The Easel

15th June 2021

How the Dutch are facing up to their colonial past

Amsterdam’s Rijksmuseum has boldly chosen to tell the “social story” of Dutch colonialism. Systemic racism came out of colonialism and “permeated every level of society”. Looking closely at its collection, the museum found traces of colonialism everywhere. For example, Marten Soolmans – the subject of Rembrandt’s “magnificent” portrait – became rich buying sugar from slave-based plantations. “[Dutch] people were not unaware of what was happening.”