A playful welcome to The Netherlands at the Nijntje Museum

I took my 15 month old to the Nijntje Museum today, part of the Centraal Museum in Utrecht. UK readers will know Nijntje (the mega cute, internationally recognised rabbit) as Miffy, who was created by Dutch Illustrator Dick Bruna (1927-2017) and is now an icon of popular culture in The Netherlands.

Bruna created the simple, colour blocked world of Nijntje and friends as a safe haven for care free, imaginative exploration and this is just what the museum embodies. The entire space is created for children to roam with abandon and, minus a few mandatory stair cases, they really can.

The immersive exhibits feature different areas of the Nijntje world, each with an activity or sensory focus, that the children can explore amid the safety of padded posts and curved corners. This includes an entire room that replicates the trundling traffic systems of Nijntje’s home town, a light orientated space which includes light boxes, body morphing mirrors and shadow play area, and a creative studio where art materials are left for the taking in inviting, antique cabinets.

I loved it as much as he did- although a long awaited skip round the Centraal Museum provided the perfect adult ‘geek out’ as he snoozed off all the fun.

IMG_2945.JPG
IMG_2976.JPG
IMG_2984.JPG

Roa's 'Dormant' at Stolen Space Gallery (with kids)

Roa’s large scale animal murals adorn cities internationally, but his smaller scale studio works are no less impressive, and not to be missed. For this reason I was excited to catch the tail end (no pun intended) of the artist’s second solo exhibition at Stolen Space, with my son Ozzy and his mini mate, Jess in tow.

Obviously these were animals as the babies had never seen them before (opened to reveal a mixture of organs, skeletons and muscle tissue) but isn’t that all part of the learning experience?! We loved peaking inside each hand made cabinet, crafted from pulled apart elements of historic furniture from Roa’s native county, Belgium.

The team at Stolen Space didn’t even seem to mind 0 & J’s squeals of delight as they paced up, down and round and round the poured concrete floors and plonked themselves down in brick dusted corners. My own cry of horror as Ozzy toddled, open armed towards a stack of slick, shiny, Eine prints in prep for the next exhibition Everything Starts Somewhere, was perhaps less welcome!

www.stolenspace.com

IMG_2462.JPG
IMG_2471.JPG
IMG_2460.JPG

Set sail with Yinka Shonibare at Royal Museums Greenwich

large.jpg
ab18_vsb_yinka_portrait.jpg
IMG_2270.JPG

What greater way to mark my first journal entry than in celebration of one of the UK’s greatest contemporary artists and a personal favourite, Yinka Shonibare MBE.

When I was asked to design a workshop to mark Black History Month at the National Maritime Museum, it didn’t take me long for me to settle upon Shonibare’s ‘Nelson’s Ship in a Bottle’ as my inspiration. The piece was originally commissioned as part of the Fourth Plinth project and exhibited in Trafalgar Square from 2010-2012, before a successful Art Fund appeal ensured it was moved to its current home overlooking Greenwich Park.

The piece is a scale replica of Nelson’s famed Victory, which Shonibare has reinterpreted with his iconic use of Nigerian, hand painted fabrics to construct the ship’s sails. It was this combination of cultural influences that I drew upon to design a creative workshop entitled Bottle your Culture.

During each session children and families were encouraged to design their own ‘ship in a bottle’ to reflect their own identity. For those old enough to discuss such themes, the workshop made way for thoughtful discussion of Victory’s often skimmed over role as part of the slave trade, considering how its history has played out over the years, culminating in its ‘family friendly’ appropriation by a world renowned, British- Nigerian artist.