What did people from Europe see when they travelled to the Middle East and North Africa? The area that used to be called The Orient? For hundreds of years, those people have been writing books. In later years they also take photographs of what they see. With that, they sketch a picture of an unknown world.
What did people from Europe see when they travelled to the Middle East and North Africa? The area that used to be called The Orient? For hundreds of years, those people have been writing books. In later years they also take photographs of what they see. With that, they sketch a picture of an unknown world. A picture of the Holy Land where Jesus had lived, of countries with sensual, sometimes threatening, fascinating, and exciting people. Those who remain at home get a lot of pleasure out of it. The stories and pictures seem like fairy tales. It does not really matter how much of it is true. People fall for these stories. Books, film posters, picture postcards, and photographs in this exhibition show you where the Western perspective on the East comes from. For centuries, that perspective has been coloured by prejudices and interests. The images and ideas linger very persistent. What do Kader Abdolah, Abdelkader Benali, Hassnae Bouazza, Shervin Nekuee en Mirjam Shatanawi think of this? Travel with us and tell us your own story.
AN UNFAMILIAR WORLD
For centuries, people have told exciting stories about the Orient. Where they come from and who tells them, is a fascinating history. At the end of the 11th century, the Pope calls on the Christians in Europe to free Jerusalem from Muslims. Hundreds of thousands of believers, often knights, but civilians as well, set off on foot on a Crusade. Until the 13th century, there were no less than eight of these journeys which we would now call wars. Because Muslims and European Christians are enemies, they have little contact. The Western world knows almost nothing about the more eastern areas in Asia. Marco Polo is a merchant from Venice and an explorer. By the end of the 13th century he travels to Persia, China, and Indonesia and writes about what he sees and experiences. Gradually, this world unfolds for Europeans. In the 19th century Christians are the ones who want to travel to the Holy Land to see the things that were described in the Bible with their own eyes.
It could well be the most famous narrative in the whole world: “The Tales of 1001 Nights”, or, in short, “1001 Nights.” King Shahryar, whose wife has been unfaithful to him, sleeps with a different virgin every night. The next morning, he has them executed out of revenge towards women. Until the clever Scheherazade tells him a story that is so thrilling that he wants to know how it ends. And so, she keeps telling him stories, for one thousand and one nights. The stories have been recorded in India, Iran, Iraq, Egypt, and Greece. Some date as far back as before the Christian era, some were recorded in the Middle Ages. Other stories, such as those about Aladdin, Ali Baba, and Sinbad, were not added by Western writers until the 18th century. The Western ideas about the East rely heavily on the fairy tales from 1001 nights. Countless readers assume that this is the way the Arabs live. Through these love stories, romances of chivalry, animal fables, travel reports and erotic stories, people from Europe come into contact with harems, sultans, donkey drivers, slaves and knights, animals and spirits.