Tens of thousands of people celebrate Keti Koti in the Netherlands and Suriname on Thursday.

However, many Dutch people will not be familiar with this holiday yet.

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What is Keti Koti?

Keti Koti is an annual holiday that commemorates and celebrates the abolition of slavery in the former colonies of Suriname and the Dutch Caribbean.

Keti Koti means "broken chains" in the Surinamese language Sranantongo.

On July 1, 1863, with the abolition of slavery, more than 45,000 originally African enslaved people were released.

July 1 is a national holiday in Suriname.

The day is officially called the Day of Freedoms.

See also: 1873, the year in which the slaves of Suriname were really liberated

How and where is it celebrated?

Keti Koti has been celebrated in several major cities in the Netherlands since 2002, but it is not a national holiday.

The national commemoration of the abolition of slavery will take place from 1 p.m. in the Oosterpark in Amsterdam.

Since 2002, the National Monument to Slavery has also been located there.

Central to the commemoration at the monument are the minute of silence and the laying of wreaths.

These are framed this year by a performance by Jeangu Macrooy and by speeches by outgoing Minister of the Interior Kajsa Ollongren, Mayor Femke Halsema of Amsterdam and the chair of the National Institute of Dutch Slavery History and Legacy (NiNsee), Linda Nooitmeer.

Due to the corona restrictions, the commemoration is once again only accessible to invited guests and the traditional Keti Koti Festival is also cancelled.

The commemoration will be broadcast live on NOS and AT5.

Why is this day not so well known in the Netherlands?

Until recently, little or no interest was shown in the slavery past in broader Dutch society.

Entire generations of Dutch people have grown up without learning much at school about the slavery past and the active role that the Netherlands played in it.

However, attention to the subject has increased visibly in recent years.

The Rijksmuseum worked for years on an exhibition highlighting slavery in the museum collection.

The discussion about the controversial colonial depictions on the Golden Coach also swelled.

Furthermore, the Surinamese resistance hero Anton de Kom and his book

We Slaves of Suriname were given

a place in the Canon of the Netherlands.

See also: Professor does not think that the Golden Coach will ever be driven around again

What is the Dutch government's position on Keti Koti?

The cabinet has never officially apologized for the Dutch slavery past.

In 2013, Lodewijk Asscher expressed "deep regret and remorse" on behalf of the previous government during the commemoration of the abolition of slavery, then 150 years ago.

Keti Koti is not a day off in the Netherlands either.

But the call to change this is getting louder.

The four major cities recently advocated making Keti Koti a national day of remembrance dedicated to the abolition of slavery.

The initiative for this arose in the Amsterdam city council.

Mayors and aldermen endorse "the importance of a day where we mourn and celebrate, look at lessons learned from the past and a shared future, just as we do on May 4 and 5".

Because this is in the interest "for all Amsterdammers and Dutch", they are in favor of a national holiday.

Rotterdam, The Hague and Utrecht have also supported this opinion.


Who decides whether Keti Koti will be a national holiday and a day off?