Maria Lima lima at geneseo.edu
Mon Aug 14 11:48:15 EDT 2017

lisaparavisini posted: " A post by Peter Jordens. With an exhibition in the
Tropenmuseum [Amsterdam, the Netherlands] about the history of slavery,
Richard Kofi wants to encourage people to talk about inequality today.
[...] How do you tell the story of slavery and colonialism"
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New post on *Repeating Islands*
<http://repeatingislands.com/author/lisaparavisini/> ‘AFTERLIVES OF
lisaparavisini <http://repeatingislands.com/author/lisaparavisini/>

[image: Screen Shot 2017-08-13 at 9.56.12 PM.png]

A post by Peter Jordens.

With an exhibition in the Tropenmuseum [Amsterdam, the Netherlands] about
the history of slavery, Richard Kofi wants to encourage people to talk
about inequality today. [...] How do you tell the story of slavery and
colonialism with a leading role for the victims? Dutch museums struggle
with that question. They feel pressure from today’s youngsters. Lonneke Van
Genugten of *De Volkskrant* reports.

“Afterlives of Slavery, the name says it all.” Richard Kofi is one of the
curators of an exhibition about the history of slavery that opens on
October 6, 2017 in the Tropenmuseum. “We show the social structures that
made it possible for slavery to exist, as well as how colonial ideas
persist in the present ― think of stereotypes about black people, the
unequal playing field on the labor market, or the n-word that is still so
easy to use.”

Kofi, a visual artist and exhibition curator, [… explains that] the focus
will be on transatlantic slavery and the Dutch share therein. “We are
leaving out East Africa, South Africa and East Asia. There simply is not
enough room for them. We would not do justice to the stories and traumas.”

Visitors will see prints, texts and objects. For the most part, these will
be drawn from the Museum’s own collection: dug from cellars and found in
attics. In the depot, the curators even found a stamp that was used to
brand people. Your body shivers when you realize that this object actually
mutilated living human skin.

“Slavery made rapists and killers out of people,” says Kofi. “The trader or
owner who degrades another human being into a product turns himself into a
monster. What I find annoying is that people always immediately retort
with: Did you know that black people also held slaves? Or that the living
conditions of the enslaved in Suriname were better than in Africa? That
really irritates me.”

This theme runs through all the exhibitions that Kofi has curated so far.
“It comes from my own experience with discrimination and racism. I have
plenty of examples. In high school, I had a B grade point average, yet I
was still advised to switch to a vocational school. Well, I did not let
that happen. I learned not to allow people to discriminate me. You would
not believe what I have heard people say to my father ... He was a
physician in the Netherlands, who came from Ghana, but people ascribed to
him something very different.”

When Kofi was doing General Cultural Studies and American Studies at
Nijmegen’s Radboud University and the University of North Carolina, he used
to suggest alternative literature, artists and music to supplement the
curriculum. “That’s the origin of my interest in shaping perspectives. I
consider it a privilege to curate this exhibition about issues that I
experience in my own life but do not see reflected in the prevailing social
discourse. There are many good books, but few good conversations. I hope
that this exhibition will be a conversation starter.”

The curators have consciously chosen a black perspective. “We explain that
a certain logic caused people to do very ugly things, but that the enslaved
also had a sense of agency, resisted, and subverted the status quo.”

Activism is a common thread in the exhibition. “The history of slavery is
not just about oppression, but also resistance,” Kofi emphasizes. “There
are artefacts from [Surinamese] *Winti*, which was created as a
counterculture, and musical instruments that symbolize the retention of
African identity. Of course, there are objects from Maroon communities, but
also Anansi stories and *tambu* music from Curaçao.”

The Tropenmuseum was originally established as a storehouse of the Dutch
colonial enterprise. How does a curator deal with that? Kofi: “Objects were
indeed collected and described from that perspective. For some time now, we
have been trying to do something new with that, and we are now adding the
dimension of activism.” Visitors will be invited to supply their own items
for a showcase that may temporarily become part of the exhibition.

Kofi, Berger and Modest took advice from activists and academics [such as
The Black Archives, #DecolonizeTheMuseum, visitors to the Keti Koti
Festival, and the Afrikamuseum, all in the Netherlands]. Kofi also traveled
to [the Smithsonian National Museum of African History and Culture in]
Washington. “It’s a fantastic museum. Three whole floors about the history
of slavery, along with the protest, the agency. That confirmed to me that
we are on the right track.”

The original article (in Dutch) is available here https://www.volkskrant.nl/


Linnaeusstraat 2, 1092 CK Amsterdam, the Netherlands

info at tropenmuseum.nl


For the announcement of the ‘Afterlives of Slavery’ Exhibition, go to:


https://tropenmuseum.nl/en/exhibition/afterlivesofslavery (English)
*lisaparavisini <http://repeatingislands.com/author/lisaparavisini/>* |
August 13, 2017 at 9:56 pm | Categories: News
<http://repeatingislands.com/category/news/> | URL: http://wp.me/psnTa-wMn

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