This week, the European Parliament in Brussels suddenly looks a lot more colourful. This is thanks to the 16 meter long ‘Rainbow Dress’, designed and made in Amsterdam from the flags of 75 countries (all outside the EU) where homosexuality is still punishable in 2018. ALDE Group First Vice-President Sophie in ‘t Veld took the initiative to host the dress in the Parliament as a special way to celebrate the International Day Against Homophobia, Transphobia and Biphobia (IDAHOTB, May 17).
The Amsterdam Rainbow Dress Foundation is proud to present the latest set of art photographs, expanding a legacy to promote awareness on state-sponsored homophobia worldwide. In May 2017, the foundation traveled to San Francisco as part of an LGBT+ focused mission with Amsterdam deputy mayor Kukenheim. With the support of the cities of Amsterdam and San Francisco and the Dutch General Consulate in San Francisco, we are honoured to publish these strong visuals as a token of strength, resilience and support for the LGBT+ community and those who are displaced because of anti-LGBT+ legislation worldwide. The Amsterdam Rainbow Dress Foundation is sincerely grateful to be enabled to continue a worldwide campaign for awareness on anti-gay legislation and those affected by oppression, violence and prosecution because of who they are or whom they love.
Amsterdam Dainbow Dress displayed at SF City Hall
San Francisco’s City Hall sees a parade of weddings every day, but it wasn’t a wedding dress that turned heads Monday morning.
The colorful dress measures 52 feet in diameter. It is made of the flags of 75 countries where homosexuality is a crime.
The dress was created by artists from Amsterdam. The flags were carried in a parade during last year’s Euro Pride Day.
“The dress is visually appealing to people. I know a lot of people are taking pictures and it sort of lowers the threshold to ask questions what it is about. And that is the beginning of the awareness that we want to spread,” Amsterdam rainbow dress creator Jochem Kaan said.
The creators of the dress say if a country stops penalizing homosexuality, they’ll remove that country’s flag and replace it with a rainbow flag.
LGBT and allied Amsterdam delegation visit SF
A delegation of human rights and LGBT activists from Amsterdam will visit San Francisco as a part of the two cities’ human rights mission.
About 14 delegates from Amsterdam’s local government, its tech and business community, and LGBT and HIV/AIDS organizations will visit San Francisco on a humanitarian mission May 21-25.
Members of the Netherlands’ consulate in San Francisco will join them.
The quartet of nimble-fingered designers unstitched the dress. One loop after another they loosened the threads, separating from the rest of the piece a rectangular blue cotton fabric. It had red borders on the top and bottom. Emblazoned in the center is a crest: a ring of leaves encircling two men, one light and one dark-skinned. They each propped a tool on their shoulders: an axe and a paddle. Jostled under their feet are the words SUB UMBRA FLOREO. It’s Latin for, “Under the shade I flourish.” It’s the flag of Belize. And they’ve just removed it from the dress made from an ensemble of 72 flags.
The four designers created the dress as a statement against discrimination of the LGBTQI community. The bodice (the top of the dress) is the Amsterdam city flag. The bottom of the dress comprises flags from 72 countries that outlaw homosexuality or homosexual acts. At its full width, the dress measures 16 meters (52 feet) in diameter.
On 10 August, 2016, the Supreme Court of Belize, in a radical departure from a dated draconian law, decriminalized homosexuality. The dress had no place for Belize anymore. So, they replaced it with a rainbow flag.
“It’s such good news that we have to replace the Belize flag,” said one of the designers, 36-year-old Mattijs van Bergen.
According to the quartet, the dress represents Amsterdam’s centuries-old role as the shelter city for LGBT refugees persecuted in their own countries. The, now, 71 flags seek sanctuary under the shade of the Amsterdam city flag. SUB UMBRA FLOREO.
The dress, which made its first public appearance on 5 August, 2016, at Amsterdam’s inaugural LGBT Freedom Ceremony, was modeled by Valentijn de Hingh. The 26-year-old Dutch transgender model was the befitting personification of the dress. Her success as a transgender model bookended the designers’ message.
The four tight-knit designers — Mattijs van Bergen, Arnout van Krimpen, Jochem Kaan, and Oeri van Woezik — are all artists by trade. Their familiarity with each other was as equally pivotal as their crafty hands. The whole project, according to Mattijs, took just under a week to complete.
“The Amsterdam Rainbow Dress came about quite fluidly, despite it being a very intensive project,” said 37-year-old digital creative director, Jochem, “The cooperation between us four is a dream come true, as we are all close friends and dedicated to the message we are sending out.”
In countries like Libya, Somalia, and Iran, homosexuality is punishable by death — with some countries exacting death by stoning. For others, like Malaysia, Egypt, and Barbados, it’s imprisonment.
On top of that, the dress also bestows a voice to the belittled and the bullied. In some countries, even ones void of discriminating laws, deviant individuals are psychologically castrated by societal norms. Their voices are drowned out by boisterous conservative chatter inherited from generations before them.
The Netherlands — where the four designers were born and raised — is considered to be one of the most progressive in the world when it comes to LGBT rights. In 1987, they erected the world’s first monument to commemorate homosexuals who were persecuted and killed during World War II.
“We also became the first country to legalize gay marriage in 2001. The progressiveness of the Netherlands needs no embellishments,” said 44-year-old sculptural and spatial artist Oeri.
That notwithstanding, discrimination, like pests, is resilient. It slips through cracks.
“Coming out for anyone is difficult. Coming to terms with one’s sexuality is not easy. In secondary school, I was bullied for being gay until I came out. As soon as I came out, I had nothing to hide anymore, and so I had nothing to be bullied about,” said Mattijs, who grew up in Beuningen, a small village in the Netherlands.
“From that time, I became a much stronger person,” he said.
And that’s what the dress represents. At least, it’s one of the things it represents — overcoming discrimination. But the reasons behind this dress are manifold.
“Our project seeks to raise awareness on several levels; on the vast challenges that LGBTQI-refugees have to deal with on a daily basis, on the fact that over a third of the world’s countries still have active anti-LGBT legislation in some form or another,” said 47-year-old art teacher Arnout.
Even though the designers have since replaced the Belize flag on the dress, 71 countries remain etched on the train; bound together by the common thread of discrimination and dyed in persecution.
“We hope that the dress will help to change the law in more countries so that eventually we’ll be able to turn it into a dress made completely out of rainbow flags,” said Mattijs.
Since the introduction of the dress, a huge conversation has erupted on social media. Additionally, it’s garnered attention from international media, from BuzzFeed, to Vogue, to CTV News, to The Guardian. Even countries whose flags are depicted on the dress took notice: Malaysia, and India.
The message is working. It’s growing. Sweeping across nations with the impetus of a raging wildfire.
And it is their hope that the dress would help rescind the laws in the 71 countries; like a game of a more colorful Reversi, flipping each flag in succession.
One down, 71 to go.
In September 2016, the Amsterdam Rainbow Dress project was part of the Amsterdam cultural trade mission traveling to New York City to promote arts and culture. More than 60 institutions took part in this mission and our team was present to promote the Amsterdam Rainbow Dress in the Big Apple. This was made possible by the Creative Industries Fund NL and the city of Amsterdam. Watch a video registration of the dress’ presentation:
Image by Pieter Henket.
This dress has an important message.
When celebrations of Pride are taking place around the UK, it’s easy to forget – just for a moment – that there are still so many places where people aren’t free to be gay.
So let this dress remind us of all the work that still needs to be done.
As part of this year’s Europride, designer Matjis van Bergen and artist Oeri van Woezik created a rainbow bright dress made with the flags of the 72 countries in which homosexuality is still banned.
They chose Valentijn de Hingh – the first transgender woman to be signed by IMG models and Europride’s first trans ambassador – to model the dress, in an incredible portrait captured by photographer Pieter Henket.
That portrait has now been shared thousands of times. Clearly it fulfilling its mission of showing everyone just how far we still have to go.
But the dress isn’t complete. It’s not going to live on forever as a reminder of all the intolerance in the world.
Valentijn says that each country that changes its legislation on homosexuality will have their flag in the dress changed to a rainbow flag.
The ultimate goal? An entirely rainbow dress.
So come on, world. Let’s hurry up and change things.
Trans Model Valentijn de Hingh Wears Dress Made Of Flags From Countries Where Homosexuality Is A Crime. De Hingh was an ambassador this weekend at EuroPride in Amsterdam.To bring attention to the plight of LGBT people around the world, trans model Valentijn de Hingh donned a dress made of flags from the 72 countries where homosexuality is illegal.
De Hingh, 26, posed in the dress at the famous Rijksmuseum in Amsterdam, which played host to EuroPride this weekend.
“That little lady wearing the big dress is me,” she posted on Instagram. “Every country that changes its legislation will have its flag replaced by a rainbow flag. Let’s hope this dress will represent a patchwork of rainbows sooner rather than later.”
The dress was crafted by Dutch designer Mattijs van Bergen, while arresting image was shot by photographer Pieter Henke.
De Hingh, who is Dutch, was EuroPride’s first transgender ambassador.
She started modeling in 2008 and has walked the runway for Comme des Garçons and Maison Martin Margiela, among others, and is the first transgender person ever to have been represented by IMG Models.
“I dreamt of becoming a Disney princess,” de Hingh said last year. “I especially loved the character of Ariel, the little mermaid, who needed to change her body in order to change herself.”
Die schönste Anklage gegen Homophobie! Der niederländische Modedesigner Mattijs van Bergen hat zusammen mit dem Künstler Oeri Woezik ein beeindruckenes Statement gegen die Diskriminierung von Lesben und Schwulen in aller Welt gesetzt – ihr “Amsterdam Rainbow Dress” nähten sie aus den Flaggen der 72 Länder, die Homosexualität verbieten.
Im Rahmen des EuroPride in der Grachtenstadt setzte der Fotograf Pieter Henke das schöne Kleid der Schande im Rijksmuseum in Szene – direkt vor dem berühmten Rembrandt-Gemälde “Die Nachtwache”. Getragen wird es vom bekannten Transgender-Model Valentijn de Hingh.
De Hingh ist in diesem Jahr Botschafterin des EuroPride und stellte sich gerne für die Aktion zur Verfügung. “Die kleine Lady in dem riesigen Kleid bin ich”, schrieb sie auf Instagram. “Für jedes Land, dass seine Strafgesetze abschafft, wird die Landesflagge gegen eine Regenbogenfahne ersetzt Hoffen wir, dass das Kleid bald nur noch aus Regenbogen-Flicken bestehen wird.”
When it comes to LGBT rights, India’s in great company.
By desperately clinging to IPC Section 377, an archaic law that robs the LGBT community of the right to love, India has found her much revered flag clinging to the ends of a transgender model’s dress.
The dress in question, worn by 26-year-old model, Valentijn de Hingh, was a political statement. Made from the flags of nations that have failed to decriminalise homosexuality, the dress is meant to shame them. An they should be ashamed, if not for their own laws, then at least for the company they keep – 12 of these nations still have the death penalty to those in same-sex relationships.
A rainbow of homophobia
The dress, which forms an interesting rainbow, made by designer Matthijs van Bergensi, was revealed at Amsterdam Pride via a stunning photograph shot in an equally stunning setting.
As photographer Pieter Henket reveals on his Instagram, “During the opening walk of Euro Pride in Amsterdam 2 weeks ago, 72 flags of 72 different countries where homosexuality is against the law were present.”
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LGBT rights organisation COC Nederland “collected these flags and…decided to make these flags into a giant rainbow dress.”
The shot was taken at The Museum of Netherlands, Het Rijksmuseum, in front of the classic painting The Night Watch by Rembrandt.
Spot the Indian flag
While the dress on the whole is rather glamourous, a closer inspection reveals the ugliness in the what these flags, when grouped together, embody – a willingness to trample on human rights for cultural reasons. Collectively a rainbow, but instead of symbolising love and pride, it serves as a representation of hate crime, violence and death.
It embodies the LGBT community’s struggle across these 72 nations.
And on closer inspection, you’ll spot the Indian flag in there. While the placement of the flag near the hemline may cause mass outrage in India, the irony lies in how the real message will probably go unheard.
The message that India and the 71 other nations on this dress are inseparably stitched together in their bigotry, lack of empathy, and the inability to progress.
That we are one among those desperately aiming for that coveted ‘developed’ title but unwilling to budge on real social change is rather telling. While India has bettered its stance on transgender rights, giving them the legitimacy and acknowledgment they’ve been fighting for for years, we fall behind on understanding different sexualities.
India’s double standards
When challenged, or worse, threatened, Indians often resort to one defense as if learnt by rote – our rich culture.
But we are quick to reject that culture when certain facets of it literally dance naked in front of us.
Indian history documents homosexuality casually, perhaps more normatively than the most progressive countries in the world do today. Our monuments preserve traces of a sexually open society where plurality in sex and sexuality were celebrated. Khajuraho bears testimony to this.
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And yet, we stick to a law that was gift-wrapped and left behind with a painful colonial legacy. A law that the UK abolished years ago in favour of LGBT rights.
Hopefully this dress serves as a wake up call to India, and is embarrassment enough for us to mend our laws. Because if our country is blind to human rights, just maybe it’ll usher in change to save itself from global ire.