Publications
Series

Our Colonial Legacy

What is today's relationship between the Low Countries and their colonial past? The articles in this series have been written by personalities from Belgium, the Netherlands and Congo.

Zwarte Piet Sinterklaas supermarkt Hellevoetsluis
5 min reading time

The 'Black Pete' of W.B. Yeats

For some, he was a servant, for others a vanquished devil. However, the Irish poet W.B. Yeats sheds a different light on the origins of the controversial Black Pete tradition.

1_HO.2011.54.1_Fauteuil-Mobutu-Iviart-Izamba-2010-02
history Kiza Magendane
13 min reading time

A Museum of Compromise

After five years of renovation and decolonisation, the AfricaMuseum in Tervuren opened again. Dutch writer of Congolese descent, Kiza Magendane visited the museum with mixed feelings.

Foto-Paleis-timpaan
history Ewald Vanvugt
10 min reading time

The Colonial Debate in the Netherlands in Four Monuments

What did the Dutch know, through the ages, about what went on in their colonies, in the East and West Indies? Ewald Vanvught gives an outline of the current changing view of the colonial period in the Netherlands with reference to four monuments.

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arts

Poetics of Postcolonial Art. The Installations of Ana Torfs

Ana Torfs’s beautifully crafted, enchanting, experimental and postcolonial installations start out from established European conventions of art and reality, but then step outside and present us with a multimodal Gesamtkunstwerk, made with full use of anything that may serve to evoke what one cannot simply see – whether it is the meanings and insights produced by this echolalic art, the unresolved presence of the colonial past, the shackles of our language, or the legs of Rembrandt’s bird of paradise.

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society

The Post-Colonial Scope for Afrikaans

Afrikaans gave the world the word “Apartheid”. After 1994 there were two silent voices in the debate on Afrikaans: first, the coloured voice; and second, the intellectual voice from the left. Only when Afrikaans has become fully diversified will it be able to play a forceful and possibly decisive role in forging a culture of tolerance in South Africa.

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0 min reading time

The History of Dutch Language Policy in Colonial Indonesia 1600-1950

Review of Kees Groeneboer's 'Gateway to the West. The Dutch Language in Colonial Indonesia 1600-1950'. This book is not only a history of the subject, but also vividly demonstrates why for the foreseeable future Dutch will remain an indispensable language of scholarship in the field of Indonesian studies.

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Grounds for Memory. Colonial Literature from the Former Dutch East Indies

From Georg Everhard Rumphius to Beb Vuyk and A. Alberts, we see that Dutch colonial literature is not a poor relation of mainstream Dutch letters. It developed continguously with Western literature, acquiring its own specific themes, mandating its own preferred style, developing its own distinctive echoes. The actuality of the life that fed this writing may be gone but the oeuvre it wrought has not dated and provides an understanding of an ever-receding past .

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Dutch Colonial Architecture and Town Planning. History, Preservation and Present Use

A survey of Dutch colonial architecture. It is of immense significance that, although the buildings concerned are of colonial origin, the local people and governments are prepared to regard them as being part and parcel of their own history and culture. And there is every reason for doing so. After all, if one compares eighteenth-century houses in Jakarta, Cape Town, Paramaribo and Willemstad, what strikes one is not just the similarities, but particularly the great differences. There are, of course, similarities with the Netherlands. In town-planning terms this means the presence of canals wherever possible; and invariably there is the dominance of a single direction. The theories of Simon Stevin certainly had an influence. The churches are inspired by the clear forms developed by Jacob van Campen and his contemporaries in the mid-seventeenth century. In urban houses it is the comparitively narrow, tall properties topped with cornices or the so-called ‘Dutch gables' which remind us of the Netherlands. But, above all, every historic building is in the first place a reflection of the country in which it stands.

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Africa Is Very Far Away. Belgium and its Colonial Past in Congo

The fact that Belgium embarked on an ambitious colonial adventure in the last quarter of the nineteenth century can be attributed to the initiative of King Leopold II. Congo literally became ‘his' colony. For the production of rubber, Leopold imposed a harsh regime of forced labour on the Congolese. This provoked international protest, and in 1908 Leopold transferred control of Congo to the Belgian state. During the half century that Congo remained a colony, Belgian politics showed practically no interest in it. At the beginning of the twenty-first century, after more than 40 years of independence in Congo, it is apparent that Belgium has become completely estranged from Congo.

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Beekman's Indies

Review of E.M. Beekman's 'Troubled Pleasures. Dutch Colonial Literature from the East Indies 1600-1950' (Oxford, 1996).

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literature

Why Hella S. Haasse's Work Does not Need Introduction Abroad

Hella Haasse, who died in 2011, was a writer with three countries of origin: the Netherlands, Indonesia and France. These origins are represented in her work: fictional returns to colonial and postcolonial Indonesia, French settings, characters and historical figures of several (double) nationalities. The result? 136 translations of circa 28 individual titles into more than 20 languages.

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Oeroeg and the Dutch-East Indian Trauma

The main problem with the film ‘Oeroeg', based on Hella S. Haase's autobiographical novel, is the rather simplistic approach to the so-called (post-)colonial Dutch-East Indian trauma

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Women in the Dutch colonies

The central theme of Elsbeth Locher-Scholten's new book on Women and the Colonial State is how, especially and increasingly during the first half of the twentieth century, Dutch and Indonesian women, despite their shared aspirations, were kept apart by their diverging interests and by the colonial conditions of Dutch East Indies society. Her book offers a wealth of new data and archival materials, and many interesting illustrations and maps (Elsbeth Locher-Scholten, Women and the Colonial State. Essays on Gender and Modernity in the Netherlands Indies 1900-1942. Amsterdam: Amsterdam University Press, 2000).

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An Awkward Anniversary. Indonesia and the Netherlands: Decolonisation Fifty Years On

The debate about Dutch colonialism and the history of the decolonisation of Indonesia has proved to be far from merely academic. The deserter Poncke Princen and the date of 17 August 1945 were important symbols of conflict. On the one side there was an East Indies generation demanding a positive share in Dutch history through its call for ‘official' recognition. On the other, there were those who were openly critical of colonialism and felt such shame and guilt that ideally they would have liked to delete the whole episode from the nation's history.

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society

The Low Countries and Islam. Historical Relations and Present Debates

In the period between 1600 and 1945 parts of the Islamic world were subject to Dutch colonial power. From 1965 to the present day there has been for the first time an increasing Muslim presence in the Low Countries. Today when Netherlands and Flanders/Belgium seem to be secularised, suddenly, an Islamic identity is clamouring for attention. The national debate in both countries is paradoxically increasingly concerned with religion and culture.

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From Africa to Africa: The Return of a Dead Traveller (An Extract from Frank Westerman's ‘El Negro and Me')

December 1983. In a Spanish museum of natural history, nineteen-year-old Frank Westerman finds himself standing face to face with a stuffed African – El Negro. Who is this man? Who stuffed his body? Twenty years later, the author follows El Negro's journey from Paris (1831), via Barcelona (1888) to the Pyrenees, where he was on display until 1997. Along the way he brings El Negro in his book with the same title to life as a commentator on his time: an unknown black man who – nailed to a pedestal – casts a disturbing perspective on European views of slavery, colonialism and racism.

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The Netherlands Antilles and Surinam, Treasure-Chests of Dutch-Language Literature

Dutch-language literature in the former colonial territories of the Netherlands Antilles, a group of islands in the Caribbean, did not flourish fully until 300 years after the Dutch West India Company first established itself on the islands. In Surinam Dutch-language literature appears to be dying out more quickly than in the Netherlands Antilles. It seems likely that closer links will develop with the surrounding South American countries, though which language will then gain the upper hand is impossible to foresee at this time. All that can be said with certainty today is that the literature of both the Netherlands Antilles and Surinam has contributed a great deal to the enrichment of Dutch literature in general, and has come to form a permanent part of that literature.

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Three Countries in One Kingdom. The Netherlands Antilles and the Paradox of Independence

We have known for a long time what happens when one colonises a country. But what happens when one wants to get rid of the ex-colony, but can't, and yet wishes to deal with it in a proper manner? Post-colonialism is a thing of the past, you are stuck with each other, a bit of Europe and a bit of the Caribbean. It is a unique process of decolonisation in the Dutch Antilles and Aruba, without violence, without loss of life, but with all the multicultural problems of the living. Since the Netherlands finally accepted in 1990 that the Antilles and Aruba are to remain with the Netherlands, Curaçao and Aruba are, thanks to Gorbachov, closer to Russia than ever before. The Caribbean connected to Europe, that is a fine global thought.

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