Lieuwe Jongsma will be leading two tours through Groningen on 1 July, Keti Koti, to share stories of the city’s connections to the slave trade.
Jongsma was a research assistant for Barbara Henkes, one of the co-authors of the book “Sporen van het slavernijverleden in Groningen” (“Traces of the history of slavery in Groningen”). “We went to the city archives to look for connections, and we were told that there was probably nothing there”, Jongsma says. That was because the Dutch West India Company archive for the city of Groningen was lost at some point in the past, and the archivists thought that it would be difficult to find any information. “It took some more work, but we were able to look at different kinds of documents and fill in the blanks.”
The tour is being organised in connection with Alternative Groningen Tour, and Jongsma says he was surprised by how quickly it filled up, even though it only had spots for 15 participants. He has given the tour before as part of several academic programmes in Groningen, including Dutch Studies at the RUG, and he has given it as a public tour during the Dag van de Groninger Gescheidenis.
|What is Alternative Groningen Tour?
The tours focus on the “rough edges” of Groningen society away from the normal touristy sites, including squatter houses, hitchhiking spots, street art, urban gardens and more. The free tours are given in English and are especially popular among international students, but participants are asked to pay what they think the tour is worth to them.
While many Dutch people presume that the Dutch West and East India Companies only operated out of the southern provinces, Jongsma says that there are plenty of spots across the city with direct connections to the company. Understandably, Jongsma does not want to give too much away about the route of the tour, but he is willing to share a couple of spots that he finds especially impactful.
One is the basement of the Academy Building, where several large headstones belonging to prominent Groningers who were connected to the university when it was founded in the 17th century are stored. “Almost all of them were directors in the West India Company, as was just about anybody who was somebody in Groningen back then”, Jongsma says. “Anyone who was a prominent person who had a degree of prestige was connected to the company.”
Another significant spot refers to the company’s presence in the city. The Reitemakersrijge, near the modern day Minerva art conservatory, used to be home to warehouses and the headquarters of the West India Company in Groningen. The buildings now located in that quarter bear the names of the former Dutch colonies, including Curacao, Aruba and Bonaire.
Jongsma says that Keti Koti, the day recognising the formal end of slavery in Suriname, is “not well known at all” outside of people who are either descendants of former enslaved peoples or those who oppose talking about the Dutch connections to the slave trade. “That’s why we feel it’s an appropriate day to give this tour, and set the record straight.”
Due to popular demand, Jongsma will lead two tours through the city on July 1: the first is from 1 p.m. to 3 p.m., and the second one from 3 p.m. to 5 p.m. Anyone who is interested in trying to join the tour should contact Alternative Groningen Tours.