‘Take the slavery image off the Golden Coach’

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Take the slavery image off the Golden Coach:

That’s what activists say:
half-naked black people do not belong on the coach.

On the Golden Coach is a reference to our history of slavery and colonial times. Would Beatrix remove the wrong image? That is what Barryl Biekman (National Platform Slavery), Harry van Bommel (SP MP), Mariko Peters (Green MP) and Jeffrey Pondaag (Dutch Committee debt of honor) ask themselves today in the editorial pages of the print nrc.next. http://www.nrcnext.nl/blog/2011/09/16/haal-die-slavenillustratie-van-de-gouden-koets-af/

Next week the golden coach will ride again through The Hague and thousands of day trippers will come to catch a glimpse of the queen. Budget Day this year will have a special character, as different political parties have made proposals to limit the power of the head of state. We want to put a critical note at the Golden Coach

The Golden Coach has become the symbol of the Dutch monarchy. The “Association of the Amsterdam People” wanted to give the coach to Queen Wilhelmina in 1898 for its inauguration. Wilhelmina felt little for it. Historians suspect that this reluctance stemmed from protests some years earlier in the Netherlands against the exaggerated pomp of the coronation, of Czar Nicholas the Second.

The Golden Coach is a typical Dutch product, developed by the brothers Spyker in the Dutch Renaissance style. That was the style of the Golden Age of colonial Netherlands that has brought so much wealth.

The images on the golden coach also refer to that age. They are written by Nicholas van der Waay in 1891 at the age of 36 when he was appointed professor at the State Academy of Fine Arts.

The side panels depict a “Tribute to the Netherlands and Orange” and “Tribute of the Colonies’. The sidebar “Tribute of the Colonies” activates great resistance from us. On that side are half-naked black men and women who offer their riches to the royal king. In the colonial era and the aftermath of slavery this seemed like a very ordinary picture. Now it reminds us of a horrible period in Dutch history.

The Netherlands are still struggling with the colonial past. Dutch families of the massacre in the Indonesian village Rawagede demand reparations from the Dutch state but they claim the case has expired. Descendants of the enslaved in the Antilles and Suriname asked an apology from the Dutch government, but see the only knowledge institute on Dutch slavery, NiNsee, threatened with closure. Apparently, the most shameful pages of history from the Dutch collective memory must be repressed.

Netherlands could take an example from Australia and the United States of America. In 2008, the Australian Prime Minister Kevin Rudd formally apologized to the indigenous Aborigines who were systematically deprived and whose children were taken. Also in 2008 the U.S. House of Representatives passed a resolution in which apologies were made to black Americans for the period they were treated as slaves and the discriminatory laws under which they had to live deep into the twentieth century. In 2001 during a UN Conference in Durban the Netherlands, “expressed deep regret” over slavery and the colonial past, but never apologized.

The big difference between showing regret and apologize is the fact that the first one comes from one side, and apologies must be accepted by the other party. Netherlands has never apologized, because this could be seen as an admission of guilt and that couldbring forth claims.

We sincerly hope that the Dutch government can come to terms with its national history and just like the Australians and Americans offers a generous apology to the descendants of the Dutch colonial oppression and the violence that sometimes came forth out of it.

Maybe Queen Beatrix, might want to push the government into that direction by removing the panel of “Tribute to the Colonies” of the Golden Coach and place it where it belongs : the Rijksmuseum.

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