Agartha Frimpong, nicknamed ‘Mama Agatha’, runs a bicycle training program for migrant women in Amsterdam. A self-described ‘community mother’, she is a 59-year-old Ghanaian woman with the spirit of a 20-year-old. With the help of her bicycle training assistants, Mama Agatha supervises weekly classes in the colorful Southeast district with a large population of people from Africa and the Middle East. She has been doing this for several years and has taught nearly 1000 women how to move around on a bicycle.
Over the course of 10 weeks, Mama Agatha teaches a group of 15 women from all corners of the world the most basic Dutch skill: cycling. Mama Agatha’s summer course ends in a colorful graduation ceremony where the migrant ladies receive their diplomas and take to the streets of Amsterdam on their brand new bicycles and find their own way into Dutch society.
“This is a woman who has dedicated her life to the community and she intends to keep it that way.”
The course begins in an indoor gymnasium where the women can take a tumble on the padded floor without hurting themselves. Some of them bring along their children who film the adventure on their smartphones and act as translators between their moms and Mama Agatha. Hardly any of these women speak Dutch or English.
Over the next few weeks, the women move to an underground parking lot. Some take to the bicycle faster than others. The veiled Muslim women, in particular, find it difficult to cycle, because their long dresses get stuck in the wheels. Others are chaperoned by husbands who refuse to leave their side. Mama Agatha handles these cultural differences with wit and humor, telling one Moroccan man, “she is your wife all day long. For this one hour, she is mine.”
When she’s not supervising the women in her bicycle course, Mama Agatha is either at the local church, cooking with family and friends or appearing on the local Ghanaian radio station. Everyone in Southeast Amsterdam knows her. Families wave from their cars and women stop to chat. Mama Agatha’s two phones never stop ringing. This is a woman who has dedicated her life to the community and she intends to keep it that way.
In the last few classes of the course, the women finally take to the streets where they cycle among cars. Some of Mama Agatha’s students are in their 60s – women who have put their own lives on hold for their families. The sheer joy on their faces as they cycle on the bridge with the wind against their cheeks is what inspires Mama Agatha to keep doing this after all these years.
Mama Agatha is a heartwarming short documentary about the spirit of community and the exhilarating freedom of riding a bicycle.
Released in May 2015, Mama Agatha has been shown dozens of times across the globe. It won an Audience Award at its premiere at Leiden Short Film Experience, and celebrated its international premiere at Rhode Island International Film Festival 2015.
Are you interested in showing Mama Agatha in your community, at your school or during your event? Get in touch!