Monday 17 January 2022

Amsterdam’s Rijksmuseum to hold exhibition on slavery in 2020

One of Gerrit Schouten’s dioramas, part of the Tropenmuseum collection

The Rijksmuseum will organise an exhibition devoted to the Netherlands and slavery in 2020, the museum director Taco Dibbits told the Volkskrant in an interview.

Dibbit’s decision marks a break with the vision of former directors who devoted little attention to the darker side of the country’s history, the paper said.

‘The collection tells the history of the Netherlands which is connected with many countries,’ says Dibbits. ‘The good and less good are part of that and must all be shown.’

The museum’s collection includes many objects which refer to slavery, including three dimensional tableaus of slaves working on plantations made by Surinamese Dutch artist Gerrit Schouten. The collection also includes etchings and paintings featuring slaves, including child slaves in the service of wealthy families, the Volkskrant said.

Cultural historian Thomas Dunk told the paper that slavery should be an integral part of the way we view history. ‘There needs to be an awareness, but we should not have to radiate guilt,’ he said. ‘You are not guilty of things you have not done but as a society you are a product of history.’

He urged the museum to make sure the exhibition reflects slavery in a wider perspective. ‘All cultures whose remains we wonder at, be it the Egyptians with their pyramids and Romans with their Colosseum had slaves,’ he said.

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