In the sixth edition, we visited IHILIA, which is an archive of LGBTQ+-related books at the Amsterdam Public Library, and Queer Currents; an event that’s about discussing queer-related art and culture.
– Also Japan’s leading gay magazine, ‘Barazoku’.IHILIA collects books from around the world to preserve LGBTQ+ history for future generations.
IHILIA has been archiving LGBTQ+ books from all over the world for over 44 years, since its predecessor organization was founded in 1978 at the Faculty of Homostudies at the University of Amsterdam.
Since its move to the Amsterdam Public Library, it is now in its 15th year. It is run by about 40 people, including regular staff like Tia Sibel and Gerrit Wessel, who we will talk to, plus volunteer staff.
Here, around 200,000 items are stored. From books and magazines to articles, pamphlets and annual report documents, as well as handouts at Pride events. The archive contains items from over 150 countries and 60 languages, including the Japanese gay magazine ‘Barazoku’.
Most of the items that are stored within the archive haven been donated. However, recently they have been actively purchasing books that specialize in transgender and intersex issues, this is done in order to promote more diverse perspectives on the matter.
The digital collection (scanned paper data) was also collected in cooperation with LGBT organizations in Eastern and Southern Europe. They are available to most people who apply to view them.
At the time of the interview, there was also an exhibition of valuable material from the 1998 Gay Games in Amsterdam. Many visitors from the library stopped by to take a look at this special exhibition.
‘We haven’t been able to collect many things from Japan, partially because of the language differences and physical distance. We would love to get a hold of some, especially since there are so little books that write about lesbian themes. We also accept donations from abroad, so if you are interested, please let us know!” said Tia Sibille.
We also asked her as to why she decided to work for IHILIA: “It is very important to know the history of the community I belong to. It’s rewarding to be able to provide an essential archive on that. As a prerequisite, I feel fulfilled working as a part of the LGBTQ+ community.”
Gerrit Wessel said: “I enjoy being able to learn new knowledge from collections from all over the world. Working at IHILIA is also a learning opportunity for me, as we organize exhibitions in the Amsterdam Public Library four times a year, and it is a pleasure to be able to give people outside the community the opportunity to experience this knowledge and history”.
ーーIf you believe that the Pride brochures, club event flyers and distributed goods that you have received will become important historical documents decades from now, you might want to save them.
You could even provide additional value to these items by donating them to IHILIA. We hope that you will choose to keep holding onto them in order to preserve LGBTQ+ history for the future generations; rather than throwing them away because it appears to have been worn out…
ーー “It’s not just fun, PRIDE AMSTERDAM should also have events that tell serious stories”. Queer Currents transmits diverse ways of life through art and culture
The next stop was at Queer Currents, which is an event that discusses queer-related art and culture. The representative, Gijis Stokes, is a publisher and curator of art, design and fashion.
He started this event in 2019. He started it with the intention that PRIDE AMSTERDAM; which at the time had a strong festival flavor, should also include talk events to discuss more serious topics.
In the lounge of THE STUDENT HOTEL, where the event was held, entries to the Pride Photo Award, for which he is a board member, were on display. In addition, a VR video experience and talk events produced by a transgender organization were held in a separate room.
Despite its location away from the center of Amsterdam, the exhibition was crowded with all sorts of people. One of the reasons for this, is that the hotel is a safety zone that is opened up to all members of the LGBTIQ+ community, even going as far as to changing its name to THE PRIDE HOTEL during the PRIDE period.
We noticed that some of the photographs on display have been painted over with black spray paint. When I ask him about this, he replied: ‘A very small group of people sometimes engage in this kind of behavior out of a sense of mischief. The photos themselves are exhibited in the exhibition.
It is heartbreaking, but it is also necessary to visualize the violence. We want to show that the Netherlands is perceived as a free and tolerant country, but that misconduct and violence like this still exists. I hope this will create an opportunity to talk about the eradication of heterosexual standard”, he explained.
He continues, “I think art has the ability to make you reacquaint yourself with things. It can be a key to open up the viewer’s life, baggage, pain and… lost feelings”.
ーーI feel that there are limits to what can be conveyed in words – the power of art in order to emotionally express LGBTQ+ people’s feelings is very powerful.
Interview and text/Haga Takashi
Interpreter/Kuwabara Karin (Saw Communications)
Cooperation/ The Embassy of the Kingdom of the Netherlands in Japan, Dutch Culture
Article produced by/ newTOKYO
※This interview was conducted as part of a visitors program organized by the Embassy of the Kingdom of the Netherlands in Japan.