Welcome to the Sites of Memory Creative Archive, a space where you can read background information about the sites, listen to performance text and watch 360 videos. This space allows you to navigate through stories from The Netherlands to South Africa., from past, present and future.
Future for the Past: A journey back in time to explore “hidden” stories from the colonial past. Artists from The Netherlands and South Africa reframe history through music, poetry, dance, visual art and theatre. With this project, Sites of Memory shares insight into how the colonial past plays a role in our present and to reimagine the future.
This synagogue was inaugurated in 1675, replacing the former synagogue on the Houtgracht (now Waterlooplein), which was in use by this Portuguese Jewish congregation since 1639. Portuguese Jews often worked as merchants and some of them traded in enslaved people, in networks with Christian enslavers. With their arrival in the Dutch Republic some Jewish merchants brought Black men and women with them as 'servants'. Legally, the practice of slavery was prohibited on Dutch soil, but it was not always equally applied or enforced. Many were forced to remain as servants, convert to Judaism and attend the services at the synagogue. Sephardi ladies used to send female servants early to hold their seats in the women's galleries so they could arrive late, a habit which was stopped by the board. Just as the Ashkenazi Jewish servants the 'negras y mulatas' were no longer welcome to arrive early and hold seats at the first four rows.
In the middle of the seventeenth century there was a Black community living in Amsterdam. The majority of the community lived in the area around the Jodenbreestraat. The 17th century map reveals that there was a city cemetery next to Hortus Botanicus, now still an unmarked lawn. This is the area where hundreds of women, children and men of African, Caribbean and East Indian descent were buried.
In 1636 the city of Amsterdam established a botanical garden to study and display the seeds and plants that VOC and WIC ships brought to Amsterdam from all over the world. The VOC and WIC stole hundreds of seeds, saplings, and plants from across the world, and brought them back to The Netherlands. The colonisers also took their own seeds, plants, and trees and planted them in the colonized areas. In the Hortus stands the oldest potted plant in the Netherlands, known to the Xhosa people in South Africa as the Breadfruit Tree.
The maritime repository, now home of the Maritime Museum, was built in 1656 as the main warehouse of the Amsterdam Admiralty, providing canons, flags, sails, rope, water and other supplies for the VOC and WIC ships. The ship De Amsterdam is a replica of a VOC ship that sank on its maiden voyage from Texel to Batavia in 1749. This type of ship, a so-called hooker, was also adapted for the transportation of people captured from Africa and SouthEast Asia.