Tuesday, July 01, 2008

Broken chains

Today it is 1st July. An important date in Dutch history as on that day in 1863 slavery was finally abolished in the overseas Dutch colonies Surinam and the Netherlands Antilles. It took a great deal of pressure from Dutch abolitionists and slave resistance, but there it was. No more slavery. In Surinam, this 1st July is known as Keti Koti (chains cut or broken chains).

Wish to know more about this black chapter of Dutch history? Go to: http://www.suriname.nu or http://www.schooltv.nl/slavernij. Or check out THE book on slavery in Surinam: Wij Slaven van Suriname by Anton de Kom. Want to make life a tad easier, then you should try and get your hands on De Geestbewaarder by Ton van der Lee, which makes for a far more pleasant and brilliant read ... yes even during the holidays.

The painting on the right-hand side is from the famous Flemish painter Rubens called "Negerkoppen". The original can be found in the Royal Museums of Fine Arts of Belgium, Brussels.

Now that was all way back in 1863. Exactly 32 years ago, again on this very 1st July, my dearest cousin Faisja was born. An extra happy day today one would think. Alas, due to a horrific accident she died last late last year. It catapulted me back to Surinam for the funeral. This six-day trip prompted a 100 per cent rethink my life, eventually indirectly leading me to Almere where I met them.

Would my students know or rather realise that my teaching them is indirectly related to this very abolishment of slavery? Would they know that the Dutch got people from India, China and Java (Indonesia) to replace the negroes so that the work on the plantations would still be done? Would they know that that is how my Indian ancestors ended up in Surinam and subsequently the Netherlands? A variation on the Butterfly Effect...