In 1667, the Dutch traded Manhattan for the English colony of Rhun, one of Indonesia's nutmeg-rich Banda "Spice" Islands. This community-based project opens a portal of communication between the islands through a live-streamed performance-installation, amplifies Indigenous perspectives on the ramifications of colonialism and will evolve into a multimedia installation.
Rhunhattan: A Tale of Two Islands is a virtual Indigenous gathering connecting the Bandanese of Indonesia and the Lenape (original people of Manhattan), whose fates crossed paths when the Dutch traded Manhattan for the English colony of Rhun in the Banda Islands Archipelago to monopolize the nutmeg trade during the 17th century Spice Wars. The events precipitating this landmark exchange are marked by waves of violence, land dispossession, forced migrations, and enslavement that fortified the trade networks that continue to shape our present. Inspired by many Native culture bearers who yearn for heightened awareness of shared struggles and environmental futures, I am organizing dialogues held between the US, Indonesia and the Netherlands in collaboration with the Banda Working Group and Lenape and Algonquin-speaking elders. We will co-determine the appropriate cultural protocols for a three-day commemorative performance where Native culture bearers from both sides exchange stories, songs, dances and dreams on live video using Portals, golden shipping containers furnished with life-size video chat infrastructure created by Shared_Studios, that enable participants to reach through the internet, interact naturally and even make eye contact across vast distances.
Since 2015, Rhunhattan has been presented as installations, publications, and olfactory-activated talks at venues such as Honolulu Biennial 2017, Asian/Pacific/American Institute at New York University; Wave Hill Public Garden and Cultural Center, New York; Duke House NYU Institute of Fine Arts, New York; and Museo Nacional de Bellas Artes de Chile. The next Portal phase seeks to bridge Indigenous communities and amplifies their perspectives. This process will lead to a multimedia installation with video, virtual reality and olfactory experiences as well as a trilingual book. Rhunhattan unfurls transnational perspectives reckoning with the traumatic roots of colonization and pries open a space for truth, healing and cultural revitalization.
My community stakeholders, collaborators and I seek to complete Rhunhattan's Portal phase by Fall 2021 to commemorate 400-years of the Dutch East India Company massacre of the Bandanese, the founding of Nieuw Amsterdam (present-day New York) and Thanksgiving. Our collective momentum will lead to 2021 being an active year with exhibitions, international symposia, and publications revealing the ramifications of colonialism.
Rhunhattan Portal mock-up design in collaboration with Shared_Studios.
The Creative Team
Artists, Native Culture Bearers, Technologists, Culture Heritage Historians
BEATRICE GLOW is an interdisciplinary artist leveraging participatory performance, painting, experiential technology collaborations, olfactory art, sculptural installations and video to shift dominant narratives. She is a 2018-19 Smithsonian Artist Research Fellow and 2018-19 Smack Mellon Studio Program Artist. She was a 2017-18 ZERO1’s American Art Incubator artist amplifying Indigenous and Afro-Ecuadorian voices. Her Asian/Pacific/American Institute at New York University residency led to virtual and augmented reality projects “The Wayfinding Project” and “Mannahatta VR,” and public installation “Lenapeway” in allyship with Indigenous environmental stewardship. She received a 2013 Franklin Furnace Fund grant for “Floating Library”—a pop-up public space aboard the Hudson River’s Lilac Museum Steamship that attracted 4,000+ visitors. As a 2008-9 Fulbright Scholar, she developed Taparaco Myth, a multiplatform project including migratory museum and trilingual artist book on Asian migration to Peru.
Notable activities include solo exhibitions "Spice Roots/Routes” (2017) at NYU Institute of Fine Arts, “Aromérica Parfumeur” (2016) at Museo Nacional de Bellas Artes de Chile and “Rhunhattan Tearoom” (2015) at Wave Hill; group shows at Honolulu Biennial 2017, Park Avenue Armory and Galeri Nasional Indonesia; and a Duke University Press’ Cultural Politics Journal artist feature. As a Hemispheric Institute Council Member, she co-founded the Performing Asian/Americas: Converging Movements workgroup.
ALEXANDRE GIRARDEAU is a new media artist and independent curator interested in the transdisciplinary intersections between media studies, gamification and philosophy. Convinced about the revolutionary potential of virtual and augmented reality, he focuses on the evangelization of these media. This is achieved through various means, including developing VR/AR applications that encapsulate dioramas, interactive virtual environments, 360 video, 3D scans and VR sculpting/painting; running Highway101 Experiential TechGnology Community, an online hub for animators in VR; co-founding VR Café that popped up in Montreal and Paris; initiating The Virtual Art Collective Meetup series; and organizing and co-curating special events (Jump Into VR Fest 2017, ANNY Best of Fest 2018, Clement Price Institute 2018). Alexandre has teaching experience at Rutgers, New York University, University of Montreal and is currently co-teaching a VR & Art class at the City College of New York. He holds a masters degree in communication sciences from the University of Montreal.
A collective of scholars, artists and activists in the US, Indonesia and the Netherlands collaborating to raise awareness on the aftermath of Dutch colonialism. Read our group statement here.
Nancy Jouwe is a cultural historian and has worked 20+ years in the NGO sector as a managing director and curator on the crossroads of women’s rights, transnational movements, and art, culture and heritage.
As a researcher, curator & projectmanager she focuses on cultural & social movements in postcolonial Netherlands and lectures at the Willem de Kooning Academy, Amsterdam University College and CIEE.
Wim Manuhutu (born Vught, the Netherlands, 1959) is a historian, specialized in the modern history of Indonesia. Between 1987 and 2008 he was a member of the board of directors of the Moluccan Historical Museum in Utrecht, focusing on exhibitions, events, and research. He published a number of articles on Moluccan history in both magazines and books.
Since 2009 Wim Manuhutu is the owner/director of Manu2u, a company that organizes cultural projects and events in with various different partners. He is active as a consultant, guest speaker and moderator. He is a guest lecturer at the Amsterdam University College and is working on a PhD thesis on the cultural links between the Netherlands and two of its former colonies, Suriname and Indonesia.
Pepijn Brandon is a Dutch historian whose work focuses on the interconnected themes of war, capitalist development and slavery. After defending his dissertation at the University of Amsterdam in 2013, Brandon worked as a postdoctoral scholar in the Netherlands (VU Amsterdam and IISH) and the United States (University of Pittsburgh). He currently works as Assistant Professor in social and economic history at the VU Amsterdam and as senior researcher at the International Institute of Social History. He is the author of the prize-winning monograph War, Capital, and the Dutch State, 1588-1795(Leiden / Boston: Brill, 2015; paperback: Haymarket Books, 2017). He is a member of the editorial board of the International Review of Social History, and acted as guest editor for special issues of several journals, including the The Financial History Review and Business History. During the spring semester of 2020, Brandon will be the Erasmus Lecturer on the History and Civilization of the Netherlands and Flanders at Harvard.
Merve Tosun (1993) is a historian specialized in colonial history with a focus on ‘Dutch Asia’. She wrote her thesis at Leiden University on the practice of legal pluralism in Batavia (Jakarta) and has contributed to projects at the intersection of enslavement, slave trade, diversity and colonial (legal) administration in South- and Southeast Asia.
As Junior Researcher at the International Institute for Social History, she currently maps (the interrelation of) social strategies employed by subaltern groups connected to labour obligations in Dutch Ceylon (Sri Lanka) as part of the project Between local debts and global markets: Explaining slavery in South- and Southeast Asia.
Matthias van Rossum
Matthias van Rossum (1984) is Senior Researcher at the International Institute of Social History (IISH) in Amsterdam. He specializes in global labour history and has published on the history of maritime labour, convicts, slavery, and slave trade, as well as labour conflicts and resistance. He currently studies the history of slavery and slave trade in early modern (Dutch) Asia.
Joëlla van Donkersgoed
Joëlla van Donkersgoed is a Ph.D candidate in program for Cultural Heritage and Preservation Studies (CHAPS) at the department of Art History of Rutgers University. Her dissertation research focuses on the contemporary heritage interpretations by the local community of the Banda Islands in Indonesia. She is also engaged in the multiple projects that are aimed to increase heritage awareness for a domestic and international public, through the restoration activities of Dutch colonial architecture as well as the efforts to enlist the Banda Islands as a UNESCO World Heritage site.
In 2016-17 New York University, Asian/Pacific/American Institute generously supported the preliminary travel and research to Indonesia as well as the community engagement with Lenape culture bearers via a one-year art residency.