Art work for the Slavery Exhibition, design by Irma Boom, courtesy of the Rijksmuseum, Amsterdam. Based on Anonymous, Enslaved men digging trenches, (around 1850)
The United Nations is pleased to open the exhibition “Slavery – Ten True Stories of Dutch Colonial Slavery” organized in collaboration with the Rijksmuseum, Amsterdam and supported by the Permanent Mission of the Kingdom of the Netherlands to the United Nations and the Consulate General of the Kingdom of the Netherlands in New York. The exhibition presents ten personal accounts of people who were enslaved, profited from the transatlantic trade in enslaved Africans or revolted against it.
Originally curated and displayed in 2021 by Amsterdam’s Rijksmuseum, the Netherlands’ national museum of art and history, the adapted version of the Rijksmuseum’s Slavery exhibition will be open to the public from 27 February to 30 March in the Visitors’ Lobby of the United Nations Headquarters. Please refer to the United Nations Visitor Centre entry guidelines for information how to access the building. The poster version of the exhibition will be made available for display until 31 December 2024 at other United Nations offices worldwide.
The Ten True Stories exhibition focuses on slavery in the Dutch colonial era, from the seventeenth to the nineteenth century — in Brazil, Suriname and the Caribbean, as well as in South Africa, Asia and the Netherlands itself. It presents 10 true personal stories of people who were enslaved, people who profited from the system of slavery and people who raised their voices against it.
In response to the display of the exhibit, Secretary-General of the United Nations, António Guterres, remarked: “The legacy of centuries of enslavement, exploitation, and colonial rule reverberates to this day. We must learn and teach the history of slavery: the crime against humanity; the unprecedented mass human trafficking; the unspeakable human rights violations. Behind the facts and figures are millions of human stories of untold suffering and pain. But, also, stories of awe-inspiring resilience, courage and defiance against the cruelty of oppressors. This powerful exhibition calls on us all to put an end to racism and injustice in our own time and make inclusive societies based on dignity and rights a reality everywhere.”
In New York, the 10 stories integral to the original Slavery exhibition will be presented around one single artifact: wooden foot stocks known as a tronco (from the Portuguese for “tree trunk”). Several enslaved people would be forced to have their ankles clamped in the holes to constrain them — to subject them to corporal punishment and prevent from escaping. The foot stocks symbolize the more than 1 million people who were shipped in from around the world and forced to work, whether on plantations, as craftspeople, in mines, in transportation or on military expeditions.