"Zinkstukken" (Sinking mats)

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Dear visitor

This part of my website gives information about "Rijswerkers". Traditionally, the working population of Werkendam has been involved in shipping and water engineering. A special group however, earns a living by cutting the willow twigs and the plaiting of large mats from the twigs. The tough, flexible twigs are cut from the Osier , a willow which grows in the Bieschbosch The mats, called "zinkstukken" (Sinking mats) are used for foundation and protection of dykes and dam's, not only in the Netherlands but also abroad. The pictures on the right give an impression of their work.

From the 19th century on, the so called "Rijswerkers" where employed at a number of water engineering projects, including Shanghai in China, Indonesia, Argentina, Suez- and Panama Canal, St. Petersburg in Russia and in Holland the projects in the former Zuiderzee.
The projects usually lasted for many years and the workers were not seldom separated from their families for a long time. Even travelling to countries as far as China and Argentina took several months in those times. This had a profound social impact on the involved families and their community.
The workers were called "meuzikken" in the local dialect which means, mosquito's that are swarming out all over the world. This nickname is used in the title of this webster.

I have been studying the workers and their families for some time now and published about projects in Shanghai, Argentina and the Dutch projects at the former Zuiderzee.
My latest publication, WWW Werkers Waddenelanden Waterwerken, is about the projects on the dutch Wadden Islands.
Although my publications are in Dutch, I am very much interested in information on water engineering projects were Dutch workers were involved, anywhere in the world. Please, contact me when you have stories, pictures or information on water engineering projects, in particular about Dutch workers.
You can mail me at info@nelvanas.nl. Thank you.

Drs. P.J. van As