Amsterdam Tropenmuseum opens new permanent exhibition about colonial legacy
Amsterdam’s Tropenmuseum will open a new permanent exhibition on June 24 examining how colonialism shapes the world and highlighting people’s resilience in the face of colonial forces.
The 10 rooms of the exhibition "Our Colonial Inheritance" will tell the story of how different colonial projects and structures work through photography, musical instruments, paintings and objects of daily life. There will also be information on how individuals can take action against colonial structures, Tropenmuseum press officer Coromandel Brombacher told the NL Times.
The second part –– taking action –– is an especially important component. In the research the Tropenmuseum conducted while putting the exhibition together, young people told the museum that they were aware of inequality in the world but didn’t know how to stand up against it, Brombacher said. In response, the museum will point to resources to help people learn more and take action.
“It’s not a history which has ended, you put a ribbon around it and it’s finished,” Brombacher said. “This History has shaped the current structures in our daily lives. We say it was not that people were only victims that had to overcome all the colonialism: there was resilience, there was creativity, there was this fighting against the system.”
The exhibition, which is intended to last for the next seven years, has been a long time in the making and was delayed due to the Covid-19 pandemic. The museum itself was established as a “display window for colonial items,” according to its website. However, Brombacher said the museum is trying to move away from its ethnographic roots in recent years to embrace a more “open view of the world.”
“Around the world, people deal with the same topics,” Brombacher said. “And we try to show how people respond to certain questions or topics around the world, without an opinion of one being better than the other.”
Now, the museum tries to work with contemporary artists to explore themes that affect people worldwide. This approach extends to the new exhibition, which will feature programs and events in collaboration with artists in the coming months. The programs will kick off on July 1 with an event for Keti Koti, a holiday that marks Emancipation Day in Suriname.
Brombacher said the exhibition will hopefully be a starting point for debates and that people will come out wiser, with more information. “We have been working with a lot of different people. This is not our story to tell…so, we invited people to make their work, to tell their part of the story, their points of view.”