Artist Jip Wijngaarden, born in Amsterdam in 1964, was around 14 years old when she found a weathered copy of The Diary of Anne Frank in between two walls of their home. It became her treasure.
In 1982, when she (left) was studying at an art school she auditioned for the role of Anne Frank in the Dutch Theatre production of the book. Wijngaarden was selected out of 3,000 who auditioned, and she regarded her role as destiny. In the following years she continued in theater life as an actress and in costume and stage design.
In 1990 she moved to Paris and married Philippe, a professional sound engineer. After a period of searching for truth and security, the couple came to believe in Yeshua, the Jewish Messiah, and become his disciples. They turned from the glamor of the world and their lives changed radically. Wijngaarden devoted herself to studying the scriptures about Yeshua and the Jewish roots of her (Christian) faith. She even began to study Hebrew.
As her relationship with Yeshua was growing, Wijngaarden also turned her attention back to art in 1998. Her first works were on her Messiah and the Bible.
In the year 2003, Wijngaarden presented her Holocaust-inspired series Boulevard of the Deported in the synagogue of Kampen, Holland. Since then she has become the focus of growing public attention. Among other presentations, her series Your People, My People appeared at the museum of Elburg, Holland, in association with the city’s synagogue, which later became the Jewish Museum.
She presented the gala of the 50th anniversary of the Anne Frank house in Amsterdam with Queen Beatrix as special guest in 2010. In 2012 she presented her series I Will Never Forget You in the inauguration of the new wing of the synagogue in Elburg. The opening was given by princess Maxima and some 11,000 visitors came to see her work.
Wijngaarden continues to display her paintings and sculptures in exhibitions in Switzerland, Holland and France.
“If we do not learn from the past, if we distance ourselves from the atrocities which we, the Europeans, proved ourselves capable, the blood spilled from those millions will someday catch up with us and testify against us,” Wijngaarden writes. “Perhaps not in this life, but certainly in the life that comes after.”
Wijngaarden uses lively images to drive home the truth of the past to the heart of the viewer. In her series Boulevard of the Deported she presents 10 different portraits, each of someone we may well almost recognize from our daily lives, each wearing the yellow star: A violinist, a bride, a rabbi, a neighbor, a good friend. Yeshua on the cross is also wearing a yellow star.
In the entrance to her exhibition in Fribourg, Switzerland, presented in 2016, there was a small brown old fashioned suitcase with a Jewish name written across it. On the case was a coat bearing a yellow star, as if the owner was just here and put his belongings down for just a moment. In the same exhibition she presented a map of Amsterdam with red dots on it, each representing 10 Jews who lived there during the war. The concentration of dots in the center of the picture creates a large, red stain. On the left of the picture is a series of name plates of Jewish residents: Esther Hillesum, Aaron Katz…. On the right, opposite the names, a series of five- or six-digit numbers, as of the prisoners in the concentration camps. The red dots were etched onto the canvas, so that viewers can move their finger over the painting and feel where the pain is.
Her painting, Shofar, presents particularly difficult questions before the church. Wijngaarden attributes the silence of Christians during the Holocaust to the fact that through the generations, they have detached the New Testament from the Old and from the nation of Israel, and chose what parts of the Bible they believe. The painting presents a small windowless village in the distance, train tracks and Jews walking towards them, waiting to be transported.
“Suitcases, desperately worried people, and an elderly couple looking at each other: ‘Did we turn off the light?’” Wijngaarden describes. “A young pregnant woman has left her home barefoot. Her young daughter tugs at her skirt, but she does not notice. Everyone is deep in their own personal drama. What they share is the fear of what is to come. One man lifts his head and looks to the church tower, to the cross, the sign of the suffering Messiah. But the church has closed its windows too.
“As I worked on this painting, I asked myself: If Yeshua had lived around 1940-1945, would He have been able to stay seated in a church pew, safe and protected? After all, he was Jewish. Or would he have been on the other side of the tracks surrounded by his ancient people?
“Standing beside His mother….Miriam. Their coats would bear that yellow star that read ‘Jew.’ John, Peter and Paul would also have been among the deported. Simply put, all the authors of the New Testament and all those who authored the Old Testament would have been deported, yanked from their beds in a police raid. Three days of travel by train and then humiliated, starved, gassed and murdered.
“You could actually say that the silent church, the church with those closed windows, allowed its own God to be killed…
“Isaiah 53 is a familiar passage to many Christians. It describes the Messiah as the suffering servant who is despised and abandoned by men. A man of sorrows and acquainted with grief. Like one from whom men hide their face. He was despised and we did not know Him. It is frightening to realize that part of the church treated the Jewish people in the Second World War just like the Servant of the Lord from Isaiah 53. By turning away from them, like one from whom men hide their face…
“The Eternal One led the Jewish people into exile for their sins, the Bible tells us. But by bringing them into our midst, He put our hearts to the test and revealed our true nature. How we treat them says something about who we are in the depths of our soul and which God we choose to worship. The Jewish people bring out the essence of what we truly are…
“The houses and the church should have been open. The Jewish people should have felt a sense of relief at the sight: ‘Oh, look, a church! We can find refuge there!’
“The railway bisects the painting: It is a fault line, separating one side from the other. What god was worshipped on one side that closed off his followers so completely to the suffering on that other side?” (Jip Wijngaarden: Tree of Life, pages 38-40).
More of Wijngaarden’s art can be viewed in her website: www.jipwijngaarden.com
And in her book which can be purchased here: http://www.jipwijngaarden.nl/en/Webshop