Saturday 18 November will be a very special day for the Dutch community in New Zealand. On that day, the Te Awahou Nieuwe Stroom facility in Foxton will open its doors. Several clubs have already booked busses to Foxton and it is great to see that everyone is right behind this project. The north side of the building will house Oranjehof Dutch Connection Centre, our national exhibition about Dutch migrants in New Zealand, how we have made home here, what makes us unique, what we have contributed to New Zealand society, and what connections exist between our two countries.
Opening day will be a huge event and we are literally expecting ten thousands of people. This means that everyone will have limited time in the building, tours will only take about ten minutes, and I urge everybody to come back another day for a more thorough look. The Oranjehof exhibition starts with a welcome wall, in which we paint a picture of Dutch people in New Zealand and compare the Netherlands with New Zealand in terms of what kind of country they are.
The next section of the exhibition is the Tasman room, with the stunning tile tableau designed and produced by Dutch New Zealand potter Anneke Borren. Many of you will enjoy seeing the name tiles that you sponsored many years ago. In this room you can also learn more about what exactly happened in the encounter between Tasman and his men and the Mãori of Ngãti Tümatakõkiri.
Next is the ‘home abroad’ section, in which you can learn more about the reasons why different Dutch migrants came here. This section includes a huiskamer, fitted out with a whole lot of items that you have given to us in the past years. There will also be interactives that will allow you to explore migrant stories. Next is the part of the exhibition in which we explain the different ways in which Dutch migrants have contributed to New Zealand society, business and the arts.
The section thereafter explains what we Dutch people are all about and visitors will also be able to engage in some activities here (sjoelen!, dress ups!, taking a selfie in front of a field of tulips!). Finally, at the end of the exhibition visitors can look up information on computers and learn more about how New Zealand and the Netherlands connect with each other. The exhibition gives a very full picture of what we are all about and I sincerely hope that all visitors, people with a Dutch background but also all other New Zealanders, will enjoy the experience of walking through the exhibition. Big congratulations to my fellow Dutch Connection trust members and design company Workshop E for making it all happen.
The exhibition is actually more a means than an end in itself and I hope that lots of conversations will start from what is displayed. To facilitate this, we are currently organising a volunteer programme that will not only service Oranjehof but also De Molen. We want to offer visitors an integrated experience and will need lots of people on the ground. Apart from the Dutch Connection Trust and the Foxton Windmill Trust the Dutch Club Manawatu is involved in organising this volunteer programme and it is great to see several members of the Federation work together.
Unfortunately I will not be able to attend the opening myself, I will be in the Netherlands for work and visiting family and friends. I want to wish everyone who is coming to Foxton on 18 November a fantastic day and I hope to see many of you at Te Awahou Nieuwe Stroom from December onwards.
This article was first published in De Schakel October/November 2017 edition. Joost de Bruin is the President of the Federation of New Zealand Netherlands Societies.