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Transportation

Learning to Live in Amsterdam by Learning to Ride Bikes

The director of a moving new documentary, Mama Agatha, talks about immigration, identity, and hope.
relates to Learning to Live in Amsterdam by Learning to Ride Bikes
Courtesy The Sound of Applause

The headlines these days are full of dark stories about immigration: refugees lost in the waters of the Mediterranean, people fleeing war and poverty who end up stranded in crowded camps for years, newcomers targeted by demagogues seeking to whip up nativist anxiety and votes.

The short and moving little documentary Mama Agatha tells a different kind of story. It’s about a 59-year-old Ghanaian woman living in cycle-friendly Amsterdam. An outgoing and vibrant woman known around the city’s Southeast neighborhood as a “community mother,” she has for the past five years taught other immigrant women how to ride bikes in a methodical 12-week course. She and her volunteer colleagues guide them from wobbly beginnings in a local gym to steady competence on local streets.