History of Dutch Art: Two Sides of a Coin

What surprised me the most about the visual history of Black people in the Netherlands and its West Indies colonies was the change of attitudes towards Blacks from the 16th century to the late 17th century when the images of the Black people became predominantly based on slavery. As Holland was known to have a neutral attitude towards African-Amsterdamers in the country, it was not the case in Dutch colonies (such as in Brazil). Hence, the art of the Netherlands would depict the history of the Black people in two dimensions. Although the country acknowledges the contribution of the African-Amsterdamers, the art made by the society tells a rather different story. How can a society change its outlook from creating honor portraits, tronies, and stories of Black people – showing rich histories and their leading roles (e.g., related to the bible, classical mythologies as well as Amsterdam’s narration) to portraying an Admiral with a dog snarling at a kneeling Black servant? This controversy is what boggles my mind because I cannot wrap my head around the thought of how can one go from creating rich art that shows the contribution of African people in the Netherlands to the inhumane illustration of inequality.

Therefore, when it comes to connecting sustainable issues, I think this theme corresponds to the 16th SDG, where the promotion of peace, equality, and the inclusion of societies is a must; without which, a nation would not be able to coexist and flourish towards a better life.


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