Homepage 'de Luikerwaal' Gérard A. P. van den Akker
a passionate Dutch lanternist from days long gone.
Thanks to Charles Barten for giving me a lot of useful illustrations.
It was long ago, at the dawning of the 70th of the previous century, and consequently the memory has faded. I was a starting collector and possessed only one or two magic lanterns. I took the train to Amsterdam to visit Gérard A.P. van den Akker who lived in the Balistraat in a real Amsterdam upstairs dwelling.
His living turned out to be completely filled with magic lanterns. Cupboards, book cases, tables and even the floor were covered with magic lanterns en all  kinds of attributes. Gérard showed them to me with a noticeable pleasure, told everything about them and demonstrated me how they worked. That was really delight for me! At that time I did not know much about that object and consequently almost everything he told and showed me that evening was new for me. The time flew by and when I had to leave because otherwise I should miss the last train to my home his wife Suus proposed me to stay and sleep there. I did not do that, but it illustrates the cordial way I was received there.
Gérard Antoine Pierre van den Akker was born in Amsterdam in 1929 and worked many years as a graphical draughtsman. His first magic lantern shows were for his little daughter. He used a magic lantern that he got from a colleague. 'I don't like television and searched for something that should be able to stimulate the imagination of a child. Something with a little bit of romance.' The reason of his fascination for the magic lantern was a visit to Peter Bonnet, the retired director of a school in the Frisian town of Sloten, who was 73 years old at that time. Bonnet possessed an enormous collection of magic lanterns and only a few people knew about the existence of this. The contacts between the two men lead to the foundation of a two-men-society and the opening of a museum in Bonnet's private house. Van den Akker started as an 'explicator' with magic lantern shows and did this in an authentic way to the best of his ability.
For example he used to wrap himself in the outfit of a fireman from that time while he showed the 'Commentary on a Fire, a bloodcurdling report of an eyewitness of an intense fire in the year 1880'. During the show of 'Together with my uncle on Safari, a journey through mysterious Africa and India' he wore a lightweight suit and to make it as truthful as possible he also dealt out bananas under the audience.

The Laterna Magica Foundation used the image of a crookled, dwarfish lanternist from 'Het Groote Tafereel der Dwaasheid' (The Great Theatre of Folly) as a logo. This figure that was consequently called 'a Luikerwaal' by Gérard is styled in the book as the 'Actieuse Nacht-wind-zanger met zijn Tover Slons' (The Night-wind singer with his Magic Lantern in action).

The image shows a small windmill at the top of his cane. This represents the Dutch expression 'met molentjes lopen' (to be a little bit mad).

Initially Gérard took care of the shows all alone but from around 1972 he was assisted by Cornelis Hendrik van der Poll, who operated the double magic lantern as a lanternist while Gérard as an explicator told the matching stories. This was accompanied by an antique music box and the melancholic sound of an old gramophone.

When Gérard could lay hands on a set of slides from which he did not know the story that it depicted, he sometimes made an appeal to the elder people who possible could know about the topic, in the paper.

That was the case with 'Het Jurkje' (The little Dress). He got a lot of telephone calls from people that remembered the little dress, a recitation for weddings and other parties by Eugène Manuel, translated and revised by J.L Wertheim.

The story is a real tear-jerker: it deals with two unlucky people who want to part and therefore have to divide their possessions. They cannot come to an agreement about the little dress of their early died little daughter and that's why they finally decide to stay together.

Two aged women had quoted the whole poem from memory and it filled ten sheets when they wrote it down! Some others recited it on the telephone.

The set of slides is made by the Dutch glass painters and manufacturers of Life model series, Hermanus van Staveren and his son Jacob. A coloured version, an extensive investigation, and a description we find in Dutch Perspectives by Annet Duller a.o. Van Staveren was the only one in the Netherlands to personally create Life Model productions and he did this in a relative short period until he was overtaken by the enormous importation of English material. The man and the woman acting on the slides could be Van Staveren's parents, according to Duller. Dutch Perspectives shows the set in colours; below is the set in black and white.

The Laterna Magica on  television.



Magic lantern show of 'Icepeter' in the Amsterdam Paradiso (1970).

Set of 23 magic lantern slides made by Bamforth & Co. England.
Unfortunately the slides nr 4, 9, 10, 13, 14, 16, 18, 20, 21 and 23 of this set are absent.
See for another set of slides about Ice Peter the item Magic lantern slides after the famous stories of
Wilhelm Busch


Van den Akker was always attracted by magic, paranormal things, the  incomprehensible. In March '75 he organized a  'Burning of Witches' at the Dam in Amsterdam.
He also experimented with so-called tape voices. When audiotapes are played, voices of the deceased should be heard in the recorded noise.
Gérard van den Akker was in the 1970th one of the very first people who switched on the light in the magic lantern again. A real pioneer. He died in 2008.
Children, be sensible and wise,
Never go alone on dangerous ice.
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Last update: 05-06-2021.
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