The Netherlands: Untold Tales


Analyzing the Past and Decolonizing the Future

The Netherlands was one of the most belligerent European colonial empires. Driven by commerce and spread over four continents, their imperial ambitions changed the lives and cultures of millions of people from Indonesia to the Caribbean. In this series artists and arts practitioners share their thoughts on how to deal with the legacies of that empire, in the Netherlands and beyond.

Afterlives of Slavery addresses the Netherlands’ colonial past and its lingering presence, taking the local audience as a focal point. A major aspiration of the exposition is to call immediate attention to the country’s colonial violence and its role in the transatlantic slave trade. However, the conditions of production, the grid format, the limited scope of the material selected, the choice of a video that promises non-threatening education, and the almost complete absence of works by artists of color born in the Netherlands or in the former colonies suggest that certain things still need to be discussed. It indicates that a serious conversation around race, racism, colonialism, and colonial fetishism in the arts is yet to be meaningfully done in the Dutch context.

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Yesterday we obeyed kings and bent our necks before emperors. But today we kneel only to truth, follow only beauty, and obey only love.
~Kahlil Gibran (1883 –1931), Lebanese American artist, poet, and writer.

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