Curator: Shehera Grot
Participating Artist: Sandim Mendes, Daphne Riedijk, Pieter van den Bogeert, Patricia Kearsenhout, Desiree Custers, Hosselaer en Shehera Grot.
Liberté, égalité, fraternité
A slogan that was introduced during the French Revolution. A revolution that shook Europe and fundamentally altered its foundations. But not only Europe was changing. The same principles of liberty, equality and fraternity led to a revolt in Haiti which resulted in the Haitian independence in 1804. Haiti was the first country to abolish slavery and thereby set the tone for abolitionism. A tone that was sung in tune by all former colonies.
Compared to England and France, the Netherlands took its time with the abolition of slavery. On July 1, 1863 our slavery disappeared into the annals of history in exchange for an annual reminder. However, the topic is not reflected in the curriculum at secondary schools nor is the abolition commemorated in a way it deserves.
The General Extension of Time-Limits Act officially states all Dutch public holidays. The fifth of May, Liberation Day or “Bevrijdingsdag”, is one of them. The story of the fifth of May is increasingly narrated through concepts such as freedom and captivity instead of war and liberation. In addition, we celebrate the Christian holidays, New Year’s Eve and the monarchy. Thus it might be observed that the Dutch state places higher value on the concepts of freedom and tradition, rather than the concepts of equality and brotherhood.
The only question is, are they right in doing so? The first article of the constitution is seen as the equality principle. But where is the recognition and inclusion in the public debate of this starting principle?
It is my hope that Manumission is not only a commemoration of the abolition, but also a contribution to the public debate on equality. The approach of this exhibition, which not only debates slavery of the past, but also deals with modern day slavery and is linked to an educational program, is a good start to give equality her rightful place alongside liberty. Hopefully, this anniversary with all its great initiatives will result in a deeper understanding of freedom and ingrain the first of July within our collective consciousness.
But remember, it is not just the artists’ job to reflect on contemporary society and its past. Nor is it only the government that should grant the concept of equality the attention it so rightly deserves. The reason why the fifth of May is such a grand success is because it is widely supported by the general public. All citizens, regardless of their origin, have a social duty to anchor the first of July into their hearts.
(text by Frank Boom)
Curator: Shehera Grot