During Cape X Utrecht – Hidden Histories of Slavery and its Afterlives the following works and performances are exhibited:
Sibilla – Jasper Albinus
Sara Sibilla Verdion married VOC merchant Willem Hendrik Lons in Batavia in 1729. Lons quickly became quite rich and they retired In Utrecht, Lons’ place of birth. Sara became a major shareholder of the Utrecht Company. They had brought several ‘servants’ with them from Batavia: Lucretia van Batavia, her son Jan van Biesing, and the ‘black maid (‘swarte meyt’) Citi van Batavia. Upon baptism, one of the maids was given/took the name of her mistress/owner. Until Sara Sibilla’s death, Sibilla worked for her as her servant. Utrecht-based spoken word artist Jasper Albinus brings Sibilla to life.
I’ve come to take you home – Diana Ferrus
Diana Ferrus started writing poetry at the age of 14. While doing the Gender Studies program at Utrecht University in 1998, she wrote her most famous poem for Sarah Baartman, I’ve come to take you home. Khoekhoe woman Sarah Baartman was born on August 9, 1789 in the Gamtoos Valley and was brought to Europe from the Cape. In London, she was put on display after which she ended up in Paris. After her death, her remains were put on display in the Musée de l’Homme until 1986. The poem’s impact helped return Baartman’s remains to South Africa.
A Maze in Grace – Neo Muyanga
The performance A Maze in Grace by South African composer Neo Muyanga is inspired by the classic “Amazing Grace”. The piece proposes a deconstruction under a new perspective of this song composed in 1772 by John Newton, a white British slave trader who converted to become an abolitionist Anglican pastor at the end of the 18th century after a series of near-death experiences. Muyanga: “Many people in the world believe that this song talks about the feeling of being a slave, but it is a political song, from a political church, composed by a pastor who had been a slave trader.”
The Remnant – Judith Westerveld
In The Remnant the stories of two men, one a botanist and the other a tour guide, are interwoven with fragments from Van Riebeeck’s diary (Daghregister, 1652-1662) read aloud by Judith Westerveld voicing the intentions of the Dutch colonizer and the resistance of the Khoikhoi and San people. The botanist, Adam Harrower, recounts the cycles of growth and deterioration of the Wild Almond tree, bringing the natural form of Van Riebeeck’s Hedge to life. The tour guide, Andrew Jacobs, questions the official historical narrative that surrounds Van Riebeeck’s Hedge, as well as recounting the influence that the segregation laws of apartheid had on his personal life and on the lives of the people in his community. The film, and the interaction of its audio and visual expression, unveils the underlying trauma that remains compartmentalized in the personal memories and societal landscape of South Africa.
Wild Almond Tree Hedge
A hedge of Wild Almond trees was planted in 1659, on the orders of Jan van Riebeeck. Together with a 16 km long wooden fence and watchtowers, it formed the 25 km long eastern boundary of the Dutch colonial settlement that ran from the mouth of the Salt River through Rondebosch to Kirstenbosch in today’s Cape Town. As the historical narrative goes, it served as a defensive barrier that was to prevent the original inhabitants, the Khoekhoe and |xam peoples, from entering. Until today remnants of it grow in the Kirstenbosch Botanical Garden. The hedge reminds us that South Africa was founded on segregation.
Namibian Tales – Shishani Vranckx
This work reflects on Shishani’s country of birth Namibia, previously referred to as South-West Africa. Namibia was colonized by Germany in 1890 where Germans committed the first genocide of the 20th century on the Herero and Nama people. During the First World War (1915) the territory was given to the South African government as a protectorate. Namibia was regarded as the ‘Fifth Province’ of South Africa where they also imposed the apartheids-regime. Although Namibia fought for independence since the 1960s, freedom only came in 1990 making Namibia the last decolonized country in Africa. Although apartheid in Namibia forms a direct link to Dutch colonial history, this is barely highlighted. As a musician, anthologist and musicologist, Shishani looks at the past and present through music and visuals. This video work is a collage of Shishani’s own research and project material on current music cultures in post-apartheid Namibia. Resilience, creativity, versatility and re-appropriation are important themes in Shishani’s work.
Thirppy – Farren van Wyk
Due to the consequence of colonialism, slavery, and apartheid inflicted by the Dutch in South Africa, the Coloured community has seen men evolving from police officers to gangsters. Thirppy explores the historical traces of gang culture within Coloured communities to counter its perception of male violence and show the deeper layers of it being a means of survival and brotherhood. Van Wyk: “Within the intimate family setting, I became a part of Thirppy’s family and portrayed their day-to-day life while they too portrayed me. They live in the Coloured appointed segregated area and are impoverished as nothing changed after Mandela became president in 1994, the year that apartheid was officially abolished. Being racially classified as Coloured myself and immigrating to The Netherlands at a young age, I have a double gaze in which I use portraiture to decolonize the unjust image of the community I was born into.”
1674 – Carine Zaayman
In the VOC diaries of the Cape colony, the entry for 29 July 1674 notes that a storm had been raging over the Cape peninsula for days. On this date, however, silence fell over the settlement, as news reached the Castle that Krotoa, who was imprisoned in Robben Island, had died. Carine Zaayman, artist and descendant of Krotoa, relocated from the Cape to Utrecht in 2019. Here she discovered that a storm also ravaged this city’s landmark, the Dom church, only two days after the death of Krotoa. Her work for this exhibition is a meditation on the intangible ways the past connects with us in the present.