Art On Sunday makes an inventory of our colonial past in art

BACKGROUND – There has been a lot of talk about our colonial past in recent years. Art up Sunday explored colonial-era expressions on museums and other art forms in our country. Numerous exhibitions, books and theater performances have been developed around the colonial past. A search yielded many references. What do you know about our colonial history?

The colonial past in the museums

Front page for the biography Anton de Kom.

Anton de Kom in the Open Air Museum

In 2020, the Surinamese writer, resistance fighter, anti-colonial thinker, poet and human rights activist Anton de Kom (1898-1945) got his own window into the Dutch canon. In 1934, his book ‘We Slaves of Suriname’ was published. This work is an indictment of racism, exploitation and colonial rule. Anton de Kom was the first author to describe the history of Suriname from a non-Western perspective. De Kom fought for a dignified existence. He stood up not only for his countrymen who were oppressed, but for all who suffer under exploitation and oppression. His efforts and struggle were not appreciated by the ruling parties in both Suriname and our country. In fact, he was seen as a danger to society. Despite increasing pressure from those in power, they did not give up. Now there is an exhibition where his ideas get attention. In the Open Air Museum you will discover who Anton de Kom was, how he lived and worked. Surinamese artist Ken Doorson has created the artwork ‘Papa de Kom’ especially for this exhibition.

The Anton de Kom exhibition can be seen in the Open-Air Museum in Arnhem until the end of 2022.

Video Kara Walker at the exhibition ‘A black hole is everything a star longs to be’

Kara Walker and De Pont

Colleague Joke de Wolf had warned me: “Kara Walker in De Pont in Tilburg is heavy”. Horror and intimacy meet in her art. Kara Walker (Stockton, CA, 1969) offers her perspective on history in her work. Slavery, racism and sexism are central to these stories. Why do I still want to Tilburg? Because Walker’s stories deserve a large audience. Our awareness of the horror and intimacy she shares opens the door to greater understanding and empathy. A black hole is all that a star longs to be can be discovered until 24 July 2022 in De Pont in Tilburg.

Video David Van Reybrouck – 50ste Huizinga Lecture 2021 ‘The Colonization of the Future. To live on the threshold of the climate catastrophe ‘.

Revolution in the kingdom

The Flemish cultural historian and author David Van Reybrouck (Bruges, 1971) wrote a monumental work on the freedom struggle in Indonesia. For five years he researched our involvement in the struggle in Indonesia. He spoke to hundreds of people from Indonesia, Japan and the Netherlands, among others. In an interview in Trouw (November 29, 2020), the author expresses his astonishment at the lack of historical awareness in our country. His hefty book was the prelude to the Revolusi exhibition at the Rijksmuseum.

Slavery past_entree expo © photo Wilma_Lankhorst

Present from the past of slavery, entrance expo © photo Wilma Lankhorst.

Present of the slavery past in the Africa Museum

The duration of the exhibition ‘The present of the slavery past’ in the Africa Museum in Berg & Dal near Nijmegen has been extended to 21 August 2022. This is good news, this exhibition shows in a clear and interactive way what our slavery past looks like . ser. In addition to a solid piece of history, this exhibition focuses on the present. Do you know how our colonial past lives on in our country in the year 2022? Experience it in the Africa Museum. Read also: Kunst op Zondag explores the Surinamese school archive and Kunst op Zondag reads Slavery.

Video Our country

‘Our country, colonization, generations and stories’ Museum Maluka

The semi-permanent exhibition ‘Our country, decolonization, generations and stories’ can now be seen in the Sophiahof Museum in The Hague. The exhibition Our country is about the Dutch colonial history in the East. You also see how this story still affects our society today. You hear the stories through the voices of eight families. The creators state that the exhibition is not neutral, that the story is incomplete and unfinished. It is a snapshot of an ongoing process of consciousness. This exhibition is the second joint project of the Moluccan Historical Museum (Museum Maluku) and the Indies Remembrance Center. Both centers are housed in the Sophiahof Museum. Museum Maluku is open from Tuesday to Sunday from 11:00 to 17:00. The museum card is valid at this museum.

Books with colonial roots

In literature, colonial history goes beyond our national history alone. In addition to Suriname and Indonesia, racial history in the United States is also a strong source of inspiration. Our colonial past plays a role in various books by Annejet van der Zijl (Oterleek, 1962). In it best selling Sony Boy (Annejet van der Zijl), we are introduced to our common history with Suriname. In 1928, the Surinamese student Waldemar Nods moves into a room in The Hague. His hostess, Rika van der Lans, a Dutch woman, is divorced and has four children. A major scandal flares up when Rika six months later turns out to be pregnant with Waldemar. Despite poverty and discrimination, they manage to build a happy life with their son Waldy, aka Sonny Boy. This happiness is cruelly disturbed when World War II breaks out.

Video interview Annejet van der Zijl about Fortuna’s Children

Fortune’s children

In ‘Leon & Juliette’ (Bogugegave 2020), Annejet van der Zijl lifts a piece of the veil from the colonial history of the southern states of North America. It is 1820 when a Dutch boy, Leon Herckenrath, fled from his poor homeland. He is looking for the big money in the new world. In his new hometown of Charleston, it is natural for him to buy a black girl, Juliette, for housework. The fact that he buys her is not a problem for society. But by choosing her, Leon puts the world around them in ‘danger’. This gift was the prelude to a larger work ‘Fortuna’s children’, which is now in bookstores everywhere. In Fortuna’s Children, Van der Zijl describes a family history that spans two centuries. The story is about people who do not let their lives be limited by risks and their love not by skin color. Discover for yourself how surprisingly topical this theme is now.

fru.  Degas Edgas, book Arthur Japin © photo Wilma_Lankhorst

fru. Degas, novel by Arthur Japin © photo Wilma Lankhorst.

Arthur Japins quests

and mrs. Degas briefly describes Arthur Japin (Haarlem, 1956) the situation surrounding cotton production and sales in New Orleans and the years following the American Civil War (1861-1865). Japin shows us these social developments through the eyes of the family of the French painter Edgar Degas. In 1997, Japin broke through with his version of life for the two princes in The black with the white heart† Ten years of research preceded the publication of this book. Japin visited Africa, Weimar and Indonesia, among others.

Video Colson Whitehead

The underground railway

In The Underground Railroad, the black author Colson Whitehead (New York City, 1969) describes the story of the slave and later refugee Cora Randall. It is a historical novel about slavery and an allegory about contemporary racism. Whitehead describes a secret network (smuggling routes) through which slaves from South America attempted to flee to the free north and Canada in the mid-nineteenth century. In connection with the US election in the fall of 2020, this book and the new racism in America were widely discussed. In an interview in Buitenhof (autumn 2020), Whitehead indicated that he saw changes rather than progress in racialism.

Anneloes Timmerij reads from ‘Maria’s men’

Focus on Indonesia

In ‘De Mannen van Maria’ (2020), Anneloes Timmerij takes her readers to the VOC’s ‘golden year’ in Indonesia. In 1625, the then 18-year-old Maria van Aelst boarded one of the VOC ships heading for Batavia. She walks like a ‘pot pear’, which means she is expected to take care of offspring as soon as possible with a Dutch man in Batavia. Maria marries twice, and both times her husband dies relatively shortly after marriage. In 1630 she married Antonio van Diemen. Her husband makes a quick career in Batavia, and Maria continues to drive on this success as his partner. She is also developing her own business talent. After Diemen’s death, Maria returns to Holland. In 1674, on her deathbed, she looks back on her life and role as VOC in Indonesia: “We left to give birth, sent by order of the gentlemen over there, seven girls who often had not even been kissed yet. ”

Indian roots of Timmerij

Anneloes Timmerij (Amsterdam, 1955) has Indonesian roots from her mother’s family. Timmerij spent several months in West Java for his book ‘Indian Silence’. She lived close to where her mother, grandmother and the rest of her family grew up. Her mother speaks only when absolutely necessary. So it was with her grandmother. The family is held together by seven sisters, the aunts. When every aunt dies, a piece of India disappears.

Trailer ‘The forgotten story’

Double novel: The forgotten story

The years 1946-1950 in Indonesia also form the background for the first double novel by Anneloes Timmerij and her partner Charles den Tex (Australia, 1952) in ‘The forgotten story’ (2014). The main characters Lienke and Guus Hagers see each other as the loves of their lives. They live in the Dutch East Indies. If World War II also takes hold of the Dutch East Indies, they will lose everything they had and each other. Lienke and her relatives are captured by the Japanese. Through their experiences, you can read what happened in the internment camps. It is this zoomed perspective that gives this story a penetrating atmosphere.

© text and images Wilma Lankhorst.

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