The enslaved Sulawesian Cornelis Valentijn ended up in Enkhuizen in 1725. Now his life story forms the basis of the Zuiderzee Museum’s new curriculum. Students learn not only about the splendor but also the dark sides of VOC history.
The training program was officially opened yesterday in the attic of the Peperhuis warehouse, the only remaining VOC building in Enkhuizen. Until recently, it was still museum storage, but now the story comes to life. It is also the place where Cornelis Valentijn himself worked a long time ago.
His descendants, Jeannette Baas and Jan de Bruin, handed over Cornelis’ deed of purchase to Mayor Eduard van Zuijlen. “It really is the document that he came to Enkhuizen on the right ship in that specific year. The unique thing is that we were able to determine his story, based on all the sources. That also the oral stories that are in our family, have been passed on so that they turn out to be right, ”says De Bruin.
He is proud that the history of their ancestors has now been elevated to an educational program for children. “We’ve been working on this for at least thirty years to find out the story of Cornelis. It’s amazing, of course.”
For a long time, VOC’s history was given a one-sided view: Splendor and VOC’s successes were at the center. In the last few years, the public debate about the golden age has been further driven. The Zuiderzee Museum also wants to highlight both the positive and negative sides of the VOC, including the story of Jan Pieterszoon Coen.
“Students also learn the other side of the story here. For example, they learn how the inhabitants of Banda were enslaved and even murdered,” explains Femke van Drongelen, head of education, from the Zuiderzee Museum. “If you as a slave are owned by someone else and you no longer have your own rights, the students have a pretty hard time realizing.”
“You can hardly imagine that you, like Cornelis, were treated like a used car”
Mayor Eduard van Zuijlen asked students to close their eyes and imagine what it must have been like in the past. He says: “In my daily work I am right in the middle of it, because in my own office at the town hall there are also depicted slaves of the owners. They were obviously very proud of that at the time. You can hardly do that. Imagine that you just as Cornelis was traded as a used car, which unfortunately happened. “
On the pepper ceiling are several large ship chests. Each coffin represents a gate from the VOC era, including Batavia, Galle and Banda. In the ports, the students meet people from that time, who all tell their own story.
Pupils in groups 7 and 8 – from the primary school Het Driespan – were allowed to start the teaching process. From nutmeg grater and 17th century ship cover to games where students discover how humans were made into slaves. The scent of pepper and nutmeg on the pepper ceiling completes the teaching experience.
“I think it’s very interesting. I think it’s sour even to be a slave, work all the time and get some pay. I do not think it’s nice to be pulled out of his home that way,” says the 11. -year-olds. old Tim.
Who was Cornelis Valentijn?
In the early 18th century, Cornelis Valentijn was transported from the Indonesian island of Sulawesi to South Africa, an important port hub for the VOC. There he worked as a slave in a family home. Until the day an Enkhuizer VOC ship docks with a blind ship carpenter.
In order to return to Enkhuizen, he buys the slave ‘Cupido van Bougis’. Only later does it appear that he was christened Cornelis Valentijn in Enkhuizen and ended up there as a personal servant of the then mayor and VOC director Frederik Lakeman. Valentijn works as a night watchman at the VOC shipyard and in the Peperhuis warehouse to later build a life as a free man in Enkhuizen.
The curriculum ‘Package full of stories’ is now only available to primary schools. But that is about to change. Femke van Drongelen: “In the coming period, it will be further developed for the youth educations. We will also look at moments like Open Monument Day, where we can open the ceiling for Enkhuizers and other interested parties.”
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