Acknowledge Rebuild
Wunderkammers of Rotterdam’s Colonial Past

June 24, 2023 – Oct. 29, 2023 This exhibition has ended
Roy Lichtenstein, Crying woman, 1963, Collection Museum Boijmans Van Beuningen, Rotterdam. © Estate of Roy Lichtenstein, c/o Pictoright Amsterdam 2018. Foto Studio Tromp
In collaboration with Museum Boijmans Van Beuningen, Kunsthal Rotterdam will be presenting Acknowledge Rebuild – Wunderkammers of Rotterdam’s Colonial Past. This ‘total installation’ curated by the artist patricia kaersenhout on the occasion of the Slavery Memorial Year, will feature work by emerging artists. In an associative way, historical objects from various museum collections and archives in the city of Rotterdam are linked to contemporary artworks. In addition, family properties and personal stories of Rotterdam residents illustrate the legacy of the city's slavery history. This will result in a surprising perspective on the colonial past of Rotterdam, which is largely unknown, and its continued effects on our present-day lives.

Treasure-chambers filled with wonderous things

The total installation is inspired by European Wunderkammers, also known as cabinets of curiosities. Popular during the seventeenth and eighteenth centuries, they are seen as the predecessors of modern-day museums. Wunderkammers served as treasure-chambers for exotic and wonderous objects, such as taxidermied animals, shells, paintings, and scientific instruments; all collected at a time of increasing contacts with faraway places. These objects refer to the national pride, military glory, and economic prosperity that marked that era, and have thus contributed to the current Western perspective on the world and its position in it. Hidden behind the objects, however, are themes like war, poverty, racism, human trafficking, and forced labour. 

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Featuring works by emerging artists

In the exhibition, patricia kaersenhout inverts that perspective and presents the dominant, Western culture as a curiosity. She researches why it is so difficult for us to engage in a discussion about the negative aspects of colonialism. The emerging artists Bouba Dola, Tommy van der Loo, Devika Chotoe, Ada M. Patterson, and the anthropologist and writer Gloria Wekker will be creating new works for this art installation. They will challenge the audience to look at our colonial past and the history of slavery from a new perspective. The design of the installation is by Rosa te Velde.

Personal stories about impact colonialism

In a hyper-diverse city like Rotterdam, one in eight residents has an ancestor who was enslaved. With the presentation of family properties and personal stories of residents of Rotterdam related to the colonial past, collected in collaboration with Verhalenhuis Belvedère, the exhibition encourages further reflection. These stories and objects are exhibited in cabinets that are painted by artist Dominique. The cabinets are auctioned after the exhibition, and the proceeds are donated on behalf of patricia kaersenhout to the Comité Van Ver Gekomen. The installation shows that it is important to understand that racism will continue to be felt in the present and future of the city. After all, the colonial and slavery past is a shared past, not just about descendants of enslaved people, but about all of us.


Acknowledge Rebuild is a collaboration of Kunsthal Rotterdam and Museum Boijmans Van Beuningen.

In conversation with

Guest curator patricia kaersenhout in conversation with journalist Stuart Kensenhuis of Radio Stanvaste on the significance of the total installation Acknowledge Rebuild.



Jan Davidsz. De Heem, Stilleven met ham, kreeft en vruchten, 1652 (c) Museum Boijmans van Beuningen_LR.jpg
Jan Davidsz. de Heem, Still life with ham, lobster and fruit, approximately 1652 © Courtesy of the artist and Museum Boijmans Van Beuningen
Jacob Spoel, Portret van Anthony van Hoboken
Jacob Spoel, Portrait of Anthony van Hoboken (1756-1850), 1840 -1845 © Courtesy of the artist and Museum Rotterdam
Gauri Malhoe, Protestbord Black Lives Matter, 2020, (c) Courtesy of the artist en Museum Rotterdam_LR.jpg
Gauri Malhoe, Protest board of action sign Black Lives Matter: “Colonial history / is Dutch history / educate the people!”, 2020 © Courtesy of the artist and Museum Rotterdam
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