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Colonial Traces of The Hague

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During the Dutch colonial era, the country was involved in the systemic degradation, exploitation, and violation of its colonies. While this practice formally ended in the 19th century, its effects remain palpable both in the country and in the areas (formerly) occupied by the Netherlands.

While the Dutch colonial legacy is ever-present, few people are aware of where to look for it. This is also the case in The Hague, where numerous streets are named after colonizers, buildings were created from slave labor money, and a number of places housed anti-colonial activists. These sites, however, are not well-known.

This reflects the overall knowledge of the Dutch population regarding colonialism; few can grasp what it entailed due to a lack of education on the topic. Professor Emeritus Gloria Wekker states that the Netherlands’ contemporary racial issues stem from a disconnect with our colonial heritage. Because we have not learned about this period and the harmful practices it entailed, we fail to observe the connections to present-day issues in Dutch society. Due to this gap, patterns of racism are perpetrated.

In order to increase The Hague citizens’ knowledge on the Dutch colonial past, as well as their awareness regarding the city’s colonial symbols, Nicchelle believes education is the way. Their Action Project offered this knowledge, as well as a space for reflection, through poetry workshops.

During the last workshop, Nicchelle collaborated with the central library in The Hague. This allowed them to host a diverse audience not only in regards to gender and ethnicity, but also age. When participants were asked to share their takeaways from the workshop, one of the older attendees said: “I’m taking hope with me. It means a lot to me to see young people engaging with this topic.”

Nicchelle’s project started as a Humanity in Action project, but it continues to live beyond their Fellowship.

“I will continue to offer these workshops where possible. The next session is planned on June 15, in the Central Library. Others can follow me on instagram to stay up-to-date for future workshops. I’m also very much open to collaboration and funding oportunties, in order to further develop the workshops.”