Sites of Memory: A Theatrical Tour

By: Jackie Gase

Today I want to talk about everyone’s reactions to the Sites of Memory tour. How did you feel about a tour with a theatrical and performative addition? Do you think that it added something to an otherwise standard discussion on slavery? What did you think of the people not a part of the tour that reacted to it? Do you think there could have been elements of the performances that could be improved? Finally, overall as a tour looking at slavery in Amsterdam, do you think that this tour was informative enough?

For me, the tour didn’t delve into the history of slavery in Amsterdam as much as I would’ve liked. However, I don’t think the main goal of the tour was to be informative. The experience with the performers was more important than the information. Especially when they were yelling “bid bid bid” over and over following us through the canal forcing us to raise up our papers to bid on what the scene illustrated as slaves, you could tell that people in the boat, myself included, were uncomfortable at the interaction. We were feeling tense at the constant barrage of sounds forcing us to lift our numbers and be ogled by everyone around. This tension allowed us to feel just a fraction of what it might have been like for the enslaved people that were on the blocks to be bid on, everyone surrounding them calling out their numbers and screaming bid. The tour was more emotional than thoughtful.

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3 thoughts on “Sites of Memory: A Theatrical Tour

  1. I really enjoyed the tour with a theatrical addition. It made it feel a lot more real. The part that did that for me was the part when we were yelled at to bid.

    I don’t think that the tour was as informative as it could be, but I don’t think that it was the aim of it. The aim, to me, was to start a conversation about a provocative topic. That is not always easy to do. Jennifer seamlessly integrated art and performance into a tour that showed us that the legacy of slavery is all around. Amsterdammers live with it every day. Apartments in old VOC facilities and other markers show that the legacy is not gone, and that we must always think critically about what makes a rich country like The Netherlands or the United States so powerful and dominant, then and now.

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  2. I agree that the tour was about the immersion and gaining an emotional connection to the topic of slavery/Dutch slave trade. The “bid bid bid” part and the bringing part with the performers coming up to us was unsettling, yet this was the point. To make the audience uncomfortable and aware of the topic and their surroundings. Jennifer kept saying, “the city is a theater/stage” which made me think back to our class name. Theater and museums are both ways to help the viewer/visitor understand and connect to the topic at hand. By immersing ones self in theater or a museum, you gain a new perspective. While I enjoyed the boat tour and learned a lot from it, I gained more general information from our talks with Jennifer before or after the tour. Could this be because it was more one-on-one, less personalized of a tour?

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  3. I agree that the tour was less about the tour and more about the emotional experience. There was little need to be on a boat except to float past the scenes that the actors were depicting. The boat allowed us to see some aspects of colonialism still present in Amsterdam, such as the servant entrances and symbols on the house were interesting but were not the main purpose of the tour. It was meant to illicit emotions, but less informative in some aspects than I would have liked. I suspect that there are more symbols and buildings about colonialism that were skipped to make time for the performers, which I am on the fence about as a result.

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