Charles Davidson Bell. Jan van Riebeeck arrives in Table Bay in April 1652. Oil on canvas.

This is how the story of South Africa started. At first the settlement at Cape Town, by the shores of Table Bay and at the foot of Table Mountain, was merely meant to serve as a refreshment station for Dutch East India Co. shipping coming from the Netherlands and on their way to the Dutch East Indies, but being in control of such vital shipping lane it was inevitable that the importance of the colony would only increase with time. During the Napoleonic Wars, well over a century later, the Dutch Republic was brought under the Napoleonic fold and re-christened the Batavian Republic, this in turn pushed the British Empire into conflict with the Dutch, and the imperial masters of the age quickly seized not only the Cape Colony, but so too Ceylon and Malacca.

The rest is history…


After our presentation on Thursday, we’ll be wrapping up this leg of the Empire project in the cradle of colonial ambition: The Netherlands.

We’ll be going there for 2 months to work on Empire as part of the BijlmAIR residency, a joint project of CBK Zuidoost, Stichting FLAT and the Stedelijk Museum Bureau Amsterdam (SMBA).

The BijlmAIR residency gives artists, writers and curators the opportunity to work in the Bijlmer, Amsterdam’s most famous immigrant neighborhood. 

Picture: Eline wears a "Jan van Riebeeck as pirate" T-shirt by Jean de Wet, which we purchased at a local crafts market in Cape Town.

Certainly neither Jan Van Riebeeck nor Christopher Columbus were “The discoverers” of Africa or New World [America] but they were more precisely like ‘’The gate-openers’’ for European exploration, exploitation and colonizations of Africa and native Americans They found these continents and all islands inhabitated by indigenous African people and native islanders all along before them