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☰ Edwin Stolk

The Wardship
of Others

This concept entitled 'The Wardship of Others' was developed for 'Tegenbeeld' (= counter-image) a project by Kunstenlab in Deventer.

All over the world, people are searching for new ways to deal with charged statues. In Deventer, the monument of President Steyn was once again discredited. Kunstenlab invited artists to make an idea sketch for a counter-image. My proposal was one of three plans that could be further developed into a fully-fledged concept. When the selection committee subsequently deviated from the agreed procedure and the context changed, I withdrew this plan in close consultation with Kunstenlab.

This static stone monument of President Steyn placed in 1922 on behalf of "the Dutch people who feel related to the Afrikaners", is in my view a confirmation of power relations. The Dutch people are presented as a static and unchangeable "object" in time. This includes the appreciation for his actions being placed on this prominent spot in the city.

With 'The Wardship of Others' as a careful ritual with wet river clay, I wanted to focus here on the invisible other. Part of this process-oriented work of art was a film screening, presentations and debate. I think it is important that we think in different ways about the meaning of art in public space.

As a 'counter-image' (a word I prefer not to use) I wanted to place a bust of the Khoikhoi woman Krotoa behind the monument of President Steyn. She mediated between the dominant Dutch other who unsolicited set foot on the land of the oppressed Khoikhoi people to which she belonged. When she was 10 to 11 years old she was taken by the Dutchman Jan van Riebeeck.

This happened when he arrived in 1652 with his VOC ship at the Cape of Good Hope. Krotoa became the servant of his wife, Maria de la Quellerie. She learned the Dutch and Portuguese language from them and in 1662 she was the first Khoikhoi to convert to the Nederduits Gereformeerde Kerk with the baptismal name Eva. During the conflicts between the Dutch and the Khoikhoi, she had the difficult task of being a diplomat.

On June 2, 1664, she married the Danish surgeon Peter Havgard, who took the Dutch name Pieter van Meerhof. Van Meerhof was killed in a battle during a (slave) expedition to Madagascar. After this, Eva became addicted to alcohol and turned to prostitution. This made her lose the respect of the colonists. She tried to flee but was captured by the Dutch and imprisoned on Robben Island in March 1669, where she died five years later.

With a careful ritual I wanted to focus on the invisible other starting with Krotoa. It was only in 2016 that she was given a 'monument' in South Africa in the form of a bench. Her story is completely missing in the Netherlands. I suggested to do her portrait in wet river clay near Steyn's immutable stone monument. This choice of materials serves the question of how our history is formed, depicted and told. Because the viewer could press his or her fingers into the wet clay, this image of Krotoa pointed to everyone's responsibility in this process.

'The Wardship of Others' as a process-oriented work of art wanted to open the door to new forms of (temporary) veneration and/or public signification. My proposal was deliberately not about President Steyn, but the idea was related to the monument. My proposal thus differed substantially from the other two proposals. The temporary placement of the three different works in a 'Counterimage' series (in the public space) as Kunstenlab ultimately proposed is, in my opinion, not without consequences for the perception of the individual works. That is why I unfortunately had to decide, in close consultation with Kunstenlab, to withdraw from this procedure.

From May 29 to June 20, the detailed sketch proposals of Lawil Kamara, Jeroen Diepenmaat and Edwin Stolk were presented in the library of Deventer.

Artists Jeroen Diepenmaat, Lawil Karama and Edwin Stolk discussed their proposals on 11 March, a conversation led by Mieke Conijn (director of the Kunstenlab). Here you can find the video (in Dutch): 'Tegenbeeld Gesprek'.

'The Wardship of Others' came to the attention of: Deventer Post

'The Wardship of Others' followed the concept behind #theorganisation in which we try to make knowledge and resources available for alternative perspectives in the service of society as a whole. Tips or suggestions? info [at] edwinstolk.nl

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Best regards, Edwin Stolk.