It’s Monday again, and I’m still recuperating from a bustling weekend in my hometown. In the first weekend of July there is always the kick off for a month full of activities in the historical center of Leiden. Starting the last Thursday of June, for four days you can enjoy all the attractions of the annual Laken Festival; there’s the Crazy Boat procession, the cloth and bric-à-brac market, the dragon boat race and many live music performances. But what I like most are the annual Food Festival, and the Night of the Museum.
At the Food Festival you can try and taste small-sized platters from 20 different local restaurants who all serve a menu of three or four different courses. This year’s winning menu was from the restaurant Tendenz who had a stewed lamb, a cream of eggplant, and a tandoori mayonnaise. I also tried another restaurant’s menu. Restaurant Dartel served a mousse of scallops with a cream of carrots, and caviar from seaweed.
When our belly was full, it was time to catch some culture! From 8 p.m. till 1 a.m. all museums opened their doors giving us access to their exhibitions, hosted parties with Deejays, food and all kinds of art activities and workshops. First stop was the National Museum of Antiquities where many treasures from rich ancient cultures are on display. Somehow I never managed to visit this museum before. We saw treasures from the ancient Egyptians, Greeks and Romans, and a world-class collection of mummies and sarcophagi. Very impressive! I particularly liked the special temporary exhibition “The Gardens of the Faraos”. The exhibition room was breathtaking with colorful illustrations on the floor and side panels of the display cases.
Second stop was Leiden’s Siebold House. Here you can see the most beautiful exhibits from ancient and modern Japan in a historic Dutch house. Seven rooms, each with its own distinct ambience, show you thousands of natural, artistic and cultural treasures. There are prints, fossils, ceramics, mounted animals, ancient maps and thousands of other treasures, all collected in the nineteenth century by German doctor Philipp Franz von Siebold. The highlight for me was the origami workshop where we folded a crane.
Our last stop was the National Museum of Ethnology where you can make a pretend world trip, travelling from Indonesia to Africa and from North America to China. The museum houses art treasures thousands of years old, Inca and Aztec statues, Chinese paintings and African bronzes. One of the Museum Night’s attraction was the Chinese painter and artist Mr Wu Park. You could buy one of his paintings depicting your own lunar animal sign and he would personalize it with your name and his signature on the spot. Or, you could opt for your name in Chinese calligraphy, also signed and dated by Mr Wu Park. I chose the latter and can’t wait to frame it.
He could also carve you a signature stamp. In Chinese culture, one signs with a personalized stamp, and red ink. The Chinese Stamp Art (or seal carving) is one of the traditional four arts, i.e., Chinese painting, calligraphy, poetry and seal carving. A personal stamp in red color is an integrated part of a Chinese artwork of painting or calligraphy, which is not only the signature of the artist on the artwork, but also an essential touch to liven it up. The bigger the stamp, the more important you were.
It was a great evening and I felt educated and inspired. Art comes in many different ways, and has been here on earth as long as there have been humans. What an interesting thought to know that people always find a way to express themselves, and be inventive, no matter what culture or time we live in. And how admirable what they could do in ancient years without machinery and all the commodities we have nowadays. I use this blog as my outlet to be creative, others dance, carve, paint or craft. And when one creates, great things happen! So treasure your creations, cause it might end up in a museum sometime. (wink)