Dutch Language Blog

The Fountains of Friesland Posted by on May 23, 2018 in Culture, News

This year, Leeuwarden is the Culturele Hoofdstad or cultural capital. Several events have been set up by the local and regional governments, as well as by the private sector, to promote the rich historical and cultural heritage of the region. One of the planned events were 11 fountains by world-renowned artists. The idea of fountains stems from Friesland’s rich water culture.  The 11 fountains are in the same 11 cities of the famous ice skating event Elfstedentocht and reflect the cities’ history. The 11 cities are  Leeuwarden, Sneek, IJlst, Sloten, Stavoren, Hindeloopen, Workum, Bolsward, Harlingen, Franeker, and Dokkum.

Photo taken by Sjaak Kempe found on Flickr.com with license CC BY 2.0

While the organization in charge of the celebrations says that the local community was involved in the process, a group of artists felt that wasn’t the case. This group is upset that no local artists were commisioned for any of the fountains, and thus set up their own fountain as a form of protest.  Thus came the crowdfunded fountain by Henk de Boer with the name Pauperfontein also known as Jan Lul.

What is a Jan-Lul?

The expression Jan-Lul literally means Jan’s penis but is used when someone is excluded. This can be when a person is included just for show, but in the end, isn’t really considered or is excluded because of a misunderstanding. Another expression that means the same is Jan met de korte achternaam which is a less explicit way of saying the same thing.

In the case of the fountains, the Jan Lul was the local artist community. While de Boer contends that the local community was not involved, the Fries newspaper de Verdieping Trouw states:

Ontworpen door internationaal gerenommeerde kunstenaars, zodat ook de rest van de wereld naar Friesland zal komen. [Anna] Tilroe [curator of the project] koos de makers zelf, hun ontwerp moest geïnspireerd zijn op de lokale geschiedenis én geaccepteerd zijn bij de bevolking. Er moest draagvlak komen. Tilroe zorgde ervoor dat in elke stad een ‘fonteincommissie’ kwam, actieve bewoners die zelf locaties voorstelden aan de gemeente en vervolgens aan de kunstenaars.

The fountain

As we can all imagine with that name, the fountain has 220 wooden penises around a public toilet. When someone in the toilet flushes it, you are amazed at 220 wooden penises squirting water. To ease those residents who were upset by the Jan Lul fountain, de Boer hosted presentations where he explained the reason behind his fountain. The fountain is portable and will be traveling around Friesland with an open-air theatre production. You can hear more about it in the video below (in Dutch).

In the end, the Jan Lul fountain caused so much excitement that the curator of the project, Anna Tilore, chose to add it to the 11 Fountains Project. If you want to read more about the project you can see this article in The Guardian (in English) and you can visit the event website in many languages. The following video has the inauguration of all fountains (minus Jan Lul).

What do you think of the Jan Lul fountain and the rest of the project?

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About the Author: Karoly Molina

Since I was a little girl, I was fascinated with languages and writing. I speak English, Spanish, Italian, Dutch and a little bit of French. I am a writer, reader, language teacher, traveler, and a food lover! I now live in The Netherlands with my husband Riccardo, our cat Mona, and our dog Lisa, and the experience has been phenomenal. The Dutch culture is an exciting sometimes topsy-turvy world that I am happily exploring!


  1. Karoly G Molina:

    I completely agree Tristian!