Taking a break in a museum café to give your weary legs a rest: lovely. It gives you a chance to talk about the collection you've just seen and let it sink in, to recharge or even just to satisfy the appetite you've built up. I've been guilty of all three. And what's great is that the quality and atmosphere are often surprisingly good: so good that you visit the café again, even if you're not hungry or tired, and don't feel like talking about the paintings that you just saw. Guilty again.
Fortunately, you don't always need to buy a ticket to get into a museum's café, which is great if you don't feel like art, but you do feel like eating. Or if you just want to have lunch in a different kind of atmosphere. The Plantage has enough of those kinds of places, and I personally recommend the Tropenmuseum's Grandcafé.
The Grandcafé offers exotic dining in an elegant atmosphere. While it tries to appeal to nearly everyone, I find it a bit too dark and chic, but its impressive views out over the recently redone Oosterpark, and into the museum, make up for that, as does the menu. The ingredients are locally sourced, but have an exotic twist. There's also a special children's menu. I found the cakes a bit dry and uninviting, but I can easily recommend lunch or dinner. Try a banana beer, or a cocktail served in a white pineapple! Don't let the interior turn you away: let the menu entice you, because the Grandcafé De Tropen is there for everyone!
The current exhibition at the Tropenmuseum, The Sixties – A worldwide happening, offers playful insights into the 60s in the West, as well as Asia and Africa. Even though they were politically turbulent years, cultural life flourished and people were liberated like never before. The last point can especially be seen in the Tropenmuseum. Or is it not just perfectly balanced?
Upon entering, the exhibition springs to life with life-sized dolls and objects, arranged in a playful manner. Where shall we begin? I was free to choose my own route, probably as a sort of consequence of the emerging postmodernism of this still somewhat chaotic decade.
The 60s played out with the background of WWII, decolonization and the Cold War. Independence for countries in Africa and Asia represented a search for their own culture and identity. On the other hand, in the West there were protests against the Cold War and capitalism was expressed through posters, slogans and music. Despite their differences, east and west found inspiration and refuge in each other. Western influences seeped through to the eastern culture, and eastern spirituality, free drug use and new fashion styles fed the so-called hippie period.
The 60s were a period of liberation, unending creativity and also technological advancement, and this exhibition represents just that. The background and causes of this cultural phenomenon remain largely unexplored. It is difficult to assess how the young of today and the unknowledgeable visitor will experience the exhibition, and if they will really notice the playful side of it. Go see for yourself and enjoy. As John Lennon once said: ‘Time you enjoy wasting is not wasted time.’
The Sixties – A worldwide happening was shown in the Tropenmuseum until March 13th.