One of the most surprising aspects of the day was the amount of young people from diverse heritages, living in The Netherlands, who attended this event. We were very happy to be overwhelmed by the amount of participants, we hosted between sixty and seventy guests over the two sessions.
The afternoon workshop was remarkable in that although many participants were uncomfortable and some even resistant to the form of reception the students, (weareamovementnotacollective.com) who had designed the workshop, implemented, which was to give every visitor a number that had to be visible on their clothing. Entering a barely lit space, with Nana Adusei-Poku’s mesmerizing reading of texts from Edward Glissant and Audre Lourde. This progressed seamlessly into an interactive performance by the students, where it became increasingly clear why we had all had been given individual numbers. A powerful and insightful performance began, ending with confused and nonplussed participants. The discussion afterwards was characterized by an intense focus on aspects of social exclusion tied to notions of identity, exploring whose and what knowledge is seen as valuable within the institution and whether there is an institutional sense of urgency in these matters. Many students shared painful and frustrating accounts of being made to feel surplus to requirements, not being taken seriously and not feeling as if the academy is a safe space for them to be in. Participants were also struck by their own rule conforming behaviour during the workshop which led to a general reflection on the difficulties of changing systems when we seem so happy or preprogrammed to uncritically follow instructions.
The presentation of the publication and how the project WdKA Makes a Difference developed was the focus of the early evening session. Speakers included: Paul Rutten, Nana Adusei-Poku, Mark Mulder, Teana Boston-Mammah, Jan van Heemst and Esma Moukhtar. This session explored the urgency of incorporating the alternative bodies of knowledge into the curriculum, ones that would confirm the value students from diverse heritages bring to the education system. Discussing how issues of racism and white privilege within the institute need to be more embedded within the broader curriculum. Others noted how essential it is to have a more diverse teaching population that more adequately reflect the demography of Rotterdam. Without a more diverse teaching population, in becomes highly problematic to discuss inequalities in society and in the education system, as students do not feel able to do so in a safe learning environment. There was an evident thirst for more research on these topics across the whole institute as part of a general curriculum development impulse. Observations from participants ranged from concepts such as: repressive tolerance, culturalizing the national identity, decolonizing as an analytical tool, diversity as a contested analytical tool, the structural nature of art schools as sites of exclusion. The day ended with a call for more moments where teachers, students and other interested parties can keep thinking through these issues and how to affect longed for changes together.
For more information about this project and to read the publication please see