About frank van den ham

Frank van den Ham was born on June 2, 1952, in Amsterdam. In the field of art and glass he is autodidact, something that, in his own words, only means that he got his knowledge from a lot of sources instead of from one formal institution. Van den Ham is best described as an artist whom tries to make different worlds visible in his work and to combine them. His fascination with the Far East and Africa and his Dutch roots make him into a wanderer between two worlds. Always searching for the supplementary, the complementary, always serching for home. An often felt home-sickness for “there” gives his work a tension and at the same time warmth that touches. Colorful, poetic compositions in glass, sometimes combined with other materials, give an often surprising view into his thoughts. He uses the technique of glass-fusing and kiln-forming. A technique that has been used for thousands of years, then was forgotten and re-discovered in the fifties of the last century. It is not in the least because of Franks work that this technique re(found) it’s place among other glass techniques. During the last 25 years Frank became an authority in his fiels. His objects are exhibited all over the world and his work can be found in many museum collections. He became a respected artist with an impressive CV. His works show a uniqueness in an abundant collection of different objects. Stories about many worlds that, in Van den Hams dreams at least, are in fact one and in which he seems to be looking for his real home. From his glass bridge between those worlds he tries to connect, to understand and to make things understood. Van den Ham lives in Indonesia. In Indonesia and South Africa he set up a small studio where craft is made. On a regular base he works there himself and he writes, with much pleasure, about what happens to him and what touches him. www.frankvandenham.nl

Culture

Dear All,

The Dutchman I meet in a restaurant is in the mood for talking. “It’s my first time here and I must say, it is much better than I thought with all those Muslims here.’ ‘First time in Indonesia?’, I ask. ‘Yes, first time in Bali, two weeks in Ubud.’

‘You know’, is my answer, ‘I don’t see a problem with the Muslims either but that is in Java then, here in Bali the majority is Hindu.’

‘Oooh’. For him it’s clearly an “Aha Erlebnis”. ‘Well, whatever, we don’t need more of that shit now do we? I really hope that they won’t attack that gay walk thing in Amsterdam.’ A not too controversial point of view I think. I tell him that I, and probably almost everyone, think the same. ‘That’s what you would hope. You know, another one of those attacks and I’m done. Nice, very nice to do something for the refugees but if this is what we get as a thank you, it won’t work. Sorry, they’ll have to go home, there is no other way. Our culture will be ruined otherwise.’

I let the conversation go because arguments like ‘they don’t have a home’ or ‘lone wolfs and the majority’ won’t work, emotion easily becomes a fight. It’s the dilemma that proper thinking, good willing people encounter. Even when we do our homework well and we do understand, if we want to be compassionate and stand for the values we say we stand for, there is still a lot of work to do around us. Simple when the weather is all sunny, more difficult but also more important to defend our values ever so strong when there is pressure. No looking away, not coloring the reality in rosy hues but also, never put people on whatever grounds in one box. The way through myself, the way to the other. I was never promised it would be easy, I have learned though why it’s a necessity. That our culture wouldn’t be able handle the coming of people that beg for refuge with us is an hilarious underestimate of the intrinsic value of our culture. The real pressure on our culture comes from the other side, from those that say they want to defend and at the same time skip value after value because it doesn’t suit them in their ‘struggle’ to defend. Or would it be their struggle to grab power at any cost?

“Supplying dreams to people that have little or nothing, is the art of the successful demagogue.”                 Ian Buruma.

Along the roads in Indonesia lots of salespeople are selling red white flags, banners and other stuff. The first groups of marching children – children marching the military way with the bully of the group up front, shouting orders – are there again. August seventeen is coming up and Indonesia will be independent for seventy-five years then. I’ll buy a flag and connect it to the gate; respect for the host. The marching children make me less happy, specially the fanatics up front make me shiver. At the same time, there is something funny about it too. It looks so very disciplined and that’s so very not Indonesian.

At the post-office the limit was reached. Standing in line turned out to be impossible for many, there were always hands or complete bodies next to you that ‘just wanted to’, when it was your turn. They’ve done something about it, there are numbers now. What an improvement! In the past one would wait in the cue – with all the hands and all the people and all the irritation that came from it – for ten minutes max. Now the pressure on the people working in the post-office is totally gone. They sit behind the counter for a minute, chat a bit, maybe help someone and then they’re gone for another fifteen minutes to… what do I know. To post a letter or a parcel: count two hours.

Of course, for all of us there are things we are not really good at. As long as no one rubs it in, we will freely admit. This week it had lasted long enough, I still didn’t find a cleaning person for the house so I decided – a first in about forty years I admit – to clean the house myself. Dusting was a lot of work but it went well, mopping the floor, I did realize that myself too, was not my forte. Nevertheless, after a full day of working and sweating like mad, I was quite satisfied with myself. The next morning, boy was I happy, a candidate applied for the job of cleaner. Relief and was I willing to agree on anything? Yes. When do you want to start, I asked. She looked around and said ‘tomorrow right away I think. This place is so dirty, it really needs to be mopped.’ Look, I know I’m not good at everything but does she really …?

Love,Frank

 

Pride

Courage doesn’t mean you never get afraid. Courage means that you don’t allow fear to stop you. Someone wrote me those words after my last blog.

Dear All

An enormous scandal in Indonesia. Tens of thousands, maybe even hundreds of thousands of kids are vaccinated with a fake vaccine. Parents were under the impression they protected their children and paid the bill, the used product came from a small factory in Java that mixed salt and water and sold it as vaccine at very reasonable prices. The stickers on the bottles were like the real stuff. Hospitals claim they didn’t know but it was remarkably cheap and they kept all the transactions out of the books. Nobody knows which kid is and which isn’t vaccinated so now they all get a new injection; not without risks if that means double vaccination is what doctors say. It doesn’t make me proud to be an Indonesian says a friend here.

“Pride”, I think about the word and wonder of what one can be proud in the fist place. The scam with the vaccines makes me think that we can be very thankful the health care as is in our country and maybe that’s a keyword. Thankful.

Pride, in the literal meaning; we see quite a lot of it lately, specially in the last few days. Proud Turks waving their flags all over Europe to celebrate that a coup failed, pride about citizenship – America First. Proud to be Dutch of whatever nationality, proud about own intelligence, proud to be member of an old family. On the republican convention in Cleveland a guy announces to be proud to be gay, here I meet proud Hindu’s as well as proud Muslims and I know plenty of proud Christians. In Amsterdam the gay pride is going on.

Is it really a good thing if we carry qualifications that were just given to us as a banner as if it were achievements? Proud to be Dutch, proud to be gay? Maybe something is wrong with me but I don’t feel any pride about it. To belong to a people, a group, a (religious)society; it’s all a gift of life itself for which we didn’t do anything to begin with. And also later, when the realization sinks in that “I am because we are”, it is still so that I may work in a garden I didn’t create myself. The ability to love someone else – gender is totally irrelevant there – is certainly something to be grateful for but did I create myself? The counterpart of pride is a feeling of superiority. To put my pride in perspective, to put thankfulness in place of, creates room for diversity and opens a door to acknowledgement and understanding of the other. A bit more thankfulness and a bit less pride about what was a gift in the first place would be a good thing. I’ll keep the pride then for when I managed to do something real good with what’s given to me. Or for when I made something really good and beautiful. But even then… all from myself, all my own doing?

It’s not profitable. The conversation is about windmills, something I know very little about. Nevertheless, not profitable, how come? You build a windmill and you get, without any further pollution, energy. That’s profit no? Is the problem that producing that mill takes more energy than it brings? No, it’s not that, it’s more expensive than other energy sources, that’s the problem. And then (again) I don’t get it. We need energy and this method doesn’t pollute the earth any further, it’s clean. Yes, but the (polluting) alternative is cheaper so it’s not profitable. I see a market with healthy and poisonous vegetables. The poisonous are way cheaper. Business?

From the net: I’ve always assumed ironing boards were surfboards that stopped pursuing their dreams and got real jobs.

Love, Frank

 

 

tomorrow again

Courage is not always roaring. Sometimes it is the soft voice that at the end of the day says: “I’ll try again tomorrow”.                                                                (source unknown)

Dear All,

The words above I found on the internet and they hit me. Hard. Difficult months; Doni left for two weeks to Lampung and never returned. Less and less courage was available and once on the track to gloomy and dark, a little is enough to go downhill even faster. The horrors that ever more frequent strike this world do that job even better. A report of 2,6 million words that, once again, proofs that the Iraq war was wrong and illegal, again hundreds of deaths in last weeks bombings in Bagdad and even then still insist that the world became a better world because of that war. South Sudan with its hundreds of thousands displaced persons celebrates its fifth birthday with the beginning of, again, a civil war. Politicians aiming for power, the population pays with suffering and often their lives. Two poisonous, rotten apples in a bin where healthy fruit hardly can be found.

No Nina Bobo on the terrace but searching for courage to comprehend all and everything … and not finding it. The small steps, the human size forgotten in the storm, with all the ado and force not noticed that soft voice. Yes, I’ll try again tomorrow.

Today I start a new blog, because of a lack of focus I didn’t come to it for a long time. A short visit to the Netherlands to teach and see some dear friends and family, in itself it was good but: ‘one takes oneself with’. After that to South Africa. A part of me will always be there I guess – you can leave Africa, Africa won’t leave you – and it was good. At the same time: everyone with eyes to see must notice that problems aren’t getting any smaller. There also politicians that are on the hunt for power and prefer to enrich themselves, the contrast between the haves and have not’s gets bigger and more visible all the time. Tension is palpable. Beautiful days nevertheless.DSC_0013

Three days in Madiwe, a wild park, eye to eye with an incredible nature and all the days the people … Believing in the possibility of a future, the country screams for that belief although it’s an almost impossible assignment for many.

The harshness in this country
cannot subdue
its softness.

In sweet voices,
loud and full,
in soft whispers,
gentle gestures,
and a happy glance,
sounds from deep and afar,
for those who wish to hear and see,
an ancient call,
yet always new:

we are brothers.

DSC_0119Over the Netherlands back to Bali. Pak Par did the garden, his wife cleaned the house and all looks good. It’s an exception she did this, in principle she stopped working to babysit her granddaughter. That is, looking at all the debts the family has, quite an impossible thing to do but, nevertheless, that’s how it goes. The ceremonies in the meantime don’t stop, if there is one the granddaughter is brought to an expensive day care. A small world with, sometimes big, problems and still they manage. Courage for life is abundant, there is a lot to learn for me. What’s happening in the world is practically unknown to most Balinese and sometimes that’s not so bad at all.

Mohammed Benzakour, a Dutch writer, wrote a letter in the name of allah as a reaction to all the bombings and lust for murder in the name of a god.

Allahu’akbar — yes, most certainly. I’m great, magnificent and great. But not in the sense your limited brain thinks I am. I am great because am in All. Because I’m part of everything and everything is part of me, until the smallest spire, the tiniest spider. That should make you profoundly humble.

A little drop but if only one man would change his point of view. I’ll try again tomorrow.

Love, Frank

The fact that, when I came home after a trip with (too) much good food and excellent wines, the scales in the bathroom was stolen should be seen as an act of love, initiated by the gods here. I can ignore the scope of it.

 

To give in or not.

Dear All,

Why it takes so long to write a new blog, I don’t really know. Sometimes one ends up in the waist-basket, too negative, but often there seems to be not much to write about. All goes well, everything works. In the studio we’re working hard to complete a collection of jewelry and there also we make progress. Soon more about it, for now some pictures.

Only a week ago I wrote to a friend that things here were not as bad as they look, the last few days all sorts of information come in that are worrisome. In what might be an attempt of politicians to divert the public attention from an attack on the KPK, the body that fights corruption, all of a sudden there is a focus on LGBT people. Sometimes almost funny, more often shocking, never positive.

Children that eat too much instant noodles have a big chance to become gay and gay people are a bigger threat to the country than nuclear weapons. It’s wisdom of respectively the mayor of Tanggerang and the minister of defense. After their admission to an institute for mental handicapped one could afford a compassionate smile; poor, poor confused people. But that’s not what happened, their words were often met with approval.

The society of psychiatrists and psychologists in this country has, nostalgia, 40 years back in time, declared homosexuality officially a mental disease. It can be cured though … is what they say.

Yesterday an Islamic (!) school for transgenders in Yogyakarta was closed by the authorities after the FJI, a group of extremists, earlier “visited” the school and intimidated teachers and students alike. The leader of the group lets us know that they can only go back to school after they give up their transgender attitude and repent. “Till then their prayers will not be heard” he says, fully convinced that he can talk in the name of god.

A small demonstration of LGBT people in Yogyakarta yesterday was forbidden by the police with the same argument that’s used to forbid everything that doesn’t the please the powers that are, including churches that have been there for years; no permit or a threat to public order.

The censor in the meantime is overactive. Men in female clothes, gay language (???) and female gestures by men on television are forbidden as of now. To avoid further contamination emoji’s, small pixel things on social media, that show two boys or two girls are taboo as well. Also rainbow colors may not be used in emoji’s. Bye bye Mrs. Doubtfire, bye bye Tootsie. Hello Arch Tutu with your rainbow nation, what the hell are you doing?

No, it doesn’t bother us (yet) and my TV appearances were on decline anyway but still … it’s not funny, not really. For those who might think that all this comes from a certain direction: this week 4 religious organizations came with a proposal to forbid every support and or tolerance of LGBT groups. One of them was the Catholic Bishop Conference of Indonesia.

The silence, the subjection (and too often agreement) with which all of this is received in this country doesn’t appease. The accommodating attitude of the authorities when it’s about fanatics is shocking. In the same mood all red light district will be closed and demolished. Prostitution won’t exist anymore, problem solved.

“A people that gives in to tyrants will loose more that life and goods, the light will be extinguished” is a text written by van Randwijk on a monument to commemorate the victims of WOII in The Netherlands. Ah no, I don’t think the president here knows about that monument, nor would he know this text.

Today Bas Heijne wrote in a newspaper “You can’t have humane politics without being humane yourself.” It was about The Netherlands of course, about two rightwing parties bashing the national advisor on human rights (for children) when he came to unwanted conclusions. He could have been talking to Indonesia as well, or many other countries for that matter. Selfishness and egoism dressed up as compassion; it’s maybe more dangerous than the blunt denial of the importance of humaneness. The Trumps and Wilders of this world find, unfortunately, enough supporters but anyone who is willing to listen to his or her own heart and has ears to hear what those fanatics really say will realize something in their views is not okay.

It’s the “Support refugees in their own region” but not provide the funds to do so, the measures that complicate the situation of refugees in the Netherlands that are actually meant to dis-encourage, the “we do our very best” but make asylum seekers wait for 22 months before a decision is taken and forbid them to work or do anything useful in the meantime, it’s that concealed way of acting and communicating that makes most victims. Also here in Indonesia the measures against LGBT are, of course, taken in their own interest. “We have to help them and we can do that best by forbidding their activities.

And the KPK? No worries, the KPK will be made toothless soon. It takes some planning, some tact, some mystifying and a good timing but it will work. How else could one buy his way into parliament? Where would things end if one cannot retrieve his investment by accepting bribes?

Doni is in Lampung for two week so I have all the time to be annoyed and worked up by lots of things. Yesterday Zoef didn’t trust it anymore, what he never did before: he went into the bedroom and jumped into the (high) bed. After inspecting the sheets for a while he had, disappointed, to admit: he really wasn’t there. We both miss him.

Love, Frank

DSC_0005

 

 

Visionary view

Dear All

In Yogyakarta again to do the last check before the furniture goes to Africa. Also this time not without difficulties; only after three days of getting up early early and motoring to the airport the flight departs, the first two attempts the airport is closed because of an eruption of a volcano on Lombok. The trip back doesn’t go smooth either; in Yogyakarta a plane slid of the tarmac, delays and an airport full of irritated people that had been waiting for many hours. Nevertheless, the furniture looks very good and is in the meantime on its way to Africa.

Morning-coffee. We both read the news, I on my laptop, Doni on his smartphone and we both arrive at the same time at the disaster in Paris. A long time we talk about it. The criminals whom want to incite a total war between Muslims and the rest of the world and the many people that will fall for it and will have a reflex of hate. The latter something that Doni, being a Muslim himself, doesn’t fail to experience. We talk about the anger, fear and sadness that people will feel, about all the condolences that go to the people of Paris and also about the selective way of looking that’s common in this world. The attack on a Russian plane nor the terrorist attacks in Beirut the day before evoke that many reactions; no Lebanese, Syrian or Russian flags over Facebook profiles. The message that we are all brothers, that we live in one world, care about each other and will have to do it together remains mostly just that: a message that isn’t supported by actions. And no, we didn’t distance ourselves of what happened; from normal people, Muslim or not, not one sensible person will expect that. The ridiculous sorting of people in boxes based on their religion, attribute sick ideas to them and then demand excuses and denunciation, it’s a madness we don’t join in. Between all the nonsense that comes to us about refugees a Dutch artist did put things in the right perspective in a tweet. “Do remember that those refugees fled a hell similar or even worse than that in Paris.”

Our prime minister philosophises about the coming Dutch chairman-ship of the EU. He wants to tackle ‘big problems’. Very good although some of his priorities are disputable. It his remark that he’s not interested in visionary views that is saddening and explorative. Tackle problems without a vision about the future; the drama of politics. Again and again, visionless and with the future not in sight, the wrong regimes are supported and we are perplexed about the bills that, often many years later, fall on our doormat. The criminals who thought to solve ‘problems’ in Iraq, without the slightest idea about reality and future became, as written in a recent article, the mother of Daesh (isis). The father, Saudi Arabia, still enjoys our support because of oil and their generous payment of armament. That the bombs on Syria that kill many civilians as well do sow deep hatred is, for those who are willing to think about consequences and future, clear from the start. Also to see that a hostile attitude towards refugees finally will destroy the roots of our own society, that blatant egoism erases the connectedness that supports our very existence, is something that only those with a willingness to apply a vision will see. Poor country, poor world where politicians for whom vision is a difficult word determine. “Where ideological poignancy is willingly buried and the language is that of economic interest” says a professor at a Dutch university and he makes a connection with secularisation. I don’t think secularisation it the problem though. Being freed of rigid rules and interpretations is a win. Loosing our feel for connectedness though, ignoring the religious feelings that exist in every human being (religare – connect) puts us outside the shelter that being brother and sister is, throws us back in a cold space of self interest and brings loneliness in a world that we’ve made the enemy instead of loving it.

I finish this blog, again, in Yogyakarta. This time we are here to order a machine to grind glass. A number of attempts to do so in Bali failed due to the disinterest of potential suppliers. It goes well in Bali. We in the meantime got frustrated by endless trips on the motorbike on roads full of traffic jams in extreme heat, looking for addresses that were hard to find to, finally, endure another disappointment. In Yogya we found a factory that can do it, a technician whom quite understood what we need, he even came up with lots of useful suggestions. We are optimistic again. And we have good times. We laugh a lot and find happiness in the small things that make life beautiful, often together with our friends here, of whatever religion. There are many nice views in that.

Love, Frank.

 

 

 

Miscellaneous

Dear All

It was time to have the coconut trees cleaned up. Once in while that has to be done; coconuts do fall down sooner or later, that it could target a human head is something nature didn’t think of. The same goes for the gigantic leaves that sometimes come down with much tumult, amputating limbs of colleague plants in the process, not to mention what happens when you’re under it. Pak Made was here and climbed the trees effortless (see the puzzle below) and took away all that was ripe or rotten, the result is a considerable crop of coconuts. The garden in the meantime looks wonderful with flowers everywhere and green, green, green. The rainy season still didn’t come but Doni waters the garden twice a day and the garden blooms like never before.

IMG_2292 IMG_2297

Made’s warung, a small restaurant nearby. Saturday night, an arak with honey, the food is good and we take our time. In a corner of the restaurant stands a little temple where, when we arrive, the owner is busy with a little bell, softly uttering her prayers. Later she starts to sing. She too takes her time, it’s more then an hour before she’s done. I often doubt the use and the intentions of all the ceremonies here and still, when I see this sort of stillness….

In 1965 an enormous massacre took place in Indonesia. Under the pretext of communism the new president Suhartp – before an unknown general – aloowed more then a million people to be killed. Each and everyone that was suspected of the wrong sympathies was slaughtered, it also was a good opportunity to deal with old conflicts. The story is that in Bali the rivers were red of blood. The surviving relatives, ‘children of communists’, got a mark on their ID and were not allowed to make use of the few facilities this country offers, for them no university, no health care, no nothing. The rest of the world, what’s new?, stayed quiet. Since the downfall of Suharto the freedom of speech in Indonesia increased and slowly this sort of tragedies could be talked about, always carefully. The present president even promised apologies to the victims and surviving relatives when he would be elected. The army and the police, not bothered by democratic control and still in the possession of a lot of power. Not for the first time the president was called back and swallowed his excuses. The censor is back.

The Ubud writers festival, close by, this year wanted some focus on what happened now fifty years ago. They could choose: remove those parts from the program or no festival at all. ‘Well, let those thousand of visitors come’, I would think, put a message on the door ‘closed because of censor’. Maybe that will teach them. Alas, they choose to remove the obnoxious parts of the program. A chance missed!

The previous help left, the successor mainly wanted more money and more days of; we had to go on a search again. My, actually rather solid, excuse for a help is that living on a visa for pensioners I’m obliged to give work to at least one Indonesian. Not so easy, finding a help I mean. But Pak Made knew someone. Later he called and told that the person he had in mind couldn’t do it after all but that his daughter was interested. ‘Can I come by with her?’ ‘Fine’ and there they came. The daughter was just 14 and wanted to know if it was okay if she brought her little sister to work… Uh no, that was not our solution. In the meantime we found a nice lady from a village nearby and we’re happy with the way she works. We do our best to keep her happy as well.

IMG_2289

Doni works hard to master several techniques with glass, it goes well. The ‘Studio Ilham Collection’ is on its way, soon the first pictures. You might as well start to make some room, there will be lamps you’re going to buy. And oh, for those to whom it wasn’t clear from the last blog; yes together we have beautiful times.

Love, Frank

Almost full.

In Saudi Arabia a young man, 21 years old, will be beheaded. Protest against the government when he was 17 so you’ll understand. After the beheading the body will be crucified and showed to the public. Now before you say anything: Saudi Arabia is our friend so no comment okay? Human rights have no longer priority anyway, trade comes first is what the UK government let us know. Yes, they’re honest about it.

Loveyour

Dear All

A somewhat short blog since the first part is so about the Netherlands that you wouldn’t have a clue what I’m writing about. Angry, see my last blog. My mother used to say it’s double work, you’ll have to find piece again as well. The first is remarkably easier than the latter I notice. Still, it has to be done, if only to keep myself out of the camps of the radicals and lunatics. The essential is invisible to the eye; in the media not more than a glimpse, in daily life a word or a deed that is so logical that it doesn’t attract any attention. After the attack by twenty sick souls on an asylum seekers center in the Netherlands hundreds of people came to show their solidarity and to bring gifts. Besides all the dirt on facebook it’s not hard to see that most people do keep compassion high, it’s just that the idiots shout a bit louder. Glass half full or half empty? Good will chooses for almost full.

Not angry anymore? Sometimes yes, mostly not. To build bridges anger is an obstacle, it’s clear whereto the wind should blow. Sometimes a bridge collapses, that happens too. With P. and his wife I had a very good relation for years and all of a sudden something went wrong. What? I don’t know. “Talk about it” is not a habit here, much easier to insist, in spite of all indicators, that nothing is wrong at all. My own thinking about what might be the cause didn’t result in the slightest idea. So I don’t know but with the pretext “too busy” his wife stopped working here and P doesn’t drop by anymore, de facto the contact is gone. Not your fault is what Doni says so just forget about it. He’s right, now doing just that…

Versie 5

Doni. I know Doni for almost ten years now and in those years we spent a few weeks together now and then. Last week he came to Bali again. The plan is that he starts a little business and although there are some obstacles we hope to continue the road together. A month Bali and then two weeks Lampung, a month Bali and two weeks Lampung, and so on. It’s not ideal but this is what’s possible, we want to make something good out of it. Half empty? Almost full!

Earlier this week we went to Yogyakarta to inspect furniture for Africa and to take care of the shipping. Zoef the dog went to a dog-hotel because since the problems with the P’s the solution to leave him there is gone too. Give it time, all will be alright.

And at least the weather is good is what D. used to say. And so it is.

Love, Frank