come closer: archive session – patricia kaersenhout and hella matroos

27 September 2022

Many thousands of people have been buried in the Oude Kerk over hundreds of years. One of them was Jacob Matroos Beeldsnijder. As far as is known, he is the only black man to have been buried in the Oude Kerk; his tombstone can still be visited, but it is not very striking. Who was this young man, born in Paramaribo in 1779, and died in Amsterdam in 1817? On 27 September, the anniversary of Jacob’s death, the programme ‘a blueprint of forgotten souls’ allows us to dwell on this past and to share artist patricia kaersenhout*, descendant Hella Matroos and historian Jean Jacques Vrij, from their own perspectives – both factual and speculative – the story of Jacob at various locations in the Oude Kerk.

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Anyone who wants to know more about the life story of Jacob Matroos Beeldsnijder will discover a complex family history, which – like the Oude Kerk and the city of Amsterdam in a broader sense – is inextricably linked to colonial exploitation and Transatlantic slavery. Jacob’s father, Wolphert Jacob Beeldsnijder, was a high-ranking Dutch official based in Suriname. Together with Betje van Beeldsnijder, he had twins named Jacob and Ernst. Their grandmother was the Ghanaian woman Adjuba. The two brothers and their mother were owned by their father, who bought them free in 1781: ‘born as a slave, freed’, according to the archives.

Jacob Matroos Beeldsnijder is also an ancestor of artist patricia kaersenhout, who in her work pays much attention to ‘forgotten history’ with an eye for racism, the history of slavery and feminism. Although little is known about Jacob, he appeals enormously to her imagination; what would he have felt walking through the streets of Amsterdam at the time? Together with her cousin Hella Matroos and other family members, she has been researching Jacob and his relatives for some time.

This Come Closer evening is part of a series of Archive Sessions, in which we take a closer look at a challenge around archiving. In 2022, Oude Kerk will develop its own archive into an ‘open archive’. In the course of history, much has been recorded and examined of the oldest building in the city. The hundreds of tombstones, the permanent works of art and the monumental interior have been extensively mapped. At the same time, the question arises as to how this archive can be expanded to include more hidden stories or less well-documented history, and how it can be linked to the Oude Kerk’s current programme. The new insights about Jacob Matroos Beeldsnijder will be added to the archive after this evening.

19:30 doors open
19:45 introduction Radna Rumping, curator Come Closer
19.55 contributions patricia kaersenhout, Hella Matroos, Jean Jacques Vrij at various locations
21.00 end of programme, with possibility to stay a bit longer in the Oude Kerk
21.30 closing of doors

* Note: This programme is in Dutch.

*She writes her name as ‘patricia kaersenhout’ so without capitals, to avoid hierarchy.

Photo: LNDW Studio