Scenes from the colonial past: The Maasdamme Collection Exhibition at the Amsterdam Museum

I was in Amsterdam last week for the Black Heritage Amsterdam Tours with students and colleagues. This tour was arranged for our GEO course on Tourist Experience by my colleague Karolina Doughty and it was also an opportunity for me to do fieldwork for my Veni research project. It was while we were on the canal boat passing by the new Amsterdam Museum on the Amstel location in the same building as the Hermitage Museum that I suddently remembered that I have not shared the news about the current exhibition being heeld there. This new exhibition was opened in October 2022 and I didn’t get to honour the opening invitation because I was in Ghana on a research project on biocultural heritage tourism and agrobiodiversity.

The exibition is called De Maasdamme Collectie: Scènes uit het koloniale verleden (The Maasdamme Collection: Scenes from the Colonial Past). The exhbition is built around the collection of dioramas and carefully handcrafted dolls by Rita Maasdamme (1944-2016) and tells the histories of the former Dutch colonies from the unique perspective of enslaved people, Maroons, and the Indigenous population. As someone at the African (Digital) Heritage Workshop I attended in Bayreuth remarked, often personal biography is (embodied) heritage. This applies very much to Rita Maasdamme and the why/how she came to make these dolls as a way of activating history, heritage and memory that she found absent.

I had the privilege of being involved in the exhibition as a ‘talking head’ where I am on video giving my views on the visual reminders to be found in the ‘Elmina Castle’ and “Port of Paramaribo’ dioramas in the exhibition.

I’ve been to see the exhibition myself last December and was going to write about it here but I somehow didn’t get around to do that until now…better late than never. Anyway, the exhibition is running until March, 2023 so you still have some time to go and have a look. Hurry now before you miss it….No more spoilers, I encourage you to get to the Amsterdam Museum on the Amstel to engage with this exhibition. Let me know if you have any feedback. Here are some images I took when I visited the exhibition in December, 2022


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