‘We should celebrate and cherish Amsterdam’s creativity, diversity, and identity, because a rich and diverse cultural climate is a prerequisite for a healthy city in the future,’ say the founders of GLUE amsterdam connected by design, David Heldt, Janine de Jong, and Guus van Maarschalkerweerd. One way they do this is by honouring four creative ‘honorary’ citizens with the title of Creative Citizen of Honour every year.

For this third edition of the event, the honourees are designers Mina Abouzahra, Nikki Gonnissen, and Thomas Widdershoven, and cultural entrepreneur Suzanne Oxenaar. They are being spotlighted because they provide a podium for creativity in the city or encourage its development. They know how to reflect, convey, connect, and enrich the colourfulness, creativity, and diversity of the city of Amsterdam.

Mina Abouzahra - Designer

Dutch-Moroccan interior designer Mina Abouzahra also succeeds in this mission. With a lot of passion and energy, she manages to realise a cultural exchange and meeting between two worlds – the Netherlands and Morocco. From her Studio Mina Abouzahra, specialising in modern Berber rugs and interior products, she works passionately as a bridge builder: she is committed to involving the Moroccan community in Amsterdam in her work and getting them interested in creative craftsmanship.

This makes Mina a role model for bi-cultural young people in Amsterdam, in particular, who have few examples and are underrepresented in the cultural sector. The designer encourages them to make a choice within the creative world and helps them along the way. The fact that Mina uses design and crafts as tools to make contact between various Amsterdammers fits in perfectly with the principles of GLUE.

Suzanne Oxenaar - Designer

Someone who also connects with this is Suzanne Oxenaar. A creative entrepreneur at heart, she has inspired the city by constantly initiating new creative concepts and collaborations with artists and designers. For example, she presented Amsterdam with Hotel The Exchange, for which recent fashion design graduates designed textiles and furniture. As a former co-founder and artistic director of the Lloyd Hotel, she set up the Cultural Embassy. And she transformed 28 former bridge keeper’s houses into extraordinary mini-suites: SWEETS hotels.

‘Hotels in Amsterdam are often associated with mass tourism and profit motives and are hardly in touch with the residents of Amsterdam,’ she explains. In Suzanne’s hands, they make that connection with the city, with Amsterdam’s culture, and often form a vibrant platform for creativity. ‘Whether it’s an art project or a concept for a hotel, it inspires and facilitates cultural exchange in the city,’ she says.

Thomas Widdershoven - Former creative director
Nikki Gonnissen - Designer
You can hardly get any closer to creative honorary citizens: since 2002, Nikki Gonnissen and Thomas Widdershoven, founders of design studio Thonik have been responsible not only for the strategy, but also for the visual identity of the City of Amsterdam, which includes the three iconic crosses of the city’s logo. The designers have been beautifying the city for years with their striking creative contributions such as for the University of Amsterdam and the Holland Festival.
They even donated beautiful graphic architecture to an ugly part of town: Thomas designed Thonik’s own studio on Wibautstraat together with MMX-architects. A building the upper floor of which they open to programmes, workshops, and the exchange of ideas. ‘The building is a blueprint for urban development. I encourage more small players to develop their own space. It leads to more diversity and quality in the city,’ says Thomas.
The designers are internationally committed to the cultural sector and have brought attention to countless organisations in the city with their bold design. Both online and in the streets, they make the colourful city even more colourful. Nikki is a strong advocate for preserving this valuable diversity, for the open structure of the city. That’s why she is committed to collaborations with young start-ups. ‘They are the future. They provide new creative ideas that contribute to the open city.’