How do you visualize Dutch colonialism and its contemporary afterlives into a work of art? British artist Susan Stockwell answered this question by creating an extraordinary piece of art, titled Territory dress.
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.
Susan Stockwell, United Kingdom; 2018; paper, cotton, computer wires
The dress will be on display through the end of March 2020.