Cultural differences and perceptions – An introduction to visiting the low lands

‘Mozambican Goat’, Oil on canvas (46×34 cm) by Birgit Boogaard (2013)

Hans Schiere (La Ventana) asked me to provide a word of welcome for about 15 students of Purdue University, Agronomy department, who visited the Netherlands and Belgium for two weeks. Keywords were perception, art, livestock production, research, sustainability, and innovation.

In 2015, we met in Rotterdam. The title was “Cultural differences and perceptions – An introduction to visiting the low lands”. I shared several personal anecdotes and then together with the students we looked for the common denominator in these events. In one of the stories I used one of my paintings entitled ‘Mozambican goat’ (see below). The anecdotes were all events that had challenged my assumptions. Everybody has assumptions. And that is fine. It is good to have assumptions, because they help us to organize and understand the world around us.

However, changing ones assumptions often goes together with feelings of uncertainty and insecurity; it questions the steady ground on which our ideas are built. In doing so, the anecdotes shared another point: They were all confusing moments in my life. They turned my life – for a while – upside down in one way or another. Yet, looking back, they enriched my life.

In 2016, we met in Leiden, where I spoke about design, perceptions, art, research, agriculture, and sustainability. It told four stories that were related to design, one the following topics: 1) science, 2) art, 3) Africa, and 4) food production. Through these stories and images I aimed to inspire students and addressed points of attention relevant for design and innovation.