On 14 June 2017, Egbert Alejandro Martina, Ramona Sno, Hodan Warsame, Patricia Schor, Amal Alhaag, and Maria Guggenbichler published an Open Letter to Witte de With. Co-signed in support by many more people, their letter openly challenged Witte de With Center for Contemporary Art for dealing with an art project on decolonization without having regarded, to begin with, the institution’s namesake. The namesake refers to our street, named after a seventeenth century Dutch naval officer of the VOC and WIC, Witte Corneliszoon de With. The art project was Cinema Olanda: Platform by artist Wendelien van Oldenborgh and curator Lucy Cotter, with Defne Ayas and Natasha Hoare.

The impact of the Open Letter to Witte de With was deep, to the extent that it advanced an ongoing debate and process of decolonization in The Netherlands, and to the point that the critique made us aware of the need to acknowledge our blind spot, and to strengthen our work in issues of representation. In the face of this predicament, on 7 September 2017, we vowed to make a name change. Our new name will come into effect 27 January 2021.

This website provides details of activities and outcomes done to date, as well as those to come, including an online survey and public forums:

Our name change is premised on two central criteria: Firstly, that the current name indicates the institution’s location, but does not express our vocation. Secondly, that the current name impinges upon our pursuit of inclusivity, which is vital to the relevance and contribution of cultural practice in general. Answers to FAQs are available here.

From the start of the process, the goal of a name change was to make an institutional transformation that addresses issues of representation, dissonant heritage, and systemic racism embedded in culture and no less articulated by Open Letter to Witte de With. To work towards this goal has involved staff and board recruitments, as well as improving modes of public engagement. To date, the outcomes include the ongoing diversification of the team; a creation of a new, freely accessible programming space, MELLY, with an embedded collective learning methodology; expanding educational activities; and research on dissonant heritage, which informs these current and future activities of the name change initiative.

It has been important for us to undertake this work, so as to ensure from within a diversity of perspectives and engage ideas and communities new to our institution, which would be, and which are becoming part of, a more meaningful and lasting change at our institution and for our city. We commit to advance a more representative multi-vocal heritage in our work and activities.

While our name will change on 27 January 2021, our institutional commitment to work towards a more inclusive society is ongoing and has no end date. Today, on 14 June 2020, we open a new stage in our name change initiative. We invite you to form part of this transformation: change.wdw.nl.

For press requests or for further information, please contact Jeroen Lavèn via press@wdw.nl.