Performing beyond the archive

Sites of Memory rethinks the notion of “the archive” through performance practice. SoM invokes the body as an archive, the city as an archive, culture as an archive.
SoM creates site specific performances that connect history and theater. The work is created in collaboration with multidisciplinary artists and historians who research the colonial history of The Netherlands and former colonized areas. The process of reflecting on history also includes stories that are not documented or only from the “white gaze”. The intention is to amplify voices often silenced, or ignored. To tell more complete stories, SoM uses a technique called Critical Fabulation. This is a method developed by historian Saidiya Hartman and uses historical and archival research involving critical theory and fiction. Stories are created to fill in the empty spaces in historical archives. In addition, SoM’s artistic research emphasizes the diverse voices within the team and their personal relationship to the subject. SoM not only utilizes traditional forms of historical research and critical fabrication, but also, oral history, embodied knowledge and ancestral memory.

Sites of Memory Foundation (SoM) organizes activities around the hidden and under-represented stories of the history of colonialism and slavery of the Netherlands and the former colonized areas. It is founded by Jennifer Tosch (cultural historian and founder of the Black Heritage Tours) and Katy Streek (theater maker and programmer). Since 2016 they have created site specific performances with a collective of multidisciplinary artists who reframe history through music, poetry, dance, visual art and theater. The performances focus on personal stories from Black and other non-white communities that are often unknown or not found in the archives.

Jennifer Tosch is a graduate of the University of California at Berkeley and currently resides in Amsterdam, Netherlands (NL), working on a dual Masters in Heritage and Memory Studies at the University of Amsterdam. She is founder of Black Heritage Tours in Amsterdam, the Netherlands, and New York State, co-author of 3 books on Dutch colonial history Amsterdam Slavery Heritage Guide (2014); Dutch New York Histories (2017) and Netherlands Slavery Heritage Guide (2019), co-founder of Sites of Memory Foundation and a member of the Mapping Slavery Project Netherlands. Jennifer was born in Brooklyn, New York to Surinamese parents. All her ancestors are also from Suriname. Jennifer founded the Black Heritage Tour in Amsterdam in 2013 and the New York Tour in 2017. The tours make the ‘hidden history visible’ as you explore the city’s Black presence and colonial history.

Katy Streek is a freelance theater maker and programmer. She is a graduate of the University of the Arts in Utrecht (2006) and has a Master Applied Theatre (2009) from the University of Cape Town. She’s co-founder of Sites of Memory Foundation and from 2013 till 2020 worked as a programmer for Afrovibes Festival in Amsterdam. In her work, she focuses on (international) collaborations, artistic dialogue and themes of colonisation, slavery and migration. She directed the site-specific productions Returning the Gaze (2022) Future for the Past (2020), Emerging Memory (2019), Changing Portraits (2018), Sites of Memory East (2017) and Sites of Memory (2016). She co-created the art installation Decoding the Atlantic World in the Maritime Museum in Amsterdam (2022) and directed the Future the the Past - The Movie (2021). Her other theatre work includes This is me - Dis na mi, a site-specific production at Fort New Amsterdam in Paramaribo (2012) De Tijdschepper in Amsterdam (2010) and No-Man’s Land, an international exchange between South Africa and The Netherlands (2008).