Dutch Royals stops golden carriage with echoes of colonialism

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The Dutch royal family will stop using a horse-drawn gold-covered carriage from the late 1800s that has long been criticized for its painted panel glorifying Dutch history of colonialism.

“As long as people in the Netherlands face discrimination on a daily basis, the past will cast a shadow over our time,” King Willem-Alexander said in a video message announcing the decision on Thursday. “The Golden Coach can drive again when the Netherlands is ready, which is not the case now.”

In 1898 the municipality of Amsterdam presented the carriage to Queen Wilhelmina, the first woman to sit on the Dutch throne. It is covered in gold and decorated with paintings on the side panels made by a prominent Dutch artist of the time, Nicolaas van der Waay.

One of those paintings, “Tribute from the Colonies”, shows a young woman on a throne, a personification of the Dutch kingdom at the time, with an African in a loincloth bowing to her and Asians dressed in batiks offering her gifts, a representation of the Dutch colony in what is now Indonesia. The themes of slavery and Dutch colonialism have long made the coach a target for critics, especially descendants of previously colonized peoples in the Netherlands.

“We cannot rewrite the past,” King Willem-Alexander said in the video, “but we can try to come to terms with it together.” Last year, an online petition to stop the use of the bus received more than 9,000 signatures and activists have long opposed its use.

The King and Queen mainly used the carriage for the annual ceremonial opening of the Dutch Parliament in The Hague in September, most recently in 2015. Since then, the carriage has undergone a renovation worth approximately $1.4 million and has been on display to the public. as part of an exhibition at the Amsterdam Museum, which will close at the end of February.

Urwin Vyent, director of the National Institute for the Study of Dutch Slavery and its Legacy, said the decision was a step in the right direction, adding that he hoped it would lead to an official apology for the colonial legacy. from The Netherlands. “As far as we’re concerned, it can remain in a museum and be part of a new historical awareness,” said Mr. vyent.

Devika Partiman, board member of Netherlands Gets Better, an organization that aims to educate the Netherlands about the ramifications of its history of colonialism and slavery, praised the decision, but said she wondered why the king left the door open to use the bus in the future. again.

“Even if the day comes when we’ve digested the colonial past,” said Mrs. Partiman, “why would you want to ride in a carriage where colonial history is surrounded by splendor?”

Opinions in the Netherlands have long been divided about the carriage. Many people have also defended it as part of the history of the Netherlands.

“There won’t be a moment when we’re done with this,” says Margriet Schavemaker, artistic director of the Amsterdam Museum. “It is important to discuss this with each other.”

As part of the exhibition and wider research in the country, she said the museum spoke to many people about their thoughts about the bus and its significance.

Last summer, King Willem-Alexander said he “listened” to discussions and public forums on the subject, and promised to come back at a later date with a decision on the carriage.

“The king follows the social discussion about the Golden Coach and is aware of the different perspectives in society and politics,” said a spokeswoman for the Royal House. She said that after the exhibition in Amsterdam, the coach would be parked in the Royal Stables in The Hague, alongside the other carriages of the royal family.

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