Sites of Memory – Performance Research seminar on the colonial and slavery history of Amsterdam 

Sites of Memory – Performance Research seminar on the colonial and slavery history of Amsterdam


Sites of Memory – Emerging Memory is a theatrical boat trip about the colonial and slavery history of Amsterdam. Spoken word artists, dancers and visual artists work together with UvA students, bringing history to live with narratives and performances on board of the boat and on shore. The performance is a mix of past and presence, of what we know and would rather forget. The performance will take place between the 20th of June and 7th of July and will be part of Amsterdam Roots Festival.

The theme of this years performance is Emerging Memory; about how we remember, what histories or narratives are part of our collective memory, what we archive and by who? It’s also the title of Paul Bijl’s book of which he says: “between memory and forgetting there is a haunted zone from which pasts that do not fit the stories nations live by keep on emerging and submerging while retaining their disturbing presence”

Sites of memory started in 2016 by Jennifer Tosch and Katy Streek, bringing their skills together and translating historical research into a performance narrative. Jennifer Tosch is sociologists and graduated of the University of California at Berkeley, and is pursuing the dual Master in Heritage and Memory at UvA. Tosch is the founder of the Black Heritage Tours in Amsterdam and co-author of the Amsterdam Slavery Heritage Guide (2014, 2017), which includes research on the sites used in the performance tour. Katy Streek is theatre maker and programmer with a Master in Applied Theatre from the University of Amsterdam and currently programmer at Afrovibes Festival in Amsterdam. This is the 4th year that this performance tour is organised, each year has a different theme, different route, and involving different makers and performers. Sites of Memory – Emerging Memory is in collaboration with partner organisations Amsterdam Roots Festival, Afrovibes Festival, Black Heritage Tours, Nowhere and Mapping Slavery. This year, it will include a new collaboration with UvA, connecting academic research and performance.

Sites: The performance tour will take the audience through the historical centre of Amsterdam and will have performances and interventions at sites that are connected to the history of slavery and / or the black community in Amsterdam. The tour includes a number of UvA sites, such as Bushuis, which used to be the East India Company (VOC) headquarter, it will also include Oude Turfmarkt 145-147, which once was the home to Wilhelmina Balk, the daughter of ‘the free negress’ Kaatje, housekeeper to Loerd Johan Andreas Balk on the plantation ‘De Vriendschap’ in the Berbice (now Guyana). Wilhelmina’s white father Balk recognised her as his sole heir, provided her with a good education and made her a wealthy woman. Another UvA location is Oudezijds Heerenlogement, Binnengasthuistraat 9, which in the 18th Century was commonly used as an auction house for art and real estate. West Indian plantations, including enslaved people were frequently offered for sale here. The tour will end at Athenaeum Illustre, the old Agnieten chapel on the Oudezijds Voorburgwal 231. Famous scientists such as Caspar Barlaeus, Gerardus Vossius, and Petrus Camper taught here. Petrus Camper plays aan inmportant role within this narrative. Much of his work, like this book on physiognomy and the ‘facial angle’ was used as the basis for later scientific racism of which he is (justly or unjustly) regarded as one of the spiritual fathers. 


NICA Research Master Students are invited to contribute to this seminar and they can earn 3 EC doing an assignment. The assignment will have the aim to deepen the research and conduct new research about the history of the sites that are part of the performance tour. These are buildings from the 17th and 18th century in relation to the history of colonialism and slavery in Amsterdam. There is much known about these sites, but there are hidden stories. You will research the history and stories of these sites in relation to the performance theme: Emerging Memory. You will present your findings to the performance team for Sites of Memory in the beginning of May.


  • The research process will commence end of April (week of 29th April). This will start with an introduction tour past the performance sites and briefing of the assignment.
  • In the week of 15 May you will share your first findings and ideas to the artistic team.
  • The last week of May (week of 27 May) you will present your findings to the artistic team and performers of Sites of Memory, which will form the foundation of the creation process. This includes:
  1. An oral presentation of your research (max 15 min) to the team AND
  2. A document of max 2500 words that includes stories or anecdotes in connection to the colonial history of the site, historical facts, images and any thing else that might feed into a performance.

Throughout the research process, students and artists will stay in close collaboration during the rehearsal process, in which the students share their views, reflections and jointly interpret the findings into theatrical production.

RMA students can receive 3 EC for full participation in all the sessions and completion of assignments.

Assignment should be submitted by 31 May via email to

To register: send an email to before 23 April 2019.

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  1. […] Sites of Memory – Performance Research seminar on the colonial and slavery history of Amsterdam è una delle sue ultime proposte. Tra il 20 giugno e il 17 luglio, artisti e ballerini sono pronti a collaborare con gli studenti dell’Uva, per la realizzazione di una performance che interroga la storia coloniale della città. […]

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