Why the Golden Coach should stay

Restauratie van De Gouden Koets in Apeldoorn
Restauratie en tentoonstelling van De Gouden Koets in Museum Paleis het Loo in Apeldoorn

Submission to colonial power

This gala carriage from 1898 seems to have driven straight out of a fairy tale book about kings and princes, knights and footmen. The people of the colonies contributed to it indirectly and they were probably unaware of how they would be depicted on this awe-inspiring symbol of power. All the figures from the East and the West are carrying something. Boxes, packages, baskets of food, fruits of the field; on their backs, heads, or in their arms. They offer these to people who are exclusively white. One of the panels depicts a dark man prostrating himself before a perched, angelic white woman and a white man holding some kind of bible in his hand, both in neo-Roman costume. A dark-skinned father pushes his son gently towards the man, who is seated next to the woman. The black people humbly offer their son and their produce and, since no Surinamese slave or descendant of enslaved people would willingly prostrate themselves before another human being, also their dignity. Indeed, they do not bow to the ground even for the most highly revered ancestral souls, or Kabra.


The carriage as the centrepiece of the krutu

For all the glitter and shine that the caleche radiates, how dull ‒ figuratively speaking ‒ is the image of the colonials. Not that the people are inaccurately portrayed. The scene on the carriage speaks volumes: the role of the state, of the church, the attitude of the Dutch people.

As far as I’m concerned, the carriage isn’t going anywhere and will stay exactly where it is, complete with the panels, on the condition that various groups gather around this extravaganza at regular intervals as the centrepiece for a krutu, which is a lively conference called to thrash out an important topic. It is a tradition of the once free people – runaway slaves or Maroons – deep in the Surinamese interior. The Golden Coach should be surrounded and hemmed in, as it were, frequently, by groups of people of all kinds, to reflect on our shared history.

Panelen op de Gouden koets
Panelen op de Gouden koets

De koets als centrum van de krutu

Zo stralend de glitter en glans van de calèche, zo dof is het beeld ‒ figuurlijk gesproken dan ‒ van de rijksgenoten. En dat terwijl de mensen qua afbeelding nu juist goed zijn weergegeven. De schildering op de koets vat veel samen: de rol van de staat, van de kerk, de zienswijze van het Nederlandse volk.

Wat mij betreft gaat de koets nergens heen en blijft die waar die is, compleet met de panelen, op voorwaarde dat uiteenlopende groepen op gezette tijden om het glittergeval heen gaan zitten om hun krutu’s te houden. Een krutu is de term voor een palaver, overleg, discussie over een belangrijk thema, die werd gehouden door de eertijds vrije mensen ‒ gevluchte slaven of Marrons ‒ diep in het Surinaamse binnenland. De Gouden Koets dient geregeld als het ware ingesloten te worden door groepen mensen van alle signatuur die willen nadenken over onze gezamenlijke geschiedenis.

Detailafbeelding van een paneel inheemsen in dienende houding op de Gouden Koets
Detailafbeelding van een paneel inheemsen in dienende houding op de Gouden Koets


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