and religion. The exhibition aimed to contrast and compare the intangible heritage of football rituals and expressions of fandom in a variety of local situations and practices. The Amsterdam Museum (Netherlands) and the Basel Historical Museum (Switzerland) took the initiative and developed the exhibition concept, which premiered in the Amsterdam Museum in 2014 and ended in Luik in 2017. 

In order to make it a global/local project, the set-up included space for each museum to tell their local story. Help from above, Saints and Idols, Places of Worship, Rituals, Rivalry, From Cradle to Grave, Symbols and Thou shall not (about exclusion and racism) were the themes that became the backbone of the exhibition's narrative. The relations between football and religion were addressed through visual similarities (a football cup next to a catholic chalice), examples of evoking gods to influence the game and the rituals in the the football stadiums, sometimes called the 'holy ground' for football fans or the 'cathedrals of today'. The section on Rituals hinted at the similarities between a football crowd and a church congregation: standing up and sitting down, chanting, using smoke and going in a procession to their respective places of worship. In my presentation I will also talk about the BloodinBloodout shirts designer Floor Wesseling created by sewing together shirts of rival clubs and esp. about the Ajax-Feyenoord (Amsterdam-Rotterdam) rivalry. In all the cities shirts embodied the main rivalries. 

I will describe the way Amsterdam, Basel, Bremen, Lyon, Luxembourg and Liege worked together and the specific angles each city choose to illuminate their local football culture. Each city added new elements coming out of co-operations, such as the video portraits about the emotions around the game (Lyon), the interaction between the church in which the museum is housed and the religious aspects of football (Basel) and the 'altar/monument' for the Red Devils in Liege. 

During a workshop the Basel and Amsterdam teams worked on development of game experiences and interactive elements to engage visitors. An audiotour, quiz, keepergame and polls traveled with the exhibition. 

How were practitioners of intangible cultural heritage involved?

The global/local concept implied that all the cities would need to reach out to the local football communities to identity themes, objects and stories for the local elements of the exhibition. To approach the Amsterdam football supporters, we found a gatekeeper: Ronald Pieloor who shared his knowledge and networks. Ronald was one of the founders of the (hard core Ajax) F-Side in 1976. He is now the fan representative in the Ajax association and has his own Youtube channel with matches and preparations seen through the eyes of an Ajax fan. We could show fragments in the exhibition. Bodily experiencing the game was important and Ronald also helped to make connections with communities and individuals in the various parts of the stadium, from the family stands and the VIP loge to the stands of the hardcore fans. During the 2014 World Cup we did fieldwork amongst Amsterdam fans, at home and in public places and added their stories and objects. Co-creation and participation were effectuated though informal meetings and an advisory group that met several times. 

We faced some challenges. With the F-Side we needed to overcome mistrust against 'the media', especially  around the controversial topic of their appropriation of the nickname Superjews - complete with star of David tattoos, Israeli flags and Hebrew marching songs. This is part of a long and complicated story about Amsterdam and its Jews. This negotiating process is one of the most interesting processes in the making  (and co-creating) of an exhibition about this subject, especially in regard to the rather negative image the hard core fans have. I will elaborate more in my presentation. 

Getting the fans to the museum was not always easy, as we had to compete with the attraction of the stadium. But they came and they participated in the interactive elements. The exhibition was regarded as fun, but also as thought provoking. For football fans it was illuminating to see their passion for their local club mirrored in the passion football fans in other cities feel for their club. For some of the non-fan museum visitors, the exhibition opened a new world where people have (near) religious feelings about football to the extent that they want to be buried in a coffin with the club colours. 

The other cities also established contacts with the local football worlds. In Lyon and Liege sport journalists helped create the exhibitions. 

Cover photo by Annemarie de Wildt

CV of the author

Annemarie de Wildt is a historian and curator at the Amsterdam Museum (NL). Her focus is on daily life, urban conflicts, culture and identity with exhibition subjects like prostitution, Amsterdam songs, sailors' tattoos, football as 'the new religion', neighborhood shops and graffiti. These exhibitions are characterized by a hybrid variety of objects, often a mix of 'high' and 'low' culture and with a strong role for human stories. She prefers to co-create exhibitions in dialogue with the people that are (re)presented. Annemarie de Wildt is a keen blogger and has published books, catalogues and articles on the practice and dilemma's of curating and (contemporary) collecting.



13 July 2018 from 12:06 to 12:06



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