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Witte de With Center for Contemporary Art to Change Its Name

The Witte de With Center for Contemporary Art in Rotterdam announced today that its supervisory board unanimously agreed to abandon the part of its name that refers to the controversial Dutch naval officer Witte Corneliszoon de With, who led violent expeditions into India and Indonesia for the Dutch East India Company.

“In light of recent national and global developments we have come to realize that the reference in our name to Witte Corneliszoon de With, and its connotations, are in conflict with the values we stand for as an institute for contemporary art and culture,” board chair Kees Weeda said.

The decision, which the board made at its quarterly meeting on September 5, was prompted by an event held at the center earlier this summer called “Cinema Olanda: Platform,” which grappled with the Netherlands’ “active forgetting” of its Dutch colonial past. Director Defne Ayas added that the board’s endorsement is “an important and necessary step in acknowledging a blind spot in our institutional history and self-awareness.” The institution will make further announcements regarding changes to its name in 2018.

In the early to mid-1600s, Witte Corneliszoon de With raided Spanish-held territories in South America, and in 1618, he was involved in the siege of Jakarta, where he established a Dutch East India Company trading post, which remained active for the next three hundred years. To protect the interests of the company, the officer and his crew burned ninety thousand clove trees belonging to inhabitants of the Malaku Islands off the coast of Indonesia, in order to increase the cost of the commodity, in 1625. He died in 1658, and was eventually buried in St Lawrence Church in Rotterdam.