About the part that art plays in a globalising society

Framer Framed

Tropenmuseum, Colonial Theatre. Fotografie: Irene de Groot

Symposium: Decolonize The Museum

Decolonize The Museum – April 16th 2016 is an effort to confront the colonial ideas and practices present in ethnographic museums up until this day. Hodan Warsame, Simone Zeefuik and Tirza Balk, the initiators have worked throughout 2015 to stage a joint intervention in the Dutch National Museum of World Cultures.

This intervention critiques the language, imagery and accessibility of its current exhibitions. Our intent is firstly to expose the violence perpetuated by ethnographic museums by critiquing its Eurocentrism, white supremacy, its assumed neutrality and its excuses of “only having so much time/space”. We base this critique on the museum experience of ourselves and our friends whose heritage is studied and analysed, but who, ourselves, are seldom the target group of ethnographic museums. Simultaneously, we push a conversation about how – if at all – the ethnographic museum can contribute to reinstating the agency and histories of colonized peoples, life and territories. Last but not least, Decolonize The Museum is about educating and challenging the organization so that neo-liberal conceptions of ‘diversity’ do not become the limit of change for these institutions. Those interested are invited to become part of the intervention and the broader conversation about the role of justice within ethnographic museums and other cultural institutions. Participants of the intervention will share their analysis and experience of the intervention in the Tropenmuseum. Activists, thinkers and artists from different countries and lands will share their ideas of what a ‘decolonial approach’ can and/or ought to mean when it comes to (European) cultural institutions. What are the possibilities and problems of such an approach? How do we build structures of our own to honour the past and anticipate the scopes of what is to come?

12.00-12.15 Introduction by Decolonize The Museum initiators
12.15-13.00 Keynote speech: Is it possible to ‘decolonize’ the museum?
13.00-14.30 Panel ‘Possibilities, politics and limits of decolonizing the Tropenmuseum’ with participants of Decolonize The Museum
14.30-15.30 Break
15.30-17.00 Panel ‘Strategies for changing European cultural institutions and creating our own decolonial structures’ with PoC and migrant thinkers, activists and artists from the Netherlands and other European countries
17.00-17.15 Break
17.15-18.30 Workshops
18.30-18.45 Reflection and closing
18.45-19.30 Drink

Koninklijk Instituut voor de Tropen (KIT) – Royal Tropical Institute
Mauritskade 63
1092 AD Amsterdam
The Netherlands

Colonial history / Museology /


Simone Zeefuik

Writer and cultural programmer

Hodan Warsame

Educator, organiser and moderator