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Dutch Royals to retire Golden Coach with echoes of colonialism

The Dutch royal family will stop using a gold-coated horse-drawn carriage dating from the late 19th century that has long drawn criticism for its painted panel glorifying the history of Dutch colonialism.

“As long as the Dutch suffer from discrimination on a daily basis, the past will cast a shadow over our time,” King Willem-Alexander said in a video message announcing the decision on Thursday. “The Golden Coach will be able to leave when the Netherlands are ready, which is not currently the case. “

The city of Amsterdam presented the coach as a gift to Queen Wilhelmina, the first woman to sit on the Dutch throne, in 1898. It is covered in gold and decorated with paintings on its side panels which were created by a prominent Dutch artist of the time, Nicolas van der Waay.

One of these paintings, “Homage of the colonies”, represents a young woman on a throne, personification of the Dutch kingdom of the time, with an African in loincloth bow down before her and Asians dressed in batiks offering her gifts, a representation of the Dutch colony in present-day Indonesia. Themes of slavery and Dutch colonialism have long made the car a target for criticism, especially for descendants of peoples formerly colonized in the Netherlands.

“We can’t rewrite the past,” King Willem-Alexander said in the video, “but we can try to come to terms with it together.” Last year, an online petition to end the use of the bus collected more than 9,000 signatures and activists have long opposed its use.

The King and Queen have mainly used the car for the annual opening ceremony of the Dutch Parliament each year in September in The Hague, most recently in 2015. Since then the coach has undergone a renovation of around 1.4 million dollars and was on display to the public as part of an exhibition at the Amsterdam Museum, which ends at the end of February.

Urwin Vyent, director of the National Institute for the Study of Dutch Slavery and its Legacy, said the move was a step in the right direction, adding that he hoped it would lead to a formal apology for the colonial heritage of the Netherlands. “As far as we’re concerned, it can stay in a museum and be part of a new historical consciousness,” Mr. Vyent said.

Devika Partiman, board member of Netherlands Gets Better, an organization that aims to educate the Netherlands on the consequences of its history of colonialism and slavery, welcomed the decision but said she wondered why the king had left the door open to use the bus. again in the future.

“Even if there comes a day when we have dealt with the colonial past,” said Ms. Partiman, “why would you want to get into a car where colonial history is surrounded by splendor? “

The car has long divided opinion in the Netherlands. Many people have also defended it as part of the history of the Netherlands.

“We won’t be done with this for a moment”, said Margriet Schavemaker, artistic director of the Amsterdam museum. “It’s important to start a conversation about this. “

As part of the exhibit and broader research around the country, she said the museum has spoken to many people about their thoughts on the coach and what it means.

Last summer, King Willem-Alexander said he was “listening” to discussions and public forums on the subject, and had promised to return with a decision on the car at a later date.

“The King is following the society discussion on the Golden Coach and knows the different perspectives of society and politics,” said a spokeswoman for the Royal Dutch House. She said the coach will be kept at the Royal Stables in The Hague, alongside other Royal Family cars, after the Amsterdam exhibition.

nytimes Gt

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