ZAM Reporter

04.10 – 2.11.2023, Netherlands | Action Zoo Humain – A Dutch Truth Commission

Is it a performance, a theatrical show or a real truth commission after all?

Directed by Chokri Ben Chika, the first ever Truth Commission in the Netherlands, Flemish theatre company Action Zoo Humain calls attention to the underexposed, colonial legacy of the human zoo. Deep into the 20th century, the Netherlands too exhibited thousands of men, women and children as "exotic," "wild" and "primitive" in so-called "human zoos.”

Think for example of the Surinamese and Indonesians exhibited at the World Exhibition in Amsterdam (1883), the Indische Tentoonstelling in Arnhem (1928) and the Senegalese village at the Nenijto in Rotterdam (1928).

Does the human zoo still influence social thinking today? Aren't the ethnic profiling by the police, the benefits scandal at the tax office, but also the 'innocent' sharing of images on social media of that 'exotic' trip, examples of this?

Come and judge for yourself during this unique and one-off location performance. Prime Minister Mark Rutte and King Willem-Alexander recently apologized for the slavery past. The Truth Commission picks up on that and gets to work on what might follow after the famous comma. Put yourself in the problematic curiosity of the visitors, the experiences of the peoples exhibited and the colonial propaganda machine of the organizers.

Following the example of South Africa's "Truth and Reconciliation Commission," witnesses speak out in word, image and movement. Former politician Ka thleen Ferrier and Mpho Tutu of Furth, daughter of the recently deceased South African Archbishop Desmond Tutu, as chairpersons lead everything in the right direction. Other participants: Bert Sliggers, Chantal Loïal, Iris Tjoa, Mareille Labohm, Fouad Mourigh, Moussa Ndiaye, Izah Hankammer, Arturo den Hartog, Zouzou Ben Chikha.

The Truth Commission will tour the Netherlands from October 4 until November 2, 2023. More information, tour calendar and tickets here.