Some months ago, we extensively covered the initiative to erect an AIDS memorial monument in Amsterdam. Meanwhile, a location has been chosen, namely the Oosterdokseiland, on the north-western corner of the De Ruyterkade. Almost unanimously, this location was preferred by the art committee of the city of Amsterdam, as well as the members of the work group AIDS monument.
This location was chosen on the basis of the number of votes cast by website visitors, the opinion of art experts, and the feasibility with respect to zoning plans. In addition to this, the location gives the artist enough space.
The IJ has a strong symbolic value because of overseas trade, not only in exchanging goods, but also diseases such as syphilis in the fifteenth century and the plague in the seventeenth century. The location of the monument also has much ground in common with AIDS: the De Ruyterkade used to be a place for street prostitution, and the methadone bus for drug addicts was also located on this corner. Furthermore, it is also well-known in the gay community, as the eastern part, from the quay to the part under the railway, used to be a popular car cruising spot, and Café West-Indië on the De Ruyterkade 110 served as the meeting place of Motor Sportclub Amsterdam (MSA) for years.
So far, the corporate world has not shown much interest in supporting the initiative, but recently, Mister B has become one of its sponsors. This step was accompanied by a touching and very personal letter of recommendation by Wim Bos, founder of the company. In this letter, he recalls the horror years of the epidemic, “in the late eighties and early nineties, [...] at a time when every month, someone from my circle of friends and acquaintances died.” Somewhat later, he writes that when he thinks back, “the year 1990 comes to mind.
In the first month of that year, one of the two owners of the company I was working for died. Dai Evans, RoB’s partner. Towards Easter, RoB Meyer himself died. Both were cremated amid great interest from the public. They both left a huge gap in the company. That same year, two other members of staff died. A leather-worker who was barely twenty-four-years-old, and his studio boss, who was in his forties. Jonathan Greveson, who by then was running the company, also had to withdraw. He was too sick to continue working. This meant that fifty percent of the company’s male employees had been wiped out in one year.”
Bos concludes that nowadays “only occasionally, almost out of sight, people do still pass away. It is not so noticeable anymore, and people stopped talking about it. It is almost as if people are ashamed (very unfairly) to die of AIDS.” At the end of his letter Bos writes: “Every day at the office, I look at the portrait of RoB en Dai. They were very dear friends,” and continues with an appeal on others to support the initiative. After all, one of the objectives of the AIDS monument is to pay tribute to those loved-ones who died of AIDS.