Altje van Zuyden has also been closely exposed to violence against women

Orange the World is the global campaign against violence against women and girls.

The campaign runs every year from November 25, International Day for the Elimination of Violence Against Women, to December 10, International Human Rights Day. The days in between are 16 days of action to prevent and end violence against women and girls. In the lead-up to the 25th, the story of Altje van Zuyden and her brave mother.

Altci and her mother, Vietji

Care ethicist and program creator Doret van der Sloot for Nouveau spoke with Aaltje van Zweden, founder of the Papageno Foundation, autism advocate, publicist and master of arts, about her mother’s influence on her life and career.

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On a hot summer afternoon, I cycled to Altje van Zuyden in the south of Amsterdam.

Her apartment windows are wide open. Alice looks pretty, makes coffee, and leads me to a long table in front of the balcony. She gently sweeps aside the grades of Yap’s husband: “He’s always studying, right?”

“I was afraid of hurting my mother, Vitti, with passages about my childhood”

“When my ‘Because Who You’ book ended, I was short of breath,” she says. “I was afraid I’d hurt my mother, Vitti, with passages about my childhood. They weren’t very rosy. But they just blew me away. Not angry, but very proud of the fact that I wrote the book.”

She is standing upright in her wardrobe, the lid facing forward. But talk about what happened in the past? No, we haven’t really done this before. Looking back, I think the war had a huge impact on where it came from and who it became. Her mother was a gentle housewife who preferred not to go out. Explosions and tensions in the city, it wouldn’t have helped my grandmother be less afraid of the big bad outside world.

Haiti love

My mother wanted to be a model, flight attendant, or journalist. If only she could step out into the wide world. But in those days it was not for ordinary girls. So I went to teacher training college and became a teacher. I wonder if the signature on her diploma had already dried up when she left for Haiti.

Against her mother’s will, she became a nanny for three children on a sisal farm. To teach the children the Dutch language, she first had to pick them from palm trees. Well, leave that to Fietje…

In Haiti, my mother fell in love with my handsome, tough, and charming father. They married, but when it turned out that my father had a very bad drink, she fled back to Holland a year later. With a three-month-old baby on her arm. And that kid, that was me.

‘Once Vietji had put her affairs in order, she wanted to take care of me herself’

Because my mother had to get her life back on track in Holland, I lived with my grandparents for three years. When Vietji put her affairs in order, she wanted to take care of me herself. But her mother didn’t think that was a good idea. Her father told her that she could not “take me away” from my grandmother. Which I did of course.

In retrospect, my grandmother may have been right, because when my parents moved back to the Netherlands, my parents remarried and ended up with a destructive pattern. Fortunately, my sister and I often managed to hide and stay with my grandparents.

vulnerable children

I know very well that mothers life is not always a bed of roses. Our third child turned out to be severely autistic and have a mental disability. All his life I was busy opening him up to the outside world. Of course we used the healing power of music from the very beginning. The origins of the Papageno Foundation lie here.

To write my new book, I delved into the history of Het Apeldoornsche Bos, an institution for mentally handicapped children near Apeldoorn. On a cold January morning in 1943, the entire population was taken to Auschwitz, where they were promptly destroyed. Nobody knows all the details and the archives are gone.

“The taboo around vulnerable children still exists and it touches me deeply.”

It is remarkable to say the least that I, as the mother of a disabled child, had never heard anything about it before. The taboos around vulnerable children still exist and it touches me deeply.

“If life were regular and fun, we’d like to keep it that way, wouldn’t we?”

As a parent, you go through a long process of accepting that your child with autism will always depend on your care. As director of the Papageno Foundation, I totally struggle with this. Then the government says that care should be more efficient and therefore cheaper. They call it modernization based on the latest ideas. But if life is regular and fun, we’d like to keep it that way, right? Because of the drastic changes in my childhood, I understand that very well.


Now that we’re talking about my mother and the past, Vietji suddenly appears as an adventurous cowboy on horseback. At 82 years old, she continues to be a no-nonsense, funky woman who isn’t shy about taking on challenges. With the heart in the right place. In her long career, she has instilled a love of reading in thousands of children.

“I think I got my passion for opening up the world to others from her.”

The best story is about a child with Down syndrome. The school decided that the girl would not be able to read. Her distraught mother asked my mother for help. This was the best thing that could happen to the girl, because after a year she read like a train! I think I got my passion to open up the world to others from her. Believing in the developmental power of all children, that’s what it’s about.

In the end, my parents’ marriage eventually fell apart. Unfortunately, my father’s life ended prematurely. My mother turned out to be indestructible. Extremism is the word that best describes it. And she also wanted to pass this on to her daughters. We had to be brave and never depend on a man. And we never had to worry about her, please don’t.

‘Hup Aaltje. there is nothing wrong. Take your freedom and live

Although she herself calls her mom daily, caring is not the word for it. I’ve had a hard time with that.

Then I desperately missed a sweet, involved mom who knew exactly what was going on inside me and would gently put her finger on my sore spot. Instead, she put my suffering into perspective and gave me a kick in the buttocks. Go come. there is nothing wrong. Take your freedom and live.

Of course I also ignored her advice. Because although I was a girl who dreamed of traveling around the world on my own, drawing, I have been married for 37 years. And the fact that we lovingly raised four children together may not sound like an adventure, but the opposite is true. Just believe me…’

Eel from Sweden

today An international speaker on autism, art education, and the importance of music therapy 2017 An advertisement for who you are 2017 Member of the Board of Directors of the Social Alliance 2016 Hélène de Montigny Prize 2012 Knight of the Order of Orange of Nassau 2011 Member of the Board of Directors of the Autism Center in Texas 2008 MA in Art Education, Amsterdam University of the Arts 1997 Founder and board member of the Papageno Foundation 1981 Visual Education Academy Amsterdam

Photographs (c) National Port Agency, privately owned by Altje van Zuyden. This interview was previously in print from Nouveau (c) 2021 Nouveau / DPG Media

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