Friday, September 18, 2009

Dance With Kings in Amsterdam, NL

African diaspora, Amsterdam, The Netherlands, 12 september. Ghana’s community in The Netherlands celebrate their cultural heritage with the annual Dance With Kings festival in Amsterdam. Honoring Ghana’s royalties living in Europe en the kings and queens who came over from Ghana. The festival takes place on the square named after the Surinam-Dutch freedom fighter Anton de Kom. His statute stands tall above all the gathered audiences and royalties. This edition pays tribute to the relationship between Ghana, Surinam and The Netherlands. And welcomes former president of Ghana Jerry John Rawlings as special guest.

From the brand new local swimming pool building the royalties from Ghana parade to their seats. King’s men and queen’s women escort their masters with golden decorated parasols. They all wear colorful traditional dresses that suits the hot summer weather. The royalties wear a lot of golden jewelry to display their wealth. Traditional greetings welcome the royalties one by one. The public becomes even more enthusiastic when the former President of Ghana Jerry John Rawlings arrives. He makes a round over the square greeting all the audience who hardly can see him, a dozen photo and camera men surrounding him. Finally taking a seat on the VIP stand opposite of the stand with the traditional rulers.

A traditional prayer opens the ceremonies, as the host explains: “Before the Europeans came we had our own ways to pray to the same God.” The arrival of the Europeans is also the start of the special relation ship between Ghana’s, Dutch’s and Surinam’s communities. Many traditional dressed women wear the Dutch or Surinam colors. One woman wears a dress made for the occasion: “Symbolic for one people all over Holland. A dress with the national colors of Ghana, The Netherlands and Surinam.” One of the kings thanks al the audience for their interested in Ghana’s culture and says feels sad that five kings could not come because the Dutch embassy in Accra refused the visa. The president of the Amsterdam Southeast city counsel. Mrs Elvira Sweet makes a enthusiastic welcome speech but receives a poor applause.

Ghana, Suriname and The Netherlands have a relationship that started for more than 400 years ago. The ancestors of the kings and queens are the ones who started wars out of financial gain. Captured enemies and sold them as slaves. The Dutch ancestors, transported them to the colonies on the other side of the Atlantic Ocean. Tame the prisoned Africans by braking the spirits and destroying their cultural consciences forcing them into obedient slaves. The most slaves had to work till they dropped dead. And where easily replaced with new stock brought in from the African continent.

The steps to the higher road form a big stand where the audience have a clear view. In between them the statute of Anton de Kom. He was the son of a man born in slavery, became political involved and sent into exile from his native Suriname by the Dutch colonial authorities. In The Netherlands he wrote his book ‘We Slaves of Surinam’. During the Germans occupation in the Second World War he joined the Dutch resistance. He was captured and sent into forced labor and died of TBC in a concentration camp in Germany in 1944.

Ghana was known as the Gold Coast and the profits of the trade made the rise of the powerful Asanta kingdom possible. The Dutch sailed away with huge profits and celebrate this period in their history as The Dutch Republic’s Golden Century. For the many victims of the trade, this history’s heritage still effects the daily life of their descendants.

Text and photo's by: Auke VanderHoek

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