Brandpunt+ publishes an article about the Protest Supplies Store

For those amongst you who speak Dutch: Brandpunt+ of NPO3 has written an article about the Protest Supplies Store. Jan van Tienen has interviewed the founder of the Protest Supplies Store, Eef Veldkamp, and asked for his ideas on different issues and potentialities of protest. You can read it through this link:

For those who do not speak Dutch, we have translated the article to English.

Artist Eef Veldkamp (25) founded the Protest Supplies Store: a store which sells products that help you protest. Flags of countries in the form of candles, a one-size-fits-all ski mask and reusable protest signs. He told us about his store and about activism.

Commerce and protest are sometimes quite difficult to combine. When Pepsi released a commercial two years ago in which Kendall Jenner cheerfully swirled a can of Pepsi through a demonstration, there was so much criticism that the soda brand withdrew the film again. It will not be such a storm at the slightly smaller Eef company, but it does raise questions: why does he actually look for that combination? And is it all an ironic joke? That appears not to be the case, Eef has a philosophical and artistic reasoning: he uses commerce as a force to help people find new forms of protest, he explains:

“I developed the idea of ​​the Protest Supply Store when I was studying at Goldsmiths College, a university of fine arts and social sciences in London. There I noticed that it was important to me that art is committed to something and does not retreat to a kind of avant-garde separated world where art is only about itself (where it becomes 'autonomous', as it is called), and no longer about reality or on society. I wanted to make art that 'does'. That's how I ended up at a store with things for new forms of activism.

I think that in a sense everyone is an activist. Everyone is worried or angry about something. Only that anger is not always converted into action. The trick is to put batteries in that feeling and get it moving. I think my store, the Protest Supplies Store, can contribute to that, also because I am looking for new ways to protest with the products that I develop and offer there.

Eef Veldkamp

Flag burning
For example, "burn-a-flag", candle versions of flags. In many countries it is forbidden to burn flags, in some countries you go in jail for it, in Saudi Arabia your head goes off. In addition, burning a flag is increasingly becoming impossible because more and more of them are made of non-flammable materials, and as a result, they have lost their symbolic power. By producing that flag in the shape of a candle, the flag burns again. In addition, people can make a silent, contemplative protest at home, with their family and friends. At home you also discuss the most profound and substantive matters with each other. To protest, for example, I am selling candles of the American flag, the flag of the EU, those of India, Germany.

 burn-a-flag European Union 1jpg
'Burn-a-flag' EU
burn-a-flag islamic state 1jpg 
'Burn-a-flag' IS

Making the protest sustainable
Another product is the extendable reusable protest board, which I am still developing. Often, after protests, the garbage bins bulge from discarded signs on which messages were written. In addition to it not really being ecologically sustainable, it also emphasises the "disposable character" of traditional protest in general. You come together, shout something, and it's over again. I want to make that process more sustainable, and also help people to strengthen their political identity. If you always have your protest sign with you - and can therefore always use it - you may feel more political, or at least more political than people who only vote once every four years and leave it to that.

One of the aspects of protesting that I am most interested in is the space in which it takes place. My project is based on the idea that most of our existence takes place in a social space that we rarely recognize as such: the economic space. My store, just as well an art project, is an attempt to protest making use of that economic space. People above all, identify with what they buy. It would be amazing if people would identify more with political engagement. One day therefore I also hope that my Protest Supply Store will open a store in the Kalverstraat in Amsterdam, and that after shopping at the Zara you will also get some attributes for the protest at my store. Wouldn't that make you think?

First 3D models for the new 'Reusable Protest Sign'

They sometimes say that the Malieveld is the least political place in the Netherlands. Protesting there feels a bit like "you can protest here, because it has no influence." The Malieveld is part of the public space, which is paid for and maintained by the government, and it is precisely where protests against the government must take place. So you have to protest on terms of "the enemy", against the same "enemy". I find that interesting. How do you tackle that problem? One of the options is to move the protest to the home atmosphere: that's how I got to those candles.
I find the contemplative character of being at home interesting, hence it is one of the products in the "contemplative toy" product category. Another are these miniature statues I have developed based on debates around post-colonial statues in public space. The difference with these miniature statues ("deface-a-statue") is that if you press a button on the bottom they will fall, if you release the button, they will stand up again. This way you can play with the idea of ​​removing statues. Currently I am also develop a colouring book for children. In it, the character 'Rora', the activist sister of the famous 'Dora the Explorer', asks children questions about what kind of protest they want to develop, what kind of world they want to live. Children then colour those situations.

Marches and mass meetings are important, but the goal - change - is often achieved only marginally. Critics sometimes say: it is no more than nagging with a group of people in the same place. That's okay, nagging is good too. Problems also need a face that expresses them, preferably with a frown of despair. But it is also a bit true and awkward. Where is the changing capacity? That is often then ultimately placed with politics. I find it exciting to think: what can you do yourself? For me the answer lies in the art.

Statue Lenin illustrationjpg 
'Deface-a-statue: Lenin'

For me, activism or a protest can be successful in several ways. When marginalised groups get a voice, such as happoned a while ago with the Domestic Workers Netherlands, cleaner protests that the FNV organised with the help of Matthijs de Bruijne using marketing techniques. But even when an action makes me think or makes me laugh, I often find it good. We also laugh at things that are just beyond thinking. For example, there is a group called CIRCA: the Clandestine Insurgent Rebel Clown Army. The group consists of professionally trained clowns. What they do during protests is building their theater between the police and demonstrators. The whole situation - which was under great pressure before - suddenly becomes ridiculous. But if it is a pretty powerful image, and it puts its finger on a sore spot, I also think it's great. A friend recently told me about a man who wanted to protest but who had not received a permit. And then you cannot come together with a group of people on the street. That is why he had made thirty or forty plates on his own, which he raised by pulling on a rope. It still seemed like a lot. "

Written by Jan van Tienen. 2019. First published on 15-08-2019. (Hilversum: Brandpunt+, NPO3.) Feature image courtesy of Brandpunt+, NPO3.