research & publishing

hidden histories

Foam Amsterdam, April 2023

20 Riso prints 42 x 59,4 cm (2013-2023)

When the library of the KIT (Royal Tropical Institute) in Amsterdam closed in 2013, I was able to collect many catalogs and magazines that were about to be thrown away. I assembled a small library of my own that became source material for my work.  In one of the magazines I found a poem titled “Being Part European,” written in 1974, by the Fijian poet Sam Simpson.

I immediately felt a strong connection to the poem, and could relate it to my own feelings of displacement and senses of belongings; an artist whose life started in Fiji, but born in Aotearoa (1988), to a Brazilian mother and a Dutch father, growing up in a privileged Northern European context; The Netherlands.

The magazines and catalogs I collected from the KIT became part over my ever-growing ‘ethnographic’ collection, of publications of private collections and institutional catalogs. Part of this ‘European upbringing’ (learning no ancestral knowledge whatsoever), resulted in the collecting of images that were constructed with an ethnographic-colonial European gaze that were used as a tool to advertise and categorize objects and people; a need to feed the European world’s cabinet of curiosities about distant and ‘primitive’ cultures. Catalogs were the only access I had to the ancestors.

In the compositions of Being Part European, I've replaced the categorizing captions of photos and objects with sentences from the poem. By giving a voice to the objects and people depicted in the photographs, I question the traditional use of captions. What stories do these objects whisper to each other, across the gutters of the compositions and through the walls of the shelves?

The compositions of photographs shot in their original contexts, to objects removed from their original location, floating in a vacuum of geometric levels of gray walls, emphasize the classification of "ethnographic”, previously imposed by the white man, rendering them inferior. The equalizing quality of the Riso prints reinforces the feeling that these images all seem the same, resulting in the loss of each of the images its value and identity. The displacement of the object thus becomes a way to talk about the displacement of the self.

Featured in Foam Magazine #62: M/OTHERLANDS, September 2022.

Riso prints are available at:
Foam Editions

Poetic Intervention, Foam Amsterdam
20 April,
 2023. With an introduction by Wonu Veys, Curator Oceania at the Wereldmuseum (NL).

©Mirelle van Tulder
Chief Tropical Officer