The Threatening Heritage

Last night I went to the "Erfgoed Arena" (erfgoed = heritage), regular discussions organized by the Reinwardt Academy and Erfgoed Nederland. The theme was the threatening heritage. It is not heritage which are threaten as generally understood but heritage which threat the identity and history of a nation (in this case the Netherlands).

Rob van der Laarse from the UvA said that a heritage can threat depends on context and how we look and interpret it. He gave some examples, e.g. a statement of Princess Maxima that a Dutch identity doesn't exist (which widely quoted by everyone) or a new painting collection of the Rijks Museum in Amsterdam which represented national socialist movement in country.

The other speaker was mostly talking about importance of accepting multicultural heritage in daily life, comparing his experiences in Israel (lived 12 years there) and the Netherlands. Talking about Jews, lately a researcher from UvA has exposed a house in Amsterdam which he said still intact with original typical Jews house interior. Last night he was there, too, so we had a long discussion about this house.

The last speaker talked about recognition of slavery done by the Dutch for 300 years in Suriname, Netherlands Antillian and Ghana. It led to an interesting discussion about the existence of Zwarte Piet (black helpers) who always appears every December together with Sinterklaas (the Saint Claus). There is other interpretation, too, from the Dutch side that actually the Zwarte Piet, is not a black slavery but a white man who try to enter a house to deliver gifts through chimney.

And the discussions shifted to the colonial periods of the Dutch, mentioned also Indonesia and other colonies. I was always wonder how the Dutch felt about this because this topic appeared so often in discussions and every time psychologically I simply became awkward to react. A kind of abstract situation which is complicated to comprehend. At least for me.

One young student admitted that she didn't know about colonial history until she entered university. Luckily she studied heritage in the Reinwardt that is why she was exposed to history. What about young people out there who have nothing to do with heritage or history studies?

All and all, I found Erfgoed Arena is a useful discussion platform for students and senior ones either teachers or practitioners in heritage field.


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