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Free to be Free is Sites of Memory's latest site-specific performance about freedom and resistance.

After successful performances in Amersfoort, Deventer, and Utrecht, the performance will be on view in Amsterdam between 25 and 29 June. The audience will be taken on a theatrical route, starting at the Waalse Kerk and ending at the Bushuis (Oost-Indisch Huis).

We can learn a lot from the freedom fighters of the past and certainly from the people who are fighting for freedom today. How was freedom fought for then and now? What forms of revolt and resistance are known? Through dance, theater, poetry and music, stories come to life, about freedom and resistance in the past, present and future.

Free to be Free was developed especially for the Memorial Year, which commemorates 150 years of abolition of slavery in the Netherlands and its (former) colonies. The effects of this past are still felt by many. Many people have to deal with institutional racism and reparations are not yet a reality.

As long as racism and exclusion resulting from colonial thinking and the slavery past are not structurally addressed, Sites of Memory asks the question: freedom for whom?

Amsterdam 2024 dates:

  • Tue 25 June:  15:00 (sold out) 
                        20:30 (try-out)

  • Wed 26 June:15:00 (to book for schools) 
                        20:30 (premiere)

  • Thu 27 June: 17:30 & 20:30  

  • Fri  28 June: 17:30 & 20:30   

  • Sat 29 June: 17:30 & 20:30





Curaçao 2024 dates: (info on ticket sales coming soon)

  • Willemstad, Curaçao 21 - 24 August 2024​​



In closing of the performance Returning the Gaze, a series of thirteen portraits on fabric are revealed created by visual artist Judith Westerveld, in accordance with the Sites of Memory team. They depict women of colour that lived in Amsterdam, or the former colonies of the Netherlands in the 17th, 18th and 19th century, that we felt needed to be given a rightful place in the exhibition Panorama Amsterdam of the Amsterdam Museum. Find information about ordering a portrait below.


On four long banners that drape the ‘catwalk’ where the closing scene takes place, the portraits that are presented are silhouettes linked to the names of twelve women of colour whose stories recorded in archives spoke to us: Charlotte Magdalena Reda, Elisabeth Maria Antonia Aspasia, Wilhelmina Kelderman, Cathalina del Monte, Clara, Francesca, Mimi Elizabeth Kambel, Lea van Bali, Serafina van Brazilië, Sara Malagesa, Chistina van Geugten and Juliana. Judith Westerveld created the silhouettes based on portraits made of women of colour by various artists, such as Rembrandt, Frans van Mieris, Cornelis van Dalen (II) and Cornelis de Bruin, who drew or painted them without recording their name. 

The silhouettes are placed against contemporary photographs of the places in Amsterdam where these women lived, worked, and died, such as the area in and around the Jodenbreestraat that was home to a small Afro-Atlantic community, the Jordaan, the grand canal houses of the so called 'Goudenbocht', and the Diaconie Oude Vrouwenhuis. Or the places where they were married, baptized and buried, such as the Möses and Aaron Kerk and the Zuiderkerk. Illustrations of hibiscus, ginger and podosiri (açaipalm), plants whose roots and leaves, flowers and fruits have healing properties, frame the portraits of the women. 


In the middle of the ‘catwalk’ the portraits of Susanna Dumion, Serafina van Brazilië, Mimi Elizabeth Kambel and Charlotte Magdalena Reda are highlighted. These are large rectangular fabrics, the women’s faces and names framed by the healing plants. Hibiscus envelopes Susanna Dumion and Charlotte Magdalena Reda. Ginger envelopes Serafina van Brazilië. Podosiri (açaipalm) envelopes Mimi Elizabeth Kambel.


Susanna Dumion’s portrait stands out, as it is the only one that is not a silhouette. In 1813, on the occasion of her 100th birthday, a portrait was made of her that has been preserved in the collection of the Teylers Museum in Haarlem. It is a special document, as there are few portraits of (formerly) enslaved women whose name and life story are known. Judith Westerveld altered Susanna Dumion’s portrait based on the research the team of Sites of Memory did about her life. Exchanging her hat for an angisa folded in the pattern that communicates the coded message ‘Let Them Talk’, adding a shawl in the same batik fabric and a necklace, returns her Surinamese identity to the portrait. 

Purchase a portrait

The portraits of Susanna Dumion, Serafina van Brazilië, Mimi Elizabeth Kambel and Charlotte Magdalena Reda have been made into a high quality art print and can be purchased by sending an email to


Size: 30 x 40 cm

Medium: Pigmented Inkjet print on Hahnemuhle White Velvet 270g paper.

Price: €40

A3 Print Portret Susanna Dumion.tif
A3 Print Portret Mimi Elizabeth Kambel.tif
A3 Print Portret Serafina van Brazilie.tif
A3 Print Portret Charlotte Magdalena Reda.tif
PR image Returning the Gaze Amsterdam.jpg

Credit: Judith Westerveld

Listen to the podcast about Returning the Gaze in Amsterdam. Dionne Verwey will be in conversation with Jennifer Tosch (co-founder Sites of Memory and founder Black Heritage Tours) and Maurice Zeleky (Head of Marketing and Communication Amsterdam Museum). They discuss the collaboration between Sites of Memory and Amsterdam Museum and the need for institutions to share underrepresented stories with the public.

WhatsApp Image 2022-09-10 at 09.53.00.jpeg

The artists' collective Sites of Memory was approached to create a prelude in the run-up to the Scheepvaartmuseum's new exhibition 'The Atlantic World'. This resulted in the art installation ‘Decoding the Atlantic World’, and is a collaboration between Sites of Memory founders Jennifer Tosch, Katy Streek and artists Raul Balai and Jarrett Erasmus.




Did you miss the performance Future for the Past or would you like to revisit some of the stories? You can now visit our 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.





No upcoming events till June 2024




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