ZAM Reporter

Can’t We All Just Get Along?

Stevenson Amsterdam hosts an exhibition ‘as a gesture of protest.’ Rooted in South Africa, the organising gallery is ‘particularly familiar’ with rising ‘nativist and xenophobic’ tendencies.

On 22 November, a political party that compares the Quran to Mein Kampf, and would like to ban the construction of mosques, won the Dutch elections. They propose to strip people with dual citizenship of their Dutch nationality if convicted of a crime, and, using vulgar slurs, have floated a tax on the wearing of a hijab. Much of the rest of their party platform also directly contravenes the Dutch constitution, in particular those clauses that proclaim equality before the law and freedom of religion, a fact the party leader happily acknowledges. While they have vowed to set aside temporarily their more egregious proposals in order to create a viable coalition government, they have not distanced themselves from even their most violent rhetoric. At the time of writing, it seems likely that the leader of this party will become the next prime minister.

This exhibition is conceived as a gesture of protest, in the spirit of Pastor Niemöller’s poem ‘First They Came’. It draws on a history and tradition of art as protest with which, as a gallery with roots in South Africa, is particularly familiar.

The Dutch elections happened against a global backdrop of increasing nativism and xenophobia. The levels of destruction in the DRC, Sudan, Ukraine and Gaza have shattered the illusion of a livable status quo, and a long list of other conflicts fought along religious, ethnic, ideological or national lines continue to cause untold suffering. Racism, antisemitism, Islamophobia and other forms of prejudice are on the rise; violence against the LGBTQ+ community in Amsterdam is increasingly normalised; and social media allows us to retreat ever further into dangerous echo chambers.

The title of this exhibition is a paraphrase of Rodney King’s cri de coeur at a press conference during the LA protests in the wake of the acquittal of the police officers who had brutally beaten him: ‘I just want to say – you know – can we, can we all get along? Can we, can we get along? Can we stop making it horrible for the older people and the kids?’ His sentiment was not a dismissal of protest, but an expression of the despair and hopelessness one can feel in the face of violence and pain inflicted by one human being on another. The phrase became the name of a series of parties in Cape Town around the time of our gallery’s founding, which were a form of resistance through joy against the persistent divisions entrenched by apartheid.

Stevenson invited some 50 artists, writers and curators from or living in the Netherlands to make a contribution to our protest in any form they feel appropriate. These will be gathered and installed in the gallery over the course of January 2024.

Participating artists:

  1. Machteld Aardse & Femke Kempkes
  2. Parvez Alam
  3. Cian-Yu Bai
  4. Marwan Bassiouni
  5. bsdwcorp.
  6. Desiré van den Berg
  7. Rineke Dijkstra
  8. Brian Elstak
  9. Fix Everything
  10. Kenneth Geurts & Luna Hupperetz
  11. Talisa Harjono
  12. Domenique Himmelsbach de Vries
  13. Iris Kensmil
  14. Natasja Kensmil
  15. Jan Hoek
  16. Charlie Koolhaas
  17. Anouk Kruithof
  18. Nokukhanya Langa
  19. Benjamin Li
  20. Sjoerd Martens
  21. Neo Matloga
  22. Eva Meijer
  23. Marjo Meijer
  24. Tumelo Mtklu
  25. Anke Noorman
  26. Oey Tjeng Sit
  27. Anna-Bella Papp
  28. Bruin Parry
  29. Mounir Raji
  30. Tadgh Read
  31. Klaas Rommelaere
  32. Dion Rosina
  33. Sam Samiee
  34. Viviane Sassen
  35. Pamela Phatsimo Sunstrum
  36. Thato Toeba
  37. Jan Voss
  38. Tommy Wieringa
  39. Farren van Wyk                                                                                                       
  40. Xiaoxiao Xu                                                                                                         
  41. Famil Zamanli

More information here