Artist collective Ghana ThinkTank presents Monument to the Dutch

Results of a study of the consequences of globalization in Leiden.

25 June 2015

In the exhibition Global Imaginations, which is organized in De Meelfabriek in Leiden at the initiative of Museum De Lakenhal, the American artist collective Ghana ThinkTank presents the artwork Monument to the Dutch. The Netherlands are internationally known as a tolerant country, but the artists wonder if they still deserve this reputation. For the artists, the internationally known story of Anne Frank symbolizes the importance of tolerance. In their art work, they connect this story to the history of the tolerant Islam. Monument to the Dutch can be seen in De Meelfabriek from 27 June to 4 October 2015.

Tolerance and intolerance

The exhibit Global Imaginations contains work by twenty artists, from all continents, who share their vision on our contemporary, globalized world. Since 2006, the American collective Ghana ThinkTank has been researching problems that citizens of “developed” countries experience, asking think tanks in “developing” countries to help create solutions. Invited by the curatorial team of Global Imaginations, Ghana ThinkTank researched the problems that citizens of Leiden experience in relation to globalization. In January of this year, the Americans visited several of Leiden's neighbourhoods. The inhabitants were asked about the (negative) consequences of globalization that they experience in daily life. A problem that was regularly mentioned is the division between Muslims and non-Muslims, in relation to the growing intolerance in the Netherlands.

Think tanks

Ghana ThinkTank has discussed these and other problems with think tanks from other countries, such as Indonesia, Morocco, Ghana, El Salvador, the Palestinian territories, and with a group of Sudanese refugees in Israel. The think tanks advised to teach the Dutch a better understanding of their relation to Islam, by looking at their own history and traditions. With the advice of the think tanks, the artists started working. They researched the history of Dutch tolerance and discovered that Islam played an important role in its development. This history goes back to the 16th century, when William of Orange maintained good relationships with the Sultan of the Ottoman empire, Suleiman the Magnificent, who was praised for his policy of religious tolerance. The Sea Beggars led by William of Orange famously proclaimed that they would 'rather be Turkish than Catholic'. During the revolt, including the Siege and Relief of Leiden (1574), they even carried the Islamic symbol of the crescent moon. The artists translated the results of this research to the present day, and searched for an internationally known Dutch symbol that is associated with the consequences of intolerance. They found the Achterhuis of Anne Frank. Worldwide, the story of Anne Frank is told to point out the horrifying results of the Shoah and to emphasize the importance of tolerance and respect for others.

Monument to the Dutch

Monument to the Dutch is a spatial installation, open to the public. The symbolic reference to the Achterhuis of Anne Frank plays a central role in the installation. The bookcase at the entrance is filled with literature that refers to the history of tolerance and intolerance. Around the space, symbolic references to the connections between Islam and Dutch history are shown, but also references to the Islamic religious tradition. The artwork calls for Dutch people to learn from the past. It questions the symbols that are used to represent tolerance and intolerance. In response to the growing anti-Semitism and Islamophobia in Europe, the artists call for the Dutch to consider how tolerant they actually are, and how they view their future. Besides the Monument to the Dutch, a second artwork will be exhibited, entitled Ghana ThinkTank Leiden, in which the research in Leiden's neighbourhoods and the approach taken by the artists will be revealed.

Ghana ThinkTank

Established in 2006 by Christopher Robbins (USA), John Ewing (USA) and Matey Odonkor (Ghana) – Extended in 2009 with Maria del Carmen Montoya (USA). Ghana ThinkTank is a collective of internationally active American artists. Out of discontent with the ineffectiveness and power structures of the international developmental programs they were involved in, they decided to radically turn things around in 2006. They established think tanks in “developing” countries in Latin-America, Asia and Africa, which focus on solving problems in rich countries. What initially seems like a radical turnaround of traditional power relations and role patterns, quickly becomes a confrontation with the question of how humans relate to the world around them.

For more information, please contact:
Department of Public Affairs of Museum De Lakenhal,
Minke Schat, tel. +31 (0)71 5165 360 / +31 (0)6 11 01 88 31 or pr@lakenhal.nl
Museum De Lakenhal, Oude Singel 28-32, Leiden

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