Keti Koti Festival Amsterdam

Keti Koti Festival Amsterdam

Jul 01, 2020
Oosterpark and other locations

Due to the measures in place due to the coronavirus please check the official page of this event for more details on cancellation / postponement.

Each year, the Keti Koti Festival takes a moment to remember the painful history of slavery in the former Dutch colony of Suriname and also to commemorate its abolishment, through a cultural festival.

On July 1, 1863, the Netherlands abolished slavery in the former Dutch colonies of Suriname and the Netherlands Antilles. Nowadays, July 1 is Emancipation Day in Suriname.

Keti Koti and broken shackles

The historical event is commemorated annually in Oosterpark in Amsterdam during the festival. "Keti Koti" roughly translates as "broken shackles" or “cut chains” in Sranan Tongo (a creole language spoken in Suriname).

The cutting of chains has come to symbolise the end of slavery in Suriname and the Dutch Antilles that took place on July 1, 1863. Since this era in history, many people with Afro-Surinamese backgrounds have moved to or have been born in the Netherlands.

Recognising the importance of confronting and commemorating the negative side of colonial relations, NiNsee (Nationaal Instituut Nederlands Slavernijverleden en Erfenis) and the National Monument to the History of Slavery (Nationaal Monument Slavernijverleden) were created along with the idea for the festival.

Amsterdam Keti Koti

Keti Koti Festival 2020

Taking place each year on July 1 in the Oosterpark (where the monument is located), the ceremonies of Keti Koti look to remind the current generation of Dutch society of the painful history of slavery. More than just a remembrance, Keti Koti also emphasises the importance of modern-day freedom and tolerance by hosting a celebratory day in which Surinamese cultural traditions are the focus. 

Keti Koti programme

The Dutch weather is a factor to consider each year during Keti Koti, because it takes place outdoors in various locations in the Dutch capital.

The Keti Koti Festival programme typically begins with a parade from Waterlooplein to the Oosterpark called the Bigi Spikri, consisting of participants playing traditional music and wearing classic Surinamese dress. Once in the Oosterpark, there is a remembrance ceremony at the monument, after which the festive portion of the day begins. 

Four festival stages

This takes place over four main stages:

  • Kas Di Kabra: A tent that is a spiritual space where traditional rituals and dances are performed.
  • Boni Tula Oso: This podium is reserved for spoken word artists and singer-songwriters.
  • A children's podium: Kids and their parents gather around to hear folk tales and legends from the Afro-Caribbean world.
  • Main podium: As the centre of the Keti Koti Festival, this is where major music acts, theatre performances and speeches are held.

Plan your visit to Ket Koti Festival

Keti Koti Festival is unmissable. It's well worth a visit, whether you spend time in Oosterpark or catch a glimpse of the parade. As well as the stage, there is also a featured exhibition which addresses the intertwined histories of Suriname and the Netherlands, as well as a Caribbean market and flavourful Surinamese and Antillean food for sale.