Exhibit about Surinamese hero Anton de Kom features daughter and Kenny B
An exhibition about the Paramaribo-born Anton de Kom will be opened next week in the Netherlands Open Air Museum in Arnhem. The activist and writer, who lived from 1898-1945), wrote the book “We Slaves of Suriname,” which is regarded as an important indictment against racism, exploitation and colonial rule. During World War II, De Kom also resisted the Nazis in the Netherlands.
De Kom’s 95-year-old daughter, Judith, will read a poem by her father at the opening on Thursday. Surinamese-Dutch singer Kenny B will provide the musical accompaniment to the event.
De Kom and his work were unknown to many in the Netherlands for a long time, although he was a hero to the Surinamese people. However, for the past two years he has been included in the Canon of the Netherlands, which is the list of historical figures and facts that should be taught in Dutch schools. The canon is permanently displayed in the Open Air Museum.
De Kom's father, Adolf, was born into slavery. Anton, who initially studied to be an accountant, could not get a job in Suriname and left for the Netherlands in 1921, where he worked as a sales representative selling coffee, tea and tobacco.
In the meantime, he became a member of various left-wing organizations and gave lectures on subjects like slavery. Back in Suriname in 1933, he was banned from giving such lectures and was arrested for “communist agitation,” which caused a bloody riot.
De Kom was exiled from Suriname and returned to the Netherlands. After the German invasion, he joined the communist faction of the Dutch resistance. He was arrested and died in April 1945 of tuberculosis in part of the Neuengamme camp.
The museum highlights De Kom’s life along various themes: the connector, the teacher, the accuser, the warrior, the trailblazer and a specially-made work of art. There are quotes to listen to, original manuscripts to read, touchscreens to explore and listening stations containing other information about De Kom. There is also a wall with archival film images and a model of De Kom’s home, where he gave his forbidden lectures.
The artwork by the Surinamese artist Ken Doorson –– made with students from the Nola Hatterman art academy in Paramaribo among others –– consists of 280 heads, which together create a holographic portrait of De Kom. The clay for the heads, which symbolize the people who came to De Kom's lectures, comes from Suriname.
The exhibit opens to the public on Saturday.
Reporting by ANP