RETURNING THE GAZE AMSTERDAM

Welkom to the Creative Archive of the performance Returning the Gaze where you can read some of the performance text.

 

The audience will be taken on a walking tour from Willet-Holthuysen museum to Amsterdam Museum along the Amstel. These museums, the collection, the history of the buildings and the city form the starting point for this performance. The artists reflect on themes such as wealth and power from different perspectives. What happened to capital obtained through colonial trade, how many generations of families benefited and at the expense of what and who? At the expense of where? Returning the Gaze shares local underrepresented stories from the colonial past through dance, poetry, and music.

WILLET-HOLTHUYSEN MUSEUM

Who does this?

 

Who are these stubborn visionaries

who decorated the walls with these gigantic horse pictures?

From my midriff to high above my crown.

Owh how the riches has adorned my heartstrings

with the sweet melodies of opulence

watch carefully how a new life will arise

for this maison dans le coeur des pays bas

who does this

who are these stubborn visionaries in Robe de a l'anglaise

which decorated the walls with marble from my footbed to high above my crown

We will build on a new past and bring the future closer to the truth

Bringing the future closer to beauty

Bringing the future closer to the hidden ideas in the foundation of this establishment

who are these stubborn visionaries

relegated to lists in logs with prices next to their names

yes I mean the visionaries on which Willet Holthuysen built their wealth

That's why you're here that's why we're here

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What a happy occasion 

What a beautiful building this is. 

We are happy to take you on a walk into the past.

The previous owners go way back. Who were they? 

Take, for example, Mr Jean Deutz, who bought the property in the early 1700s. He founded a trading house, was a banker, imperial factor of mercury and wholesaler of silk and ships. His son Willem Gideon Deutz followed in his footsteps. He was a lender for plantations in the Suriname colony and invested more than 1 million guilders in this. That was a lot of money at the time! Clearly a man of prestige, that Deutz. He was mayor of this city five times and was the main importer of coffee and West Indian sugar.

 

Can I surprise you with something delicious?

Something you've never tasted?

With flavors from there

Sugar, Cinnamon, Nutmeg, Cloves, Ginger, Cardamom, Pepper 

Try it here! A speculoos!

So sweet, you can taste… the sugar

After that it was bought by Frederik Berewout. Merchant and banker. What hasn't that man done? 

He was director of the WIC, churchwarden of the western church, director of the Society of Suriname, importer of West Indian sugar. 

 

You can taste the harvest of the sugar cane

on plantation Het Trust in Suriname

You can taste the hard work

the sweat of 300 enslaved people

such as Commok, Jobar, Salamanca

You can taste how they squeeze the juice from the reeds

boiling and crystallizing

In the meantime we know why houses like this, and the city of Amsterdam, are so beautiful. 

Because the slavery past is not a black page, it is a shameful book. Before we can really say anything about this, we need another report, and an extra investigation, to get more facts on the table. Not a single Amsterdammer living now is to blame for the past. But what is guilt? An inheritance? A large sum of money, and generations still benefiting from it?

Nooooo, you're not tasting the blood, are you? 

of the hands by the press?

You are mistaken. 

You can taste the sweet taste of sugar

 

It remains a quest. That struggle is in the distance of time, in the passage of time; This slavery past is so terrible, 

but also so long ago. We have turned our backs on the Dutch role in the slave trade. A painful reality. Until now.

Until now!

Let's break with a past of looking away. Let's turn around and look back.

Let's embrace our shared history and walk new paths together. 

 

I'ts still crazy.

There in that kitchen my grandmother worked as an enslaved. 

And here I am, as an artist. I continue to be amazed at the difference between our generations. And yet I still feel her, present. Susanna was her European name. Ashana was her actual name. I got my vote from her. At that time as a black woman making a career as a singer was an illusion. Lullabies for survival is how she called her songs. She recognized the tall trees of her land on floors in this house. That gave at least a little bit of the feeling of home. To her everything was music: the creaking of the floor, footsteps on the carpet, the running of the tap, the ticking of the clock, the sound of cutlery on the expensive plates.

Picture this: Year after year she prepared meals that she was never allowed to eat herself. Feeding people who had deprived her of freedom. Kept the house clean of those who had destroyed her existence. And had to be polite, yes sir,  yes ma'am, and keep smiling.

My mother told me that she was often so lonely that she would talk to the walls. Those became her friends. She whispered to them, shared her melodies with them. In Suriname they believe in ghosts. That everything is animated. As a child I always thought that I would find her ghost in Amsterdam. I would look for her in the ceiling, behind the walls, under the carpet. Her voice would have drawn into that grand staircase as she walked up and down to serve. 

 

She found comfort in her melodies. I got that from her too.

 

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KITCHEN

The house has been taken over.

I scrub the floors.

But they remain dirty.

I shake the pillows.

But the head prints remain.

I smooth the sheets.

But they re-form as sleeping bodies.

I open the curtains.

But it remains dark.

I dust the furniture.

But the dust turns into sugar.

 

The sugar seeps down.

Along the marble, over the steps.

It piles up on tables, on benches, on chairs.

It fills the plates and the cups.

Let the chandelier ring.

 

Large crystals take place around the fire.

They stick to my hands, to my feet.

They stick in my hair, in my ears, in my eyes, in my mouth.

I want to scream, but the sugar silences me.

 

The marble floor breaks open.

The black and white blocks crumble.

And then everything is gray.

 

OUTSIDE KITCHEN

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THE BLUE ROOM

do you see me falling

Fall until all I see is blue

the true color of greed

my eyes are swallowed by excess

my shoulders covered in dust

what else can i do here but sneeze

My trying to escape

my body is trying this feeling

to shake off falling

I'm still frozen

to stare at a white celestial image

on the ceiling 

Am I the only one who sees angels

toiling in the heat 

held hostage in the hell of the sugar cane plantations

 

do you see me falling

Fall until all I see is blue

The true color of greed

 

Blue Far below the surface this street and this house

Way past the restoration of this room

Beyond this era, this pinnacle of robbery and the urge to collect

Who has Blue blood?

 

The wealth of my family

Is in all this stuff

That you see and can't touch

We have made an effort

And are made invisible

On every landing you see a clock

I was raised differently

Time is too precious 

to hang on the wall

 

do you see me falling

Thrown overboard in this house

Fall until all I see is blue

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MARBLE STAIRCASE

I'm here to take back what belongs to me

My pride, my beauty

You erase my statues to make me forget. But you don't know how deep my roots grow.

Deep in the earth

Hair that grows towards the sun, 9 ether

In connection with the universe

Worn by my ancestors

Am I here

Reclaiming my space, my time,

Reclaiming what is mine

A tori de resistance - Francesca is her name.

A ben kis wan fiti tap a prasi, fight with that sugar merchant right around the corner

Because it is enough - A kba

Mi no abi trobi fu suku trobi gi a trobi tori

Tak a sani - Spread the word

Take back what belongs to you

They depict us with collars, as tame pets. Part of the family, that's what is being told.

We spit in the silver, eat the sugar, and Francesca? Francesca came to get a story… with sticks

By law it was forbidden to enslave people on Dutch soil.

Then why am I here? Against me will.

Surrounded by pink white flesh, staring eyes that undress me.

Surrounded by cold walls, among expensive things bought with blood, stolen.

Mi no abi trobi fu suku trobi gi a trobi tori

rise up! Un opa! Stand up!

Spread the word

From Alkebulan Cush to the Caribbean to the Golden Bend

we are here

throw open the doors

The windows that have been closed for so long

Make this house vibrate

Francesca say her name

Tell me how she got up

For himself, for you and for me

Cause silence doesn't protect us

You don't learn through silence

rise up! Un opa! Stand up!

Un no abi trobi fu suku trobi gi a trobi tori

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