Return Looted Artwork to Former Colonies, Dutch Committee Tells Authorities

Return Looted Art to Former Colonies, Dutch Committee Tells Government

The Netherlands ought to return looted artwork to its former colonies: That’s the official advice of an advisory committee to the Dutch authorities.

After a 12 months of analysis, together with interviews with individuals in former Dutch colonies similar to Indonesia, Suriname and a number of other Caribbean islands, the committee launched its report in Amsterdam on Wednesday.

The lawyer and human rights activist Lilian Gonçalves-Ho Kang You, who led the committee, mentioned in an interview that the federal government ought to acknowledge the injustices of colonialism and be prepared to return objects with out circumstances if it may be confirmed that they had been acquired involuntarily, and if their nations of origin ask for them.

The report requires the creation of a physique of specialists to analyze objects’ provenance when requests are made, and a publicly accessible nationwide database of all of the colonial collections in Dutch museums.

Credit score…Gero Breloer/Deutsche Presse Agentur, by way of Related Press

The choice on whether or not to return an object, nevertheless, would finally relaxation with the Dutch authorities.

Ingrid van Engelshoven, the Dutch minister of schooling, tradition and science, who commissioned the report, mentioned in an emailed assertion that it provided “clear beginning factors for a brand new technique to deal with colonial collections.” She mentioned she would current draft laws primarily based on the recommendation in early 2021.

The Netherlands owns a whole lot of 1000’s of objects that had been acquired in the course of the nation’s colonial historical past. However the precise quantity is unknown.

Making a database and researching the background of all these objects can be an enormous endeavor, mentioned Jos van Beurden, an unbiased researcher who has specialised in restitution for the reason that 1990s.

However makes an attempt by Dutch museums to reckon with the nation’s colonial previous haven’t at all times gone down properly with the general public. Final 12 months, the Hermitage Museum, in Amsterdam, mentioned it might jettison the time period “Golden Age” for the period within the 17th century when the Netherlands was a world chief in artwork, science and commerce, as a result of the phrase obscured a historical past of slavery and exploitation. That call was met with widespread condemnation and derided by Prime Minister Mark Rutte as “nonsense.”

Stijn Schoonderwoerd, the director of the Nationwide Museum of World Cultures, a consortium of museums within the Netherlands, mentioned that if the Dutch report had been carried out, it might be necessary to have interaction the previous colonies in discussions concerning the objects they may need again earlier than any motion was taken.

“It could nearly be neocolonial to presume to know what’s good for Indonesia or Suriname, or every other nation,” Mr. Schoonderwoerd mentioned.

The report additionally addresses objects in Dutch museums that got here from nations colonized by different European powers: The committee mentioned a choice about returning these ought to be made on “the premise of reasonableness and equity, and on the premise of a stability of pursuits.” Ms. Gonçalves, the committee chair, mentioned that worldwide relations might be a think about these selections, whereas the report really useful unconditional return to former colonies of the Netherlands.

However wherever the objects had been from, Ms. Gonçalves mentioned, the Dutch authorities ought to act to proper the wrongs of colonialism. “The principle precept stays the identical: What was stolen ought to be returned.”

Alex Marshall and Fixed Méheut contributed reporting.

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