Choose Our Piece of the Year / Stuk van het Jaar

30 July 2013

Update 03/10/2013: The national competition is now open! Please vote for the Expatriate Archive Centre:

Voting closed on 27th August. The piece chosen was “Making Alcohol in Libya, 1972”. It has been entered into the national competition and voting will open in October during History Month.

Help us select an interesting piece from our collection of expatriate life stories to submit to this year’s Stuk van het Jaar (Piece of the Year) competition. The competition will take place in October, to coincide with the annual Maand van de Geschiedenis (History Month). Many archives in the Netherlands are participating, and we expect to see some beautiful, unusual, and interesting records submitted.

It was hard work narrowing our selection down to just a few pieces, but we have found five which represent the diversity of our collection. Please select the one that really captures your imagination. The piece that receives the most votes will be entered into the national competition at the end of August, so you have until 23rd August to vote.

Choose Your Favourite Piece

Sinterklaas and Zwarte Piet in Nigeria, 1966

stuk-sinterklaas-full Photo taken by a Dutch family living in Nigeria, of Sinterklaas and Zwarte Piet arriving in Port Harcourt. The family were in Nigeria because the husband worked for Shell; they moved from The Hague in 1966 and returned due to civil war in Nigeria in 1967. The wife wrote (translated from the original Dutch): “It really was like in Holland, the only difference was the temperature, around 30 degrees and the burning sun was shining down… Now you could see him (Sinterklaas) and his helpers (Zwarte Pieten) in their costumes suffering: the sweat was running down their faces – and with it their colour. There were many light stripes in the Piets’ faces. Then we asked ourselves what on earth the Nigerians were thinking when they saw all this.”

Snake Man Potions in 1970s Nigeria

stuk-snakeman-fullThis price list is from “The Head of Snake Chairman” visiting a Shell camp in 1970s Warri in Nigeria. The many exotic potions listed include “Medicine for Promotion”, “To prevent bad Juju”, “To go in contact with woman and no disease”, “Medicine to catch Thieves” and more. The piece comes from a collection donated by a Canadian man who joined Shell in 1952 and was posted to Borneo, Venezuela, Nigeria, and the Netherlands. As he explains in the note attached to the list, “The “Snake Man” used to visit the Warri Club on regular basis. Always had a basket full of hooded cobras. Got 5 or 6 of them to bite his arm and went round with them hanging from his arm trying to get the audience to buy his various medicines against snake bite and just about everything else as you can see from his attached price-list”.

Making Alcohol in Libya, 1972

stuk-homebrew-fullFrom a fascinating collection donated by a Dutch couple who moved all over the world – including Saudi Arabia, Pakistan, Turkey, Iraq, Congo, Libya, Sierra Leone, and Nigeria – because of the husband’s job with KLM. In his account of his family’s time in Tripoli, Libya, from 1971 – 1974 he recounts what life was like for foreigners. Clubs were forbidden and you could not have more than 8 people in your house without permission, and if permission was granted, there would be two Libyans standing outside the house on guard. The family began to make their own alcohol, in a country where the sale and consumption of alcohol is banned, with a detailed account of the process included in the collection – starting with a pressure cooker which was found to be too small, and eventually progressing to jerrycans and milk churns.

Life Story Recovered from a Flea Market

stuk-manuscript-fullAn elderly man cleared out his house, throwing away all his personal items that he thought no-one would be interested in anymore. Into the bin went his photo albums, letters and children’s drawings – mostly from his time in Barranquilla, Colombia, where he worked for Chevron/Shell in the 1940s. Somehow, all these items ended up bundled together on a stall in a flea market. They were discovered by a collector, who managed to trace the owner. The old man was happy that someone was interested in his story, and gave the collector an additional piece – a manuscript of a book that he had never managed to get published. The book tells of the author’s experiences during the World War II, before he became an expat, including the tale of a nameless girl on a bicycle who came to his rescue during an encounter with German police. The collector donated it to our archive with the rest of the collection, ensuring that the manuscript and bundle will be preserved together for posterity.

Neptune Diploma for Crossing the Equator, 1947

stuk-equator-fullIn a tradition that continues to this day, new sailors in the Navy are given an initiation ceremony the first time they cross the Equator. More experienced sailors form a “Court of Neptune” and various rituals are performed with the initiates, to ensure that they are – as the certificate says – hardy enough to handle all the hazards that lie ahead in their journey. This certificate was presented to Jan Bruinsma in such a ceremony in 1947. Jan was conscripted in 1946 when he was 20, and the following year left the Netherlands for the first time on the boat MV ‘Johan van Oldenbarnevelt’. The boat was bound for Indonesia, travelling via the Rock of Gibraltar, Port Said in Egypt, the Gulf of Suez, the Red Sea, Aden in Yemen, and then across the Indian Ocean. Jan returned to the Netherlands in 1950, but his collection at our archive continues later when his son began working at the Ministry of Foreign Affairs.