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The Future of the (Dutch) Colonial Past

**Update November 25, 2021: The symposium "The Future of the Dutch Colonial Past" is sold out! We are maintaining a waiting list, in case tickets are still cancelled. To do so, please email r.stol@amsterdammuseum.nl. **

On June 18th, the exhibition The Golden Coach (Amsterdam Museum, June 18, 2021- February 27, 2022) opened its doors. The present-day debate about the carriage’s symbolism, and that of the Tribute pictured on the Colonies panel in particular, is part of the country’s belated reckoning with its colonial past. How to face this colonial past and its afterlives in the present in a responsible and accountable manner is a question that is being tackled by different Dutch cultural and academic institutions, each in their own way. How do we connect the approaches of cultural institutions, artists and academics to further our collective conversation and turn it into tangible results?
In this symposium, we zoom in on recent research projects, performances and museum exhibitions in the Dutch context, and relate them both to each other and to international perspectives and developments. Moving from provenance research to archiving, curating, theory and artistic reflections, the symposium aims to facilitate an interdisciplinary conversation about the Dutch colonial past and the ways in which this history is dealt with and shapes our practices today.

An accompanying publication, to be published in fall 2022 by Amsterdam University Press, materializes and expands on the presentations and conversations of the symposium.

**Session themes **

  • Dutch colonial heritage in a global context (hosted by all parties)
  • Repair and redress (hosted by NMVW - NIOD)
  • Iconoclasm: toppling statues, changing street names, challenging dominant narratives (hosted by The Black Archives)
  • Curating Contested Heritage (hosted by Rijksmuseum)
  • Decoloniality in Academic Research, Activism and Artistic Practice (hosted by ASCA)
  • Artistic Practices and Reflections (hosted by Amsterdam Museum)
  • Rereading the Archive (New Narratives - Stadsarchief)
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Program day 1

Friday November 26th, 2021 - 09:00 - 18:00

Hosted by: Margriet Schavemaker & Imara Limon

Hermitage Amsterdam

09:00 - 09:30 WALK IN + REGISTRATION

09:30 - 11:00 SESSION 1 - Dutch colonial heritage in a global context

Moderators: Margriet Schavemaker & Imara Limon

09:30 - 09:40 Opening statement - By Margriet Schavemaker & Imara Limon
09:40 - 09:50 Introductory interview - With Karwan Fatah-Black
09:50 - 10:30 Opening panel - with Tirza Balk, Aspha Bijnaar, Susan Legêne, Frank van Vree & Urwin Vyent
10:30 - 11:00 Keynote - By Ciraj Rassool


11:15 - 12:45 SESSION 2 - Repair and Redress

Moderator: Wayne Modest
This first panel will discuss notions of Repair (= engaging with the colonial past in ways that actively acknowledge the deep impact on contemporary societies and individuals in terms of past and present violence and Redress (= agreeing on acts that in a concrete sense contribute to changing current relationships to this past)
The context for this discussion is threefold: (1) the policy report ‘Colonial collections and recognition of injustice’; (2) the PPROCE project on methodologies of provenance research for colonial collections; (3) the Pressing Matter project on ownership value and the question of colonial heritage in museums.

11:15 - 11:45 Repair - Presentation 'Fragments of Repair' - By Kader Attia
11:45 - 12:05 Redress - Presentation PPROCE - By Klaas Stutje & Frank van Vree
12:05 - 12:45 Panel discussion - With Wayne Modest, Kader Attia, Klaas Stutje, Frank van Vree & Ciraj Rassool

12:45 - 13:45 LUNCH

SESSION 3 - Curating Contested Heritage

Moderator: Valika Smeulders
European national museums and their collections, built in the 19th century, are rooted in ideas of nationalism and colonialism of that era. The Rijksmuseum’s Slavery-exhibition, which was on during the summer of 2021, demonstrates the Netherlands’ current day reckoning with its colonial past. The museum is re-examining its collection, bringing in new expertise from different disciplines, among which most notably oral history, and bringing in newly acquired and loaned historical and contemporary objects to be able to address the past in a more balanced way. The four-year process of preparing the exhibition was executed in a participative and transparent way, building a broad support base for the exhibition and new involvement with the museum into the future. How is this transformation received by the public? What steps are taken by museums across the Netherlands regarding the decolonization of exhibiting, programming and working inclusively? What characterized the Rijksmuseum’s curatorial approach that resulted into this exhibition, and how does this relate to the practice of museums in other countries dealing with the colonial past?

13:45 – 13:55 Introduction - By Valika Smeulders
13:55 – 14:20 Presentation - By David Bade & Tirzo Martha
14:20 – 14:35 Talk - By Anthony Bogues
14:35 – 14:50 Talk - By Aspha Bijnaar
14:45 – 15:15 Paneltalk + audience questions - With David Bade, Tirzo Martha, Anthony Bogues & Aspha Bijnaar

15:15 - 15:30 SHORT BREAK

15:30 - 17:00 SESSION 4 - Artistic Practices and Reflections

Moderators: Inez van der Scheer & Margriet Schavemaker

In our engagement with the colonial past, institutions are in a process of transformation. We are reflecting on our own role in sociohistorical narratives that are currently contested or being unpacked and this reflection entails new practices of curation, intention as well as form. What (hi)stories do we tell and how do we present them? What audiences do we hope to engage in this debate and what message do we hope to impart on them? How do we collaborate to stimulate multivocality in broaching the colonial past, present and decolonial futures?

For the Golden Coach exhibition, we have commissioned the visions of several contemporary artists on this loaded history. Especially in the context of colonial history where a single Eurocentric narrative has thus far prevailed in archives and collections, contemporary makers play a vital role in redressing this imbalance. As a result, different ways of thinking about the relationship between past and present and history and art emerge in the exhibition. Artists mediate between the audience and the institution, bringing their personal insights and experiences forward. As individuals or collectives, they have cultivated unique artistic practices for navigating colonial histories, objects and collections. In this panel, we will offer the contemporary makers of the Golden Coach exhibition a platform to share their experiences, motivations and creative practices of social critique.

15:30 - 15:40 Opening statement - By Inez van der Scheer & Margriet Schavemaker
15:40 - 16:00 Lecture - By Clémentine Deliss
16:00 – 16:10 Column - By Raul Balai
16:10 - 16:55 Roundtable - With Raquel van Haver, Iswanto Hartono & Raul Balai
16:55 - 17:00 Closing remarks

17:00 - 17:30 CLOSING REMARKS DAY 1

By Margriet Schavemaker & Imara Limon

Program day 2

Saturday November 27th, 2021 - 09:00 - 18:00

Hosted by: Wayne Modest

Lutherse Kerk


9:30 - 11:00 SESSION 5 - Activism, Academic Research and Decoloniality

Moderator: Esther Peeren
How are theories of decoloniality (by, for example, Walter Mignolo, Sylvia Wynter, Rolando Vazquez) used in and across academic research, activism and artistic practice to address the afterlives of colonialism in the present and to challenge the disavowal of these afterlives? How can theories of decoloniality help to foreground and recognize the forms of knowledge and genres of being and living that have been marginalized and devalued by the system of modernity-coloniality? Besides addressing these questions, the speakers, who all work on the intersection of academic research, activism and art, will reflect on how the borders between these fields can be crossed (out) so that they can creatively feed into each other, and so that art and activism can find a place within academia as research practices.

9:30 - 9:40 Introduction: What is Decoloniality? - By Rolando Vazquez
9:40 - 9:50 Position statement - By Julian Isenia
9:50 - 10:00 Position statement - By Mikki Stelder
10:00 - 10:10 Position statement- By Barbara Titus
10:10 - 10:30 Panel discussion - With Rolando Vázquez, Julian Isenia, Mikki Stelder & Barbara Titus
10:30 - 10:50 Q&A with audience
10:50 - 11:00 Closing thoughts panelists

11:00 - 11:15 SHORT BREAK

11:15 - 12:45 SESSION 6 - Iconoclasm: toppling statues, changing street names, challenging dominant narratives

Moderator: Mitchell Esajas
Across Europe grassroots movements have organized, petitioned, lobbied and protested to change street names, remove statues and other symbols of Europe's colonial past which continue to remain present in the public place. Over the past decade, a new wave of anti-racism emerged in the Netherlands centered around the “zwarte piet” stereotype. It became the catalyst for a broader public debate about contested heritage including street names and statues.
In this panel we will reflect on the meaning of such relics of the past in present public space and the dynamic in the movements which organize to remove them. How does this work contribute to the creation of space to question, decolonize, and expand upon dominant historical narratives in museums and in the public space?

11:15 - 12:45 Roundtable - With Simukai Chigudu, Sherida Kuffour, Nancy Jouwe

13:45 - 15:15 SESSION 7 - Rereading the Archive

Moderator: Imara Limon
The afterlife of Dutch colonial history permeates our cultural institutions, including archives such as the Amsterdam City Archives (Stadsarchief). The colonial past manifests itself in archival documents such as letters of manumission, notarial deeds and registers of slavery, prompting archivists to critically reflect on the conservation and handling of this fraught heritage today. But the question of the colonial and the anti-colonial in archival practices goes beyond the objects that we know to contain colonial and slavery histories.
What can contemporary developments around accessibility and digitization, the exclusion and inclusion of marginalized histories and creative or subversive research methodologies mean for the archives as institutions and archival research as a discipline? What new narratives can we unearth from the archives or may emerge from our alternative archival research practices? For this session, experts from across the field will present a variety of research projects and reflect on their engagement with colonial heritage in and outside the archival discipline in a panel discussion.

13:45 - 13:55 Introduction - By Imara Limon
13:55 - 14:35 Short presentations - By Mark Ponte, Chandra Frank, Michael Karabinos
14:35 - 14:40 Intermezzo - By Richard Kofi
14:40 - 15:15 Panel discussion - With Mark Ponte, Chandra Frank, Michael Karabinos

15:15 - 17:00 Visit the 'Golden Coach' exhibtion at Amsterdam Museum

Visitors are invited to join a tour through the exhibition by Annemarie de Wildt

17:00 - 18:00 CLOSING SESSION

Concluding remarks and audience questions.
Hosted at Museumcafé Mokum at the Amsterdam Museum - Informal setting with drinks

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