CREATIVE ARCHIVE - UTRECHT
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. Future for the Past Utrecht is based on research into colonial history by cultural historian Nancy Jouwe and the publication “Slavernij en de stad Utrecht”.
The archives tell us of a woman, known only as Sitie, who lived at Drift 27. She came from Celebes (Sulawesi, Indonesia). Sitie was brought to Utrecht against her will by Joan Gideon Loten, the governor of Celebes and of Ceylon (Sri Lanka). The archive says she was “given” to Loten by the King of Bony; and that she was “ordered” to be a maid for his daughter. Sitie had no say in the matter. Her life and death were in the hands of others. In May 1752 she was taken from Macassar to Batavia on the ship Galathea. The Dutch recorded her as cargo along with ‘twelve large mares and thirty-one shelducks’. And yet, at the same time, described her as ‘a young girl as beautiful as ever seen at Macassar’.
Sitie was forced to accompany Loten to the Netherlands, to serve him and run his household. He left for London in 1759 and wanted Sitie to join him there, but she remained in Utrecht with Loten’s brother Arnoud. Sitie served Gideon Loten until his death in 1789. In his will, he left her an annual stipend of 220 guilders, on the condition that she would only marry with the consent of his heirs. Under what ‘terms and conditions’ is one's humanity negotiable?
SIBILLA OF BATAVIA
Sibilla van Batavia lived at Minrebroederstraat 20. She was renamed after the woman she was forced to work for; Sara Sibilla Verdion, the daughter of a VOC merchant. Verdion was born in 1709 in Batavia. She married Willem Hendrik Lons in the Hollandse Kerk. From their accumulated wealth, the couple returned to Utrecht in 1736 to retire. Lons died in 1740 and Sara Sibilla Verdion inherited 280,000 guilders. In 1741 she remarried Cornelis van Hengst. During her years in Utrecht she was part of a group of investors who bought the Utrecht plantation in Suriname.
We know very little about Sibilla van Batavia, other than her being referred to by the derogatory term 'black meyt' in Verdion’s will, leaving her a pension of 50 guilders per year.
EDUARD ABRAHAMS-ZOON VAN AKABOA
In the second half of the 17th century Eduard Abrahams-zoon van Akaboa lived in Drieharingsteeg.
Who was he? He was referred to as a "Moor". We do not know his birth name, but his surname, van Akaboa suggests he came from Angola or Ghana. The old English name Eduard means Guardian and Wealth. We do know that his freedom was bought, but not when, or by whom.
He was a skilled weapons engraver. We find his name for the first time in 1652 in the apprentice book of the Utrecht silversmiths guild. In 1657 Eduard van Akaboa became a member of the Reformed congregation in Utrecht. Eduard died in 1700, leaving behind his wife Ida van Voorst, daughter of a sculptor and ornament maker. Their son Gerrit married Maria van Alphen. They also lived in the Drieharingsteeg. Their son, Laurens passed the master's test in 1720. He married Catharina Mom, who was from a wealthy family. They named their son after his great-grandfather, Eduard van Akaboa Jr.
The Treaty of Utrecht was signed here in the City Hall in April 1713, bringing an end to a number of European wars that had lasted for over 150 years. The city hall was an ideal location. It had two entrances, one for the French and one for the allies, including Britain and Portugal.
The world watched what happened in Utrecht. Yet, neither the city nor the Netherlands played a major role in the negotiations. The French representative Melchior De Polignac, told the Dutch: "We negotiate here, about you and without you!"
In the peace treaty the Netherlands lost the ‘asiento de negros’, the exclusive right to supply enslaved people to the Spanish king; that right went to Britain for the next 30 years.