Commissioned by: BFO – Niek van Der Sprong productions. Location – Wezenlandenpark Zwolle. Period: 2009

Mind your Steps is a large-scale, socially engaged, multidisciplinary and interactive art project.

The aim of the art project was to make the festival audience part of a ‘freedom mindset’ and thus playfully confront them with the question of how important freedom and freethinkers are and what responsibility freedom entails. The task for the participating public was to carry a flag with one of the 99 portraits of a freethinker and to place it on the 135 m long walkway. Along the way, they walked across all kinds of opposites on the floor of the bridge. By making a choice each time, they moved forward. At the same time, a soundscape of historical speeches accompanied the audience along the entire route.

Mind Your Steps 2009
The making of (Foto's Betty Zieltjens)
The making of (Foto’s Betty Zieltjens)

Daily newspaper Trouw 2009 about the festival

People come for Music and Party’.

05/05/09, 15:39

In the debate rounds at the liberation festivals there is room to discuss the events on Queen’s Day in Apeldoorn. “It is a sad occasion for debate. But no matter what: freedom remains”, the chairman of the National Committee 4 and 5 May, Els Swaab, said on Tuesday in Zwolle.

The National Committee did not see any reason to make major changes to the Liberation Day festivities. “The royal family is clear: we want to commemorate and celebrate and not be backed into a corner by a loner.”

State secretary Jet Bussemaker, also present at the Start National Liberation Celebration in Zwolle, referred to the Japanese imperial family, which often appears before the public behind armoured glass. “You shouldn’t want to exclude all risks. This is about freedom. Then you have to give it to people.”

Very few people come to the Liberation Festival Overijssel in Zwolle to discuss freedom or the events on Queen’s Day. Most people come for the party and the music, according to various employees on the festival grounds.

The art project Mind Your Steps is an opportunity to reflect on the theme of ‘freedom’. The 135 m. bridge between the provincial government building and the main stage was inaugurated at the festival by Prime Minister Jan Peter Balkenende. In his opening speech, he referred to the events in Apeldoorn. When the Prime Minister crossed the bridge, the area was hermetically sealed off, says a staff member. “People with prams were pushed aside by security. Today, the events of last Thursday are causing a little less freedom.”


Letter to Mayra Avelar Neves (Childrens Peace Prize 2008)

MP Jan Peter Balkenende was to ceremoniously open the bridge together with a number of other government officials and wanted a portrait of Childrens Peaceprize 2008 winner Mayra Avelar Neves on his freethinkers flag, which was to be planted during the opening ceremony of the festival. I agreed and by pure coincidence Mayra turned out to be in the Netherlands that week under the care of Nanco van Buren of the IBISS Foundation . Mayra wanted to have the handmade flag after the festival and an attempt was made to physically meet her. Unfortunately, this did not succeed. But the flag was collected by Nanco accompanied by the letter below. Nanco passed away in January 2015, but I will never forget these special encounters. Inspiring!

Hello Mayra

Today you get the flag with your portrait on it. It is made by me, Marit.

In this letter I try to explain to you what the art project was all about;

Art project Mind Your Steps; ‘extra large’ awareness art project during 5th of may memorial day in Zwolle. 05-05 2009

The 5th of May festival is an annual festivity in remembrance of the liberation of Holland (2nd world war) . This is celebrated with a big music happening in 5 big cities of the Netherlands. Zwolle is one of these cities and has the largest festival (aprox. 140 visitors). And this year 2009 Zwolle was the midst of all attention because the national kick off was here. MP Balkenende came to Zwolle to place the fire of liberation and speech.

We; Mark van Enk, Marit Otto and Niek v/d Sprong, invented a Art- bridge (135 meters long)

The bridge is shaped as the IJssel bridge of Zwolle (a local symbol for Zwolle). Iron pipes and banners make the shape, these banners carry portraits of famous free thinkers. The floor is divided in black and white squares with questions or choices on it (opposite statements like: black or white, republic or monarchy and so on) some are impossible to choose. The bridge is a multi medial and interactive happening. On Liberation day the public is asked to walk the bridge and ‘walk’ the questions’. During this bridge walk they are surrounded by a soundscape op historical speeches. A flag is handed out to them before entering the bridge and are asked to place the flag (also a portrait of a free thinker) somewhere on the bridge.

What is it about?

It is mainly about the question ‘ How important are free thinkers now a day for our world’ Do we need heroes ore some one to look up to and measure us by? Is good and evil so easy to tell apart and are these heroes the same for everyone. Can a liberator become an oppressor (Fidel Castro)? Can a racist change his mind and fight for equality (De Clerk/ South Africa)? Is power always the way to corruption (Haille Selassi and many more).

Also; define the choices you make on a day-to-day basis, who you are and who you become. Is democracy to take for granted? These are more personal questions. Can you be your own hero…..

It was a special project and a lot of people reacted very positive and stated that they were moved and confronted!

MP Balkenende planted the first flag on our bridge. He requested your portrait on a flag. That was the first time I heard of you. I made the flag by hand. It’s the only handmade one of 99 portraits. Now I know who you are and what you did in Brazil. It is absolutely special and something to look up to. So Young and already an example for many!!!

Take care!