Social Issues

Rijksmuseum tells stories of 10 victims of slavery

By Imane Rachidi

Amsterdam, May 18 (EFE).- João was enslaved in West Africa before he ended up in a Portuguese sugar plantation in Brazil, while Wally spent his entire life in hard labor, cultivating and harvesting sugarcane from sunrise to sunset in Suriname.

João and Wally, together with eight other slaves and slave owners, have their stories featured in an exhibition in Amsterdam’s Rijksmuseum through audio guide, works of art, and a collection of maps and manuscripts.

“An exhibition like this takes a lot of preparation and research time. It is extremely difficult to investigate the history of the enslaved people and to make an exhibition that tries to tell the story from their perspective,” Stephanie Archangel, museum commissioner, tells Efe.

During a 250-year Dutch colonial period between the 17th to the 19th centuries, many individuals were enslaved and considered movable property in Brazil, Suriname and the Caribbean, as well as South Africa and Asia.

Some died from the harsh conditions they endured, while others survived slavery and escaped their shackles in search of freedom.

Their stories were recorded and told in audio recordings by several people for whom slavery played a part in their past.

Wally’s story began when Jonas Witsen, who was living in Amsterdam, inherited three sugar plantations at the age of 25.

Obsessed with gaining more wealth, Witsen decided to impose stricter working conditions on Wally and other 155 enslaved men, women and children.

Following several clashes, Wally ran away along with a group of slaves into the forest surrounding the plantation but were caught a few days later and burned alive.

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