Graduating students presented their projects at the Willem de Kooning Academy's four-day graduation show. INCLUDED interviewed several students who focused on inclusive themes, including a designed dyslexia suit, a safe space for people with ADHD, an innovative queer computer game, an in-depth search for Jewish identity, and a film about the war in Iraq.
Victoria Di Gioia: Dyslexic Dislike
Victoria notes that she has often felt different because of her dyslexia. But she believes that dyslexia is not just about the medical aspects, but also about how it affects her personally.
In Dyslexic Dislike, Victoria explores how she has come to terms with her dyslexia and how, for example, education, has affected her feelings about being dyslexic.
As an artist she uses performance and costume design. She hopes that in the future dyslexia and neurodiversity will be better understood and the stigma reduced. She wishes that people see dyslexia as a positive part of someone’s identity that should be recognised and valued.
"Through my project I have learnt to embrace my dyslexia and see it as an important part of who I am," says Victoria. "It has helped me to understand that dyslexia is not just about having difficulty reading and writing, but also about how it affects my emotions and social interactions. I want people to understand that dyslexia is not a barrier, but rather a unique aspect of my identity that deserves recognition and understanding.
Chelle Mol: Childhood Memories - Recall in neurodivergent young adults
Chelle studied Illustration with a minor in Cultural Diversity. Her work, recall in neurodivergent young adults was inspired by her own experience of ADHD and the difficulty she has in retrieving memories. She therefore focused on strengthening memory through workshops using child-friendly tools such as markers and crayons. By drawing together, she pushed others to remember better. "In the future, I want to develop this concept and inspire others with tips," she says enthusiastically.
Chelle believes that working with others plays an important role in improving memory. "Working wth another person, you do notice that you can remember more," she explains. She has run both one-to-one workshops and group sessions and has found that communicating with others can improve memory.
Her final project changed her perception of ADHD. She realised that memories sometimes change and do not always have to be 100 per cent accurate. "It's about the feelings they evoke," Chelle believes. "It's OK if a memory is not quite right, as long as the thought is pleasurable."
Sebastian Stöcker: Odd Sightings on a Queer Commute
Sebastian explored being queer in the project Odd Sightings on a Queer Commute. A niche visual novel, the game lets players experience what it is like to be queer on public transport, where they may encounter uncomfortable situations and obstacles.
"In the metro, I feel uncomfortable being around some people because I stand out so much. At the same time, I am claustrophobic. I don't feel safe when people are standing close to me. I wanted to use that in a game by making the main character invisible because you are the main character," Sebastian explains.
He spoke to people about being queer and gaming and noted: "A lot of games focus on men being tough and women being sexy. But you can play queer by playing against the game, for example, by making a character do things that are not part of the rules of the game. You can express yourself in the game whichever way you want.
Sebastian is happy with the outcome of his project and wants to make future commercial games that continue to incorporate queerness. For others who want to make queer games, he advises to just start and experiment.
Sonja Aljaberi: The Scars of Iraq
In The Scars of Iraq, Sonja explores intergenerational suffering within Iraqi refugee families. The project revolves around her parents' poignant story being refugees and ending up in the Netherlands. "It is a painful story of my mother that has never been made public," says Sonja. Using a Persian carpet as a symbol referring to her parents' homeland in the Middle East, she wants to get the message across for the next generation, hoping they will not have to feel the wounds of the war in Iraq.
As a culturally inspired designer, Sonja wants to inspire people of a certain cultural background and enable them to recognise themselves in it. "As a woman from a Middle Eastern background, I grew up in the Netherlands. It was definitely not easy," she says. She wants to discuss taboos and advocate equality, and introduce people to diversity in the world.
Kèrèn Na'ama Vromen: Rooted - About visibility and familiarisation of Jewish cultural roots and traces in Rotterdam
Kèrèn grew up Jewish in Rotterdam and often feels like the only Jewish person in a room. She is proud of her diverse background and wants to share and celebrate Jewish culture with others. However, there is little space in Rotterdam to showcase Jewish culture, except in the context of the Holocaust. Therefore, Kèrèn's project Rooted (Geworteld) aims to map and share historical Jewish stories from Rotterdam. She uses a special artistic tool, 'deep mapping', to show and discuss these stories in the city.
Her aim is to use the past as a means to look to the future together, to celebrate what has been and to familiarise people with the Jewish roots of Rotterdam. By sharing these stories, she aims to create a culture of understanding and inclusion in which Jewish communities have an important place in Rotterdam society.
About the Graduation Show
The Willem de Kooning Academy's Graduation Show is an annual event where graduating students present their final projects during a four-day event. What is special on this day and age is that inclusive projects are on the rise. It is very important to pay attention to inclusive projects because they promote positive change and contribute to a diverse, fair and inclusive society. At the same time, they serve as inspiration for people who identify with the projects or want to learn from others.