From Multicultural to Monocultural: Erecting Stylistic Borders in Post-colonial Curaçao

The architecture of the city of Willemstad on the Dutch island of Curaçao is a unique expression of the generations of Europeans who settled and colonized the island. This place, and its built environment, is a prime example of porous borders, and brings up issues of colonialism and cross-cultural interaction. Indeed, UNESCO recognized this city for its multiculturalism by naming it a World Heritage City in 1997. However, comparison of the urban environment from historical photographs (circa 1900) with the present shows that a new border is being enforced, as buildings are renovated to be more Dutch in style, or replaced with a modernized Dutch style (similar to new architecture on the Hope College campus and in downtown Holland MI, like the Marriott hotel). This revises the historical situation, and effectively separates the cultures which came together in Willemstad, throwing up stylistic borders, and simplifies the island's complicated history. This Challenging Borders project briefly examines case studies of Willemstad's architecture to demonstrate this story, allowing the viewer to examine historical and contemporary photographs, alongside a narration of this process.

View the project here or here.

Marsely Kehoe
Director, Andrew W. Mellon Scholars Program in the Arts and Humanities
COLLABORATOR: Dr. Sneharika Roy, American University of Paris
STUDENT COLLABORATOR: Irene Gerrish, (Hope College '19), Economics and Political Science Major and Mellon Scholar

Challenging Borders © 2019 by Sydney Van Hulle and Jori Gelbaugh

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