A lukewarm debate's been moderately raging for decades regarding Amsterdam's status as a city. One side fervently supports the idea, and the other insists it's no more than a Village XL. Amsterdam's beauty is not a point of contention for either side, though. So in this time of division lines seemingly appearing on every given topic, there remain some irrefutable truths, like the irresistible allure of Amsterdam. And its breathtaking diversity!
In 2016, I was awarded a one-year Amsterdam cultural ambassadorship through an initiative called 180 Amsterdammers. The project highlighted one representative of each of the one hundred and eighty nationalities who call Amsterdam home. This in itself triggered a new debate on whether Amsterdam contained more nationalities than New York or London! But I'll park that discussion for now (though it's obviously a fact!!!).
2016 was packed with 180 events spread across the year linked to 180 Amsterdammers. As the project's Malaysian Amsterdammer, I attended as many possible including the New Year's Concert at Concertgebouw; a nationality speed dating event at Jewish Historical Museum; a communal meal with refugees at Pakhuis De Zwijger, and; the 180 Amsterdammers exhibition launch at the city's stunning public library, OBA Oosterdok - an event that was extra special to me. As part of the launch activities, a small audience gathered at a corner of OBA's 4th floor where massive floor to ceiling windows reveal a panoramic view of old Amsterdam. They were there to hear various individuals, including journalists and writers, discuss what Amsterdam means to them. I was invited to share a composition I wrote about my beautiful adopted home. As I gave voice for the first time ever (in my own written words) about Amsterdam, my love for the city deepened just that little bit more.
I was born on the 27th of October 1275.
Industrious and creative from birth,
my mind innovative in every thought,
my hand steady in every brushstroke,
my body committed in every action.
I am forever exploring and discovering,
yet always returning to my Mokum*.
I have moments of weakness, which only reinforce my will
to never again fail in defending freedom, tolerance, and life itself.
I am resolute in protecting what I stand for,
and I stand for so much, all contained within me.
When you are with me,
time sings as you drift along the canals that form the veins running through my body.
Though rain sometimes dampens my skin,
and the cold steals into my soul,
my heart forever radiates with the warmth
of those who call me home,
even if for but a fleeting moment.
*Mokum, an old, beloved nickname of Amsterdam, is a Yiddish word meaning 'safe-haven'
A dear friend once described Italy as a diamond because something uniquely beautiful reveals itself depending on how you look at it. That might explain why Made in Italy remains relevant in terms of craftsmanship, daring, sublimity, quality, and surprise.
To me, Amsterdam is a diamond as resplendent as Italy. With its endless faces, brilliance, energy, creativity, heritage, and history, it's an absolute gem that keeps surprising.
And that's why it's not just a city, but an iconomic one at that!