Published On: Thu, Jan 24th, 2013

Emotional opening ceremony in commemoration of slavery

AMSTERDAM – “We ask all our ancestors to endorse that love, respect, truth, equality and participation are the basis of the relation between Dutch, Antillean and Suriname people. We ask that nobody will ever come up with the idea to reintroduce that form of slavery but we also ask to ban the modern forms of slavery.”

Last Saturday the commemoration year 2013 of the abolishment of the slavery 150 years ago was opened at the Royal Institute for the Tropics with due respect, by the libation, the words spoken by Marian Markelo (Suriname) and the performances. With the exception of the closing dance by dance group Untold the program was modest and therefore very emotional. Accompanied by guitarist Ed Verhoeff, singer Izaline Calister sung for Mosa Nena, the beloved of the slave Buchi Fil in the poem from Pierre Lauffer. The three men from Black Harmony opened the ceremony with an unaccompanied ode to Africa. Too much enthusiasm wouldn’t have been appropriate because even though the slavery has been abolished officially there is still no question of equal rights and chances.

Several speakers – including chairwoman Joan Ferrier of the Institution Commemoration Slavery Past 2013 – elaborated on this. In many areas the colored people still experience prejudice, racism and discrimination and subsequently contempt and social exclusion. The recent study from the Social Cultural Planning Bureau showed there is still discrimination on the labor market, and modern slavery as in forced prostitution and child labor. The violation of human rights unfortunately still occurs”, said Ferrier. She became emotional and her voice wavered when quoting from the famous speech from Martin Luther King. “I have a dream that one day my children will live in a nation where they will not be judged by the color of their skin, but by the content of their character.”

Ring of canals

Alderman Erik van de Brug of the municipality Amsterdam, who also allotted subsidy to the slavery commemoration, stated so little is known about the slavery past – especially in the Netherlands – although the city had presented many initiatives to draw attention. “Our canals in Amsterdam are 400 years old. Every year millions of people visit the canals that were built in a period of typical Dutch entrepreneurship and the mercantile spirit, in prosperous times by the trade in spices, gold and indeed, slaves. It is the heritage of a rich past, but partly realized at the cost of thousands of human lives. Let us also remember that the grandeur of the ring of canals also has an unpleasant side.”

It became clear during the ceremony that there will be numerous activities to commemorate the slavery with the national commemoration as the peak. Presenter Noraly Beyer elucidated on the plans for a book of photographs from Sinaya Wolfert, a stage play on rebellious women, the film ‘Hoe duur was de suiker’ and an exposition by the Royal Institution for the Tropics. Raymi Sambo played a fragment from his stage play Op zoek naar Oom Tom. Many activities were added after the opening ceremony, for instance, Izaline Calister has plans for a stage play on Buchi Fil; a round trip of the Amsterdam canals along locations that played a role in the slave trade, and an elucidation of a book on the role of the church in the slave period. offers an overview of all activities.

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