Susan Stockwell - Territory dress

Our Colonial Heritage 
Tropenmuseum, Amsterdam 
Opens on June 23rd 2022

Our Colonial Heritage comprises some 500 objects and artefacts from the extensive collections of the National Museum of World Cultures - of which Tropenmuseum is a part - supplemented by new, contemporary artwork. The focus is on the Dutch colonial past in Suriname, the Caribbean, and Indonesia and how it still resounds today. In inequality, racism, exclusion, and exploitation, for instance. And in our diverse society, culture, shared cuisine, language, and music.

The Tropenmuseum commissioned British artist Susan Stockwell to make an artwork based on Dutch colonialism and its contemporary afterlives. This work took the form of a dress, inspired by several historical fashion periods, made from maps. These do not only refer to countries, but also to trade and borders, and thus to power relations. 

When looking closely, you discover former Dutch colonies: Suriname, Indonesia and the Dutch Caribbean. Today’s wealthy Holland sits on top of historical Surinam in the bodice. Roads and highways are like blood dripping from the sleeves. The stomach, center of the body, shows a trade ship in Dutch waters, with a Dutch Antillean banknote as a sail.  

The train of the fashionable European dress is made of head cloths styled as Afro-Surinamese angisas, printed with maps. Dark-coloured flowers from batik cloth, symbolising Indonesia, stand out against the blue seas. All these symbols speak of a heritage of our shared history that we need to deal with.  

Susan Stockwell works across sculpture, installation, collage and film. She examines social colonial histories, social justice, international trade and feminism. Stockwell’s work has been exhibited all over the world.