Keti Koti

In light of Keti Koti (’chains broken’ in Surinamese or Sranangtongo), a yearly event taking place on the 1st of July in commemoration and celebration of the abolition of slavery in former Dutch colonies, we created the visual language of a poster exhibition about the topic. The exhibition is organised by the HvA together with The Black Archives, Allard Pierson, Pauliena Giftroom and SESI Community Center. The posters are on display until 4 July 2023 in the Corry Tendeloohuis and Dr. Meurerhuis in Amsterdam. Below we briefly introduce Keti Koti and the exhibition, but we highly recommend to visit the HvA website to find more information. 

This poster exhibition aims to illuminate the profound history behind Keti Koti. Translated from Surinamese or Sranangtongo, Keti Koti means ‘chains broken’ and marks the commemoration of the abolition of slavery in former Dutch colonies on July 1, 1863. This exhibit invites you to delve into the history preceding this turning point. It explores how Keti Koti became the celebrated event it is today and how the commemoration may evolve in the future.

The exhibition contains text and images related to slavery, violence, and oppression which some may find shocking or traumatic. The way we celebrate the abolition of slavery in the Netherlands today is largely rooted in Surinamese tradition. People with roots in the ABC and SSS islands may not fully relate to the story we present here.

European traders started the reprehensible practice of capturing or buying people in Africa from local slave traders. The transport of enslaved people was abhorrent; their conditions on plantations were inhumane. Marron uprisings became commonplace, and they managed to free their fellow enslaved people and set up new lives in the wilderness.

The abolition of slavery in the Dutch colonies took place on July 1, 1863. However, actual emancipation didn’t occur until July 1, 1873. Following the abolition, contract workers replaced the enslaved people. What started with Africans on the plantation ended with Javanese contract workers on the same plantation.

The first Keti Koti commemorations started in the late 1940s. Surinamers living in the Netherlands organized an event in July 1948 to commemorate the abolition of slavery 85 years earlier. Activities for children were held in the afternoon, and in the evening, they celebrated with music and dance.

On July 1, 2002, a monument in Oosterpark was unveiled to commemorate Keti Koti. Today, there are calls to make Keti Koti as significant as May 4 and 5, designating it as a national holiday, thus enhancing historical awareness and learning from the past.

More info