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cob Coeman, Pieter Cnoll, Cornelia van Nijenrode, hun dochters en twee van hun tot slaaf gemaakte bedienden, 1665. Rijksmuseum
cob Coeman, Pieter Cnoll, Cornelia van Nijenrode, hun dochters en twee van hun tot slaaf gemaakte bedienden, 1665. Rijksmuseum

Rijksmuseum

Slavery, ten true stories

In this exhibition, Rijksmuseum focuses for the first time on slavery in the Dutch colonial period. This era-spanning 250 years is an integral part of the history of the Netherlands. It was a time when people were reduced to property, to objects, to items in the accounts. The exhibition tells ten true stories from people who were involved in slavery in one way or the other. Ten personal stories about people who were enslaved, and people who kept slaves; about people who resisted, and people who were brought in slavery to the Netherlands. What were their lives like? How did they relate to the system of slavery? Were they able to make their own choices?

Objects and audio stories

This exhibition showcases items from Dutch and foreign museums, from archives and from private collections. And while you’re viewing the objects, paintings and archival documents, you’ll also hear oral sources, poems and music. The audio stories have been voiced by speakers who are connected, through their personal history, to one of the ten people featured in this exhibition.

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Anoniem, Tot slaaf gemaakte mannen graven trenzen, ca. 1850. Amsterdam, Rijksmuseum. Aankoop met steun van het Johan Huizinga Fonds/Rijksmuseum Fonds
Anoniem, Tot slaaf gemaakte mannen graven trenzen, ca. 1850. Amsterdam, Rijksmuseum. Aankoop met steun van het Johan Huizinga Fonds/Rijksmuseum Fonds

To tell a story that is more complete than ever before, Slavery presents objects that have never been displayed in the Rijksmuseum before. They include items that were cherished by enslaved individuals, and tools used on plantations.

Once you have seen the exhibition, artists David Bade and Tirzo Martha from Instituto Buena Bista in Curaçao will invite you to help create ten new works of art based on the stories from the exhibition.

Four continents

The exhibition spans the Dutch colonial period from the 17th to the 19th century. It covers trans-Atlantic slavery in Suriname, Brazil and the Caribbean, and the part played in it by the Dutch West India Company (WIC), as well as Dutch colonial slavery in South Africa and Asia, where the Dutch East India Company (VOC) operated. We also highlight the effects of the system in the Netherlands in this time. As a whole it offers a a geographically broad and at the same time specifically Dutch view which has never been seen before in a national museum.

Rijksmuseum & slavery

Beyond the exhibition itself, the Rijksmuseum is adding extra information labels to some 80 objects in the permanent collection, to highlight and explore hidden links to slavery. More information to follow.

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Anoniem, Meervoudige voetboei voor het ketenen van tot slaaf gemaakte mensen, met 6 losse boeien, ca. 1600-1800. Amsterdam, Rijksmuseum, schenking van de heer J.W. de Keijzer, Gouda
Anoniem, Meervoudige voetboei voor het ketenen van tot slaaf gemaakte mensen, met 6 losse boeien, ca. 1600-1800. Amsterdam, Rijksmuseum, schenking van de heer J.W. de Keijzer, Gouda

Talk show

On six Sundays, Jörgen Raymann will present a talk show with guests and a varied programme of lectures, dance, theatre, music and debate. More information to follow.

Accompanying book

The Rijksmuseum and Atlas Contact Publishers are jointly publishing Slavery, a richly illustrated book describing the lives of ten people who were part of the Dutch colonial history of enslavement. Authors: Eveline Sint Nicolaas, Valika Smeulders, and others.

Rijksmuseum
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