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[Nettime-nl] International Women's Day Amsterdam 2013 BRIDGES OF PEACE:
Tjebbe van Tijen via Chello on Fri, 8 Mar 2013 12:31:38 +0100 (CET)

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[Nettime-nl] International Women's Day Amsterdam 2013 BRIDGES OF PEACE: we still have to bridge the colonial gap in the present

International Women's Day Amsterdam 2013 BRIDGES OF PEACE: we still have to bridge the colonial gap in the present

This picture is my present for International Women's Day 2013 Amsterdam. 


The theme of this days is UNITE IN BUILDING BRIDGES. I can see the bridge were will be demonstrated in Amsterdam from my windows and it I like to communicate how I see and read this bridge historically on this occasion. Below first the call by the organisers of International Women's Day

Join us on the Bridge on International Women's Day- 8 march

Now in it's third year, the Join me on the Bridge campaign started in 2010 when women from Congo and Rwanda joined together on the bridge connecting their two countries, showing that they could build the bridges of peace and hope for the future. This action sparked a massive global movement, and last year they were joined by thousands of people on hundreds of bridges worldwide.
On International Women's Day, 8 March, thousands of people will show that they are with the women of Afghanistan, Iraq, Congo, Rwanda, South Sudan and other war-torn countries.
We stand with these women to give them strength and to show we support their demands for peace and equality. Women are peace builders and with equality at the peace negotiation tables and governing bodies of their countries they will build a more peaceful world.

Now is the time for women around the world to unite in building bridges, joining on bridges and celebrating what is possible on bridges. Stronger women are building the bridges of peace for our future. With your support we will be even stronger.


My comment and suggestion:

The Blauwbrug (better known as Blauwe Brug / blue bridge) in Amsterdam has been build in the year 1883 and is an imitation of imperial bridges build during the last quarter of the 19th century in Paris. It was the expression of the Dutch colonial empire mood developing during the 19th century. A time when a new kind of Dutch colonialism was developing with more total forms of exploitation. It succeeded the old style plantations and spices and slave trade period from the 16th to the 18th century with the East Indian (VOC) and West Indian Companies. This pompous bridge with it's sculpted stone bastions and crowned neo-classical pillars came in the place of a wooden bridge (painted blue, hence it's name). It initiated changes in the Amsterdam townscape. Not long after big trade bank buildings and international hotels where put up in the inner town, signalling the new trade capitalism developing.

The drawing of the tympanum at the top of the picture stems from the old colonial period of the 17th century when the city of Amsterdam and the two colonial trade companies for the East and the West it housed were reigning over the old colonial empire. The tympanum can be found at the backside of the 17th century Town Hall of Amsterdam, now called Royal Palace at the Dam Square. It show the City Virgin of Amsterdam amidst allegoric representations of the four main continents Asia, America, Europe and Africa. It's praise of colonialism is implicit with domesticated savages, slaves, collected treasures and cornucopias. Sailing ships tower behind the back of the City Virgin of Amsterdam. One sees this Ciy Virgin once more in the right hand corner with at her side the God of Trade (and thieves) Mercurius on a throne with the heraldic weapon of the Dutch East Indian Comapny (VOC) and attributes of seafaring.

Colonial history in the Netherlands tends to be still glorified or down played in subtle ways. The Dutch are more proud of their colonial Golden Age, than that they show remorse. This imbalance can be observed in all historical museums of this town.

The role of the City of Amsterdam has been central in Dutch colonialism. This year the abolition of slavery is commemorated in all kind of Double Dutch Hypocrite ways. One tends to forget that the Dutch were late in abolishing slave trade and slave holding. The merchants of the city of Amsterdam even arranged a special prolonging of slavery for 10 more years for the slaves in Surinam. The colonial masters in that country were so afraid of of the the existence of large groups of run-away slaves in the back country forests (marrons) that they thought that many of the freed slaves would join them and join in all out revolt against their former colonial masters. Thus the Surinam slaves found themselves in 1863 still for ten years bound by force to their owners and plantation work.

The Dutch like to pose as the modern and enlightened, but this is far from true. There is a whole colonial gap surviving until now, that needs to be bridged.

Standing on the Blauwbrug one can see, to the south, the former elderly home at the Amstel river which has been turned into a dependance of the Hermitage Museum of Saint Petersburg. At this day the museum houses an exhibition on Tsar Peter The Great, who is glorified as a great emperor and a man of progress, while it was under this Tsar that a new system of slavery, that of of serfs, has been firmly established. A horrific exploitation system that has been functioning for centuries and was an integral part of the totalitarian mind set of Tsarism and the later totalitarian systems that came after it.

I think the International Women's Day action metaphor of bridges should not only be "building the bridges of peace for our future."

We need to think also about bridges to the past that need to be established to overcome historical horrors in a fundamental way. 

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