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Fabiola, fabulous and flamboyant

Fabiola was well-known to many Amsterdam citizens as a living piece of lively and colorful art, closely associated with the metropolitan gay scene. Eighteen diaries of Fabiola from 1985-1987 are now made accessible at the IISH.

Fabiola is the artistic name of Peter Alexander van Linden. Peter was born in Weilheim, Germany, on May 26, 1946. His father was Belgian and his mother German. Shortly after his birth he was given up for adoption, and after spending two years in a monastery, was adopted by an aunt. Following a few happy years in Bavaria, when he was seven  Peter was taken by his biological mother to the village of Willebroek, near Antwerp. So Peter ended up in a strict Catholic environment where his burgeoning homosexuality was taboo.
In the mid sixties, Peter moved to Amsterdam. This city, called the Magic Center by Provo Robert Jasper Grootveld, exercised a great attraction for him, and he loved both the squatters’ and gay movements.  In Diary 17 he wrote  “And then came the turning point in my life and my coming out and my real life started at the Amsterdam canals and the thousand tulips began to bloom in my life.” Fabiola carried the invective  “faggot” as an honorary nickname, and when somebody told him that he walked like a queen, he baptized himself “Fabiola,” after the Belgian Queen Fabiola.

Fabiola was always there. Striking and colorful, with a self-made outfit, ranging from colored baggy skirts and dresses to shiny tightly sealed packets of decorative foil material. In combination with an ornate headdress, a made-up face and freak accessories, Fabiola was living art par excellence. This outfit saw Fabiola as a permanent call for maladaptive and deviant behavior and against social injustice. This appearance, both vulnerable and powerful , made Fabiola a living style icon of whimsy. Fabiola was a welcome guest at all sorts of manifestations of the gay scene (Pink Saturday, Gay Pride) and the party scene (the RoXY).
For several decades, Fabiola colored demonstrations and parties until deteriorating health put an end to that. On December 22, 2012, Fabiola gave a farewell speech in the program Blije Buren van from the Amsterdamse city TV AT5. On January 27, 2013, Fabiola died at the age of 66 in the OLVG hospital in Amsterdam.

Fabiola made a series of diaries in 1985, 1986, and 1987. These diaries are not chronological reports, but works of art.  They offer a candid account of his daily changing moods, from happy, sad, to depressed. Fabiola frequently reminisced in the diaries about his childhood in Germany and later Belgium. Especially interesting are the comments that Fabiola delivers on political events. Sometimes he gives an account of a meeting in the squatters’ environment, and then a demonstration against fascism or for gay rights. Often the theme of the diary was inspired by actual events which touched Fabiola personally, as violence against squatters or homosexuals. In 1986 he writes in his Diary 17 on the actions against the installation of the extreme right Center Party in the City Council of Amsterdam. “Let me laugh about the democracy that protects fascists until there is no more democracy.” 

In 1987 Fabiola wrote Diary 25 in response to the murder of Michael John Poyé by drunken skinheads at the railway station of Hilversum in September 1986. Poyé was attacked because of his punk look. Fabiola felt kinship because he also had to deal with aggressive reactions about his appearance. During the trial of the four skinheads Fabiola sat in the public gallery. According to Fabiola he was searched and insulted by duty officers. Thus arose the need for Fabiola to do this artwork in diary form.
Not only the IISH but also the Amsterdam City Archives hold a copy of Dagboek 25. The concept is the same, but there are variations in color and shape. This suggests that the edition was limited because the diaries are unique pieces, each been put together individually.
The diaries are now available for research. These are valuable, but the choice of materials and construction makes them very vulnerable items.

Bouwe Hijma, Harriet Stroomberg

18 August 2014