Kwame Opoku – Dutch Colonial History Re-awakened by Museum Re-organization

Dutch Colonial History Re-awakened by Museum Re-organization

Bust of Maurits in Mauritshuis, The Hague, Netherlands.

We reproduce below an article from The Guardian concerning discussions of the Dutch colonial past prompted by the removal of the bust of the founder of the Mauritshuis, one of the major Dutch museums,by the museum’s management from its lobby(1) The museum holds very important works of European art such as Vermeer’s Girl with a Pearl Earring.

The founder of the museum, Johan Maurits van Nassau-Siegen, had been governor of the Dutch Colony in Brazil in 1636-1644. During his term of office, he shipped thousands of slaves from the Gold Coast, present-day Ghana, to work on the sugar plantations in Brazil. With the wealth he obtained from the infamous trade, he built Mauritshuis, first as his private residence and later it was turned it into a museum.

The museum removed the bust of the founder from its lobby to reflect discussion in Holland about the country’s colonial past and that led to discussions as to whether the museum was right in removing the bust of the founder. (2)

Many voices were heard in the ensuing debate. According to Zihni Ozdil,‘ in order to secure the supply of slaves to the sugar plantations in Dutch Brazil he [Maurits] sailed to the African Gold Coast with nine ships and twelve hundred men and conquered the Portuguese slave station of Elmina.’

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