Rebellion and Freedom | exhibition on the Netherlands and its former colonies

Rebellion and Freedom | exhibition on the Netherlands and its former colonies

Jan 28, 2021Feb 28, 2021
The National Archives, Prins Willem-Alexanderhof 20 2595 BE
The Hague

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

Rebellion and Freedom is an exhibition in The Hague on the theme of the struggle for freedom and equality in the Netherlands and its former colonies.

The exhibition has captured worldwide acclaim and has been highly praised by international cultural commentators because it provides brand new insights into enslaved people attempting to overthrow the rigid regimes cruelly imposed on them. 

The Berbice uprising 

The Eighty Years’ War and the Batavian Revolution are part of the exhibition - but the section that is truly one-of-a-kind is that of "The Berbice uprising", in that it shows letters sent by the leader of the first-ever revolt organised by enslaved people on the American continent. The land that was referred to in these letters was Berbice, which is now part of Guyana. Guyana borders Suriname, Venezuela and Brazil, and was a Dutch colony for two centuries.

To set the scene: it was 1763 and 350 Europeans lived in Berbice, with 4.000 slaves trafficked from Africa, working on coffee, sugar and cotton plantations. On February 23 of that year, 70 slaves on one plantation revolted against their slave owners and encouraged slaves from neighbouring plantations to join them. This resulted in a rebellion of close to 3.000 individuals. The European colonialists fled in fear. 

The rebellion was led by a man named Coffy (a variation on the name Kofi, meaning “born on Friday”). In these letters on display, Coffy negotiated with one of the Dutch leaders to put an end to the violence in return for an end to the ongoing cruel conditions endured by the slaves.

Coffy writes to the local governor, Wolfert Simon van Hoogenheim: “We will give Your Excellency half of Berbice, and all the negroes will retreat high up the rivers, but don’t think they will remain slaves.”

Other important rebellions in Dutch history

The Berbice rebellion is not the only event in Dutch history being examined at the exhibition. The Eighty Years’ War (1568-1648) is also a significant part of the exhibition, showing the rebellion of Dutch rebels against King Philip of Spain. The Batavian Revolution of 1795 is also part of the exhibition, showing previously overlooked voices of the rebellion of the Republic of the United Netherlands, like women such as Johanna van Haren.

Plan your visit

Please note that at present only online information about the exhibition is currently available. To find out when it will be possible to book tickets and attend the exhibition, browse the website of the National Archives.