King of Holland will retire carriage with image of enslaved blacks

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King of Holland will retire carriage with image of enslaved blacks

King Willem-Alexander of the Netherlands announced this Thursday (13) that he will no longer use the golden carriage of royalty. The vehicle, used by kings since 1901, has on its side a panel with the image of black men kneeling before their white masters. The historical relic was at the center of a debate about images of colonization and racism in Dutch society.

After a complete renovation that lasted five years, the carriage is now the centerpiece of a controversy in the country because of its decorative panels. On the left, a painting about the colonial period depicts enslaved blacks kneeling before white men and a woman seated on the throne representing Holland. The blacks give him cocoa and sugar cane.

In a statement made on Thursday in an official video, the king said he considered Dutch society “not ready” to see the carriage, known as the “Gouden Koets”, on the streets again during official ceremonies.

“We cannot rewrite the past. We can try to accept it together. This also applies to the colonial past. The ‘Gouden Koets’ can only be used when the Netherlands is ready for it. And that is not the case at the moment. people living in the Netherlands who feel the pain of discrimination in everyday life, the past will still cast its shadow over our time,” said the king.

Colonization and racism

Since 2015, the luxurious carriage made of gold-plated wood has not been used by the Dutch royal family, stopped for renovation. Before that, the golden vehicle was used by monarchs to go to christenings, weddings and other great occasions.

After the renovation that lasted more than five years, the carriage’s return during an exhibition in Amsterdam reopened the controversy over its use.

In addition to the image of enslaved men doing manual work and kneeling, the painting that decorates the carriage, called “Homage to the Colonies”, shows a young white man giving a book to a black boy. In 1896, painter Nicolaas van der Waay said that the image represented civilization.

On the one hand, groups accused the monarchy of glorifying a period of racist and inhumane oppression in the country. On the other hand, defenders of the artifact consider that the carriage is a historical object that reveals important moments in the Netherlands that should not be erased.

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