Speculate or Die Tryin’

by Najah Aouaki

The exhibition Speculate or Die Tryin' starts from the unique story of the Bijlmer. A history in which the development of a new urban area coincided with the arrival of large groups of (Dutch) migrants. A history in which, against misunderstanding, oppression and exclusion mechanisms, and despite large-scale demolition, the local communities themselves have left an indelible mark on the identity of the district that we now call Southeast.

An economist, a journalist and an artist have come together to investigate the possible future of Zuidoost from this foundation. A projection beyond the completely outdated neoliberalist rules of gentrification as routinely deployed to this day. They do this by using the unique history and DNA of the Bijlmer to draw up new rules of the game and give local players the space to manifest themselves.

In collaboration with: Jessica Dikmoet and genuinefake.

Team

genuinefake (UK), Najah Aouaki and Jessica Dikmoet
  • Najah Aouaki

    Curator

    Najah Aouaki is an economist and urban strategist for creative and inclusive cities. She develops strategies, concepts and innovative projects aimed at challenging the current economic paradigm and the way we envision our future - from initiating cultural projects, organizing community initiatives to developing strategic policies. Najah approaches the city as a living ecosystem, the software of the city as she describes it. She is currently developing a community asset building strategy for the City of Amsterdam, with a special focus on urban communities of color, in response to biased perspectives and market forces that threaten inclusiveness.

  • genuinefake (UK)

    Designer, maker

    genuinefake is a multidisciplinary platform, founded in 2009 by Rachel Stella Jenkins, where design, architecture and urban design collaborations aim to broaden normative definitions and concepts and mediate social, cultural and spatial agency. Born in Mozambique, Rachel obtained her bachelor's degree in interior and environmental design in Scotland (UK). After working in film & documentary in Mozambique for a year, she completed her master's degree at the Design Academy Eindhoven in the Netherlands (2007) in the direction of Man & Humanity. She is also one of the founders of Ka'ssa, a collective of London-based urban professionals from diverse backgrounds, ranging from anthropology to architecture, who are curious and critical about the African city and related themes.

  • Jessica Dikmoet

    Research, maker

    Jessica Dikmoet is a Southeast native who develops social concepts as a journalist and producer and coaches young journalists and documentary makers. She started her journalism career at MTV/MTNL (Multicultural Television Netherlands) where she was editor-in-chief. Jessica has a broad and diverse network and great knowledge and affinity with the grassroots. She is born on Curaçao and claims to have been formed by the May 30 movement of 1969, which stood up for social equality. She currently works as a freelance project leader at Imagine IC, one of the founding mothers of SHEBANG. At the invitation of and in collaboration with Najah Aouaki, Jessica has conducted a series of interviews with diverse people from Southeast, who serve as inspiration and input for their joint exhibition.

Process

Research and interviews Speculate or Die Tryin’

In order to work from the DNA and the unique qualities of the Bijlmer, the process started with research into the history and development of Southeast, using the knowledge base and the archives of Imagine IC and the Bijlmer Museum. Jessica Dikmoet and Najah Aouaki conducted a series of interviews with key figures from Southeast about their ties to the borough, the initiatives they’d developed and their dreams for the future.

Exhibition Speculate or Die Tryin’

For the exhibition Speculate or Die Tryin', an economist, a journalist and an artist came together to explore the possible future of Southeast from the unique story of the Bijlmer. A projection that moves beyond the completely outdated neoliberalist rules of the game of gentrification - as routinely deployed to this day - and speculates on an alternative where residents and local communities are once again at the centre. Compiled from research and interviews, the exhibition starts with a warning: a path other than that of capitalism and gentrification is possible, but it requires a joining of forces.

Part 1: The Timeline

The cliché goes: you have to know where you came from to determine and shape your future. The Timeline, which puts the development of the Bijlmer in a national and international perspective, is a work-in-progress in which visitors are invited to contribute. Questions central to this were: What were the moments when the community managed to organise control? What did people manage to achieve together? And what can we learn from this as the borough faces another phase of development?

Part 2: The DNA

The Gliphoeve installation marks the early days of Southeast as a testament to radical activity and community spirit. It shows a time when, in the absence of facilities, the community formed and maintained its own networks, amenities and systems. The Gliphoeve flat building was the base of diverse services and products such as bars, takeaways, taxis, religious spaces and childcare for children of working mothers. Since this period marked by challenging conditions, the development of the Bijlmer has come a long way. This installation represents the collective memory which can provide access to radical responses to current economic, political and social challenges, beyond the non-inclusive and profit-driven gentrification model.

When the first residents occupied De Gliphoeve, amenities such as transport, hairdressers, childcare and places of worship were not yet sufficiently available. The community picked this up itself and facilitated it in the informal sphere. A local 'market' still exists for products and services that reflect the different values and cultural customs of the diaspora community in Southeast. The installation There is Nothing Exotic about my Profit features a compilation of images of services and goods offered via Instagram. Social media offers a new 'public space' where communities and individuals can connect and exchange information and services. The images of these offerings - of fashion, wellness, events and catering, for example - reflect the skills, ingenuity and creativity that underpin the cultural and economic capital circulating in the area. Capital that is not immediately visible to people outside these networks. This creative and innovative economic activity reflects both quality of life and distinctive 'non-white' identities.

There is Nothing Exotic about my Profit, image Gwen van der Zwan

Part 3: Take a Tour

Showrooms of real estate developers usually present a 'maquette' of the speculative development, as a form of visual spectacle and as an important part of 'selling the dream'. Here, however, the speculative maquette presents an alternative socio-economic model. A helix model for growth in which the social and cultural capital of the community is not secondary to profit but rather a driver of (re)development. And where the built environment (the hardware) gives a place and helps existing values and activities (the software) to flourish. We see this approach reflected in the projected 'Billboards' that - in the same commercial sales language as those of real estate developers - depict the dreams and future prospects of 'radical' players from the community and underline the distinctive values of Amsterdam Southeast.

Programme

Opening of exhibition Speculate or Die Tryin’

The festive opening of exhibition Speculate or Die Tryin' by guest curator Najah Aouaki in collaboration with genuinefake and Jessica Dikmoet.

Video Wendelisa Ragil

Meeting Raad van Zuid (Rotterdam) & Verdedig Noord (Amsterdam North)

With Speculate or Die Tryin', Najah Aouaki built bridges between communities in Southeast and various groups, individuals and organisations with a link, interest or involvement in Southeast, its history and residents. She invited Verdedig Noord (Amsterdam North), the Raad van Zuid (including Ahmed Abdilahi and Jan Konings), the Nieuwe Instituut and Wijkcoöperatie Afrikaanderwijk (Rotterdam). Two areas experiencing aggressive gentrification, and fighting for community-driven development. Najah brought them together as a starting point to join forces and exchange knowledge, regarding how to effectively resist and develop alternative strategies that put people and communities at the centre.

Meeting Wintitempel with alderman Arts and Culture Touria Meliani