From Monday April 17 to Saturday May 15, 2023, the impressive photo exhibition of Helmets Full of Stories can be seen in the Atrium of the City Hall. Helmets Full of Stories is an art project which links 22 artists too veterans. This exhibition is part of The Hague Freedom Weeks and Justice Peace The Hague. The Atrium is closed on Liberation Day, Friday May 5, 2023.

Helmets Full of Stories – the impact of peacekeeping missions depicted through art
The personal accounts from veterans about their deployments on peacekeeping missions are the focus of the art project Helmets Full of Stories. The soldiers’ personal experiences were the inspiration for artworks made by twenty-two artists. In this collaboration, artists and veterans show the relevance of Dutch peace missions and their impact on the soldiers who were a part of them.

Helmen vol Verhalen in Provinciehuis Zuid-Holland. Foto: Milon Abrahamse.
Helmets Full of Stories in Provincial House South- Holland. Photo: Milon Abrahamse.

Forty years of peacekeeping missions
Over the past forty years, Dutch soldiers have been a part of several UN peacekeeping missions. What did the soldiers experience during these missions? What did their deployment mean for the home front? And what was their return home like? To give an insight into these unique stories, veterans were paired with artists, who depicted the stories of the Blue Helmets in works of art. There are soldiers from each province in the Netherlands, representing all of the departments of the Ministry of Defence. Thus, the army, navy, air force, and marechaussee, not to mention the home front, are all featured in the exhibition.

Interview Algemeen Dagblad Amy van Son. Foto Carlo ter Ellen DTCT.
Interview Amy van Son for newspaper AD. Photo Carlo ter Ellen DTCT.

Driving force
Driving force behind this art project is cultural project leader Amy van Son. A veteran herself, she noticed upon her return to civilian life how important it is to tell your story. Sharing what you have been through allows you to better process your (sometimes traumatic) experiences. Not only that, it is also important for civilian society to learn about what impact a mission has on a soldier. Only then can understanding and recognition arise. By bringing veterans’ stories into the spotlight with the help of artists, their history becomes visible to everyone. Through the universal language of art, a bridge is formed between the world of civilians and that of soldiers.

Helmen vol Verhalen. Veteraan Stefan Mastenbroek en kunstenaar Roxanne Monsanto. Foto Sander Heezen.
Helmets Full of Stories. Veteran Stefan Mastenbroek and artist Roxanne Monsanto. Photo Sander Heezen.

The exhibition features visual art from a variety of disciplines: from photography, graphic art, drawings, and paintings, to installations, ceramics, and sculptures. Participating artists are Anders Wolhar, Anook Cléonne, Bas Fontein, Caro Kropveld, Danielle Spoelman, Diederick Kraaijeveld, Erik van Maarschalkerwaard, Hans Mes, Jelmer Zwaan, Kunstconstructie, Mainkunstenaars, Marian Tappel, Mieke van Zundert, Mirka Farabegoli, Peter van Hal, Renée van den Kerkhof, Rob Voerman, Roxanne Monsanto, Sjaak Kooij, Tatjana Kiriënko, Tristan Louwaars, Bart Lucassen, and Yvonne Beelen /STUDIO YTOPIA. The exhibition also features installations, such as military emblems and name ribbons arranged by Denny Bosmann, and the project ReUniForm by Jaap Spruitenburg.

The stories of the veterans and their meeting with the artist have also been chronicled by journalists and captured by photographers. In addition, there are podcasts of the unveilings of the artworks, and Omroepv has produced a three-part documentary series about ReUniForm in collaboration with Helmets Full of Stories. Photographer Frank Kouws documented several key points of the project, from the first meeting of the veteran and artist paired together to embark on their mission through the arts, to the unveiling of the finished artwork. These stories, podcasts, and documentaries can be found through the QR codes at the exhibition, or can be read directly at (Dutch only). 

Logo Helmen vol Verhalen

The Hague Freedom Weeks
The Hague Freedom Weeks are held every year in the run-up to the Liberation Festival The Hague on May 5. Dozens of institutions, theatres, NGOs, museums and canal cruise organizations jointly put together a program each year on the themes of freedom, WW2, peace, democracy, the rule of law and international legal order. (Dutch only)

Logo Haagse Vrijheidsweken

Justice Peace The Hague
The organisation Just Peace gives peace and justice an important place in the hearts and actions of our residents, entrepreneurs, and organisations in the city of Peace & Justice, The Hague.