Thursday, 6 June 2013

The Hague: Scheveningen Sculptures

After visiting the Panorama Mesdag, I met my friend at the actual Scheveningen beach which, despite the howling wind and icy raindrops, reminded me of the Durban beachfront with its promenade. I didn't stick my toes in the ocean, fearing I might lose them altogether if I tried and judging by the blue hues of the brave windsurfers exiting the waves, it was definitely the responsible thing to do.


Scheveningen Beachfront


We leaned into the wind and headed for the colourful cafe's that dotted the beachfront, stopping to look at the creative bronze figurines scattered across the promenade. They were designed by Tom Otterness in 2004 and after an absence of two and a half years the "Sprookjesbeelden aan Zee" (Fairytale Sculptures by the Sea) have been back at Scheveningen since March 2012. 

The biggest statue can be seen from afar with its head thrown back to gulp down a herring, dangling 12 m in the air. Please note: It is not just any old fish. It is a herring. I know this because 1) The statue is called the "Haringeter", and combined with 2) This is the Netherlands!, it's pretty easy to put two and two together. If you're South African, think biltong and you'll understand the fascination.

Speaking of (red) herrings: Herring season, which was supposed to start early in June in the Netherlands, has tragically been delayed this year due to the cold spring weather. Since the Dutch love their herring, the postponement of the season might leave locals with a bad taste in the mouth (no pun intended). 

Back on the beachfront I could not decide whether the sculptures of little men and animals were extremely cute or horrifyingly cruel. I even glanced back at the name to make sure I'm not standing amongst "spookjes" (ghosts), but the "r" was definitely wedged in there, rendering one to believe that you are looking at fairytale characters.

It was almost like staring at one of those optical illusions: First you notice the little people with their big eyes and charming hats. And then, with a start, you realise that they've been imprisoned and are bound by chains. And that their eyes might be that big and round, not due to excitement, but due to extreme fear. 
Psychiatrists will have a field day in Scheveningen, interpreting the answers to the question: "What do you see..?"


Funky / Frightening Figurines


Even so, children seem to love the statues and I'm sure they will clamber all over the chains and tears on "Vlaggetjesdag" without giving it a second thought. Besides, the alternative would be to watch grandma mimic the Haringeter and wolf down herrings by the bucketful. It's a toss-up really, between which memory will haunt you forever: A statue or an elderly family member throwing back their heads to devour a tiny, raw fish.
To me, the statues are becoming more attractive by the minute.

One thing is for sure, Scheveningen certainly provides enough entertainment for big and small and has clearly been an inspiration to painters and artists since the previous century.
And now, also to modern-day bloggers.

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