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Andra Daans

Portraits of Life


The Pain of Slavery


Andra Daans

Portraits of Life

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The booklet can be purchased on Amazon.

Proceeds will go to  World of Children org.

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The 150 Challenge: a project that aims to shed light on the history of Dutch slavery through the powerful medium of art.

The Netherlands holds a significant place in the history of slavery. While officially abolishing slavery on July 1, 1863, the reality was far from liberation for the enslaved in Suriname. Under special supervision of the State, these individuals were coerced into working on plantations for another decade until 1873.

In December 2021, the idea to paint one hundred and fifty children's portraits connected to Dutch slavery history was born. This personal endeavor was inspired by the revelation that my own great-grandmother was born into slavery. At just nine years old when slavery was abolished, she carried the physical scars of her past, with whip marks visible on her back as a haunting reminder.

The Challenge I undertook is to create a monthly series of nine portraits depicting the lives of children growing up in slavery. One hundred and fifty years have passed since slavery was legally banned, and yet the rights of children, enshrined in the International Convention in 1989, are still violated. Shockingly, countless children continue to be forced into unimaginable labor conditions. Only by delving into the background information can one discern whether these stories depict the past or the present.

Through these narrative drawings, I aim to shine a light on the forgotten pages of history, which have been concealed for centuries but now emerge into the light of day. The series is divided into three distinct themes: Black History, revealing the hidden truths; The Rebellion, exploring the bittersweet taste of freedom; and Modern Slavery, questioning the lessons we have learned.

In 2023, I proudly present my exhibition for the first time in Rotterdam, The Netherlands, in commemoration of the 150th anniversary of the abolition of slavery in Suriname. This event is not just a tribute to the lost childhoods of enslaved children worldwide, but also a stark reminder that we, as a society, still have much to learn from our past.

Join me in this journey of remembrance, reflection, and hope as we confront the atrocities of the past and advocate for a better future. Together, let us ensure that the voices and stories of those who suffered are never forgotten, and that we actively work towards a world free from the shackles of slavery.

The beginning

In the beginning, my creative ambition was to compose a captivating work of art by assembling one hundred and fifty small canvases into a cohesive masterpiece. The centerpiece of this composition would be an image of a child acting out the word "STOP". In addition, I painted a unique child portrait on each individual canvas. However, as I thought about it, I realized that this complicated approach was unclear and could not convey a convincing story.

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Narrative Drawings - acrylic on canvas panel

Fifteen stories depicting the atrocity of slavery.  Each story consists of nine small (13x18 cm - 5.11 x 7.08 inand one large portrait(44x56 cm - 17.32 x 22.04 in). The stories are  grouped together into three series of five.

1. Black History. The forgotten pages that were kept hidden for centuries, but are now exposed to the light of day.

2.The Rebellion. The bittersweet taste of freedom. 

3.Modern Slavery. What have we learned?