August 17th marks the anniversary of the first day of a slave uprising in Curaçao, which lasted until September 18th, 1795. The brutally repressed rebellion was initiated by who is now seen by many in Curaçao as a legendary pioneer in the struggle for freedom, Tula. Later on, he was joined in leadership by another slave, Bastiaan Carpata.
Both Tula and Bastiaan Carpata were tortured and murdered as a result of their actions. Their death sentences were carried on October 3, 1795. Tula was placed on two crossed poles and his bones were broken one by one, starting with feet up to his head; his face was burned and, after his death, his head was cut off and placed on a stake for display at the Rif site in the island. Bastiaan Carpata met a similar treatment and his head was placed next to Tula’s at a stake. A historical map and timeline of the events (plus more information about the legacy of Tula) can be found on the site of the Foundation Tula Lives.
Also, at the site, a document that I had never seen published in The Netherlands so far (at least, not widely, outside Academic circles): The Dutch Government notice of emancipation published by The New York Times:
The site has a complete transcript, but I would like to highlight a point that, again, is usually obscured in the discussions of how The Netherlands handled slavery, its legacy and aftermath. Slave owners were to be compensated by the government with a sum for each of the freed slaves. The sum varies depending on age and location in each of the Dutch colonies (these places are still today, Dutch colonies). However, what caught my eye in the emancipation notification was that not only was each slave owner compensated for their “loss”, but the money did not come from Government funds. Instead:
All emancipated slaves are obliged to contribute to the formation of a fund destined to pay back to the State the expenses of their emancipation.
The Dutch Government ruled on abolition in 1857. The news apparently appeared in the Curaçaosche Courant in that same year. Yet it took another 6 years, until 1863, before slavery was actually abolished.
Yesterday marked the 216th Anniversary of Tula’s uprising. We should do better than honor his bravery with silence. Until the Dutch government acknowledges their role in this mass oppression and how its legacy is still alive today in present day Dutch colonies, we do not stand a chance at true equality.
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