STATION 5. Simon of Cyrene Helps Jesus Carry the Cross

Iris Kensmil: Out of History, 2013, triptych, oil on canvas, 465 × 105 cm. Photo: Monique Vermeulen. iriskensmil.nl


At this station we contemplate the suffering caused by the slave trade, in which traders from Amsterdam were also involved. Iris Kensmil, an artist with a Surinam background, has painted portraits of three eighteenth-century individuals from Surinam who managed to secure for themselves a position and a future in opposition to colonial oppression. (Their actual likenesses are unknown.) Elisabeth Samson (left) earned a great fortune as a businesswoman and was the first free black woman of Surinam to legally marry a white man. Wilhelmina Kelderman (center) was a slave who purchased her own freedom and finally also that of her son. Fabi Labi Dikan (right) was a tribal chief of maroons (escaped slaves); he was the first granman to make a treaty with the Dutch and in this way secure the freedom of his subjects. Just like Simon of Cyrene, who stopped to help Jesus by carrying his cross, these people resisted injustice. The triptych hangs amongst the group portraits in the Amsterdam Gallery as a call to action.

Location: The Amsterdam Gallery,Amsterdam Museum,Kalverstraat 92, situated in the former Citizens’ Orphanage, one of the oldest and most famous orphanages in the Netherlands. From 1580 to 1960, tens of thousands of children grew up in this orphanage. The gate in the Kalverstraat is decorated with a plaque that summons us to ‘help carry.’

text: Marleen Hengelaar