Walking, as simple as it seems, is a profound act. It's an engagement with the earth and a dance with one's surroundings. To walk is to feel the ground, understand the environment, and sometimes, to confront unsettling histories.
I'm working on getting funding for a project that focusses on the Dutch colonial past in Brazil. For about a quarter of a century, 350 years ago, the Brazilian Northeast was controlled by the Dutch.
This is now mostly forgotten, even with the resurgence in interest in the dark past connected to colonialism, but this short period not only had a long-lasting impact in Brazil, it also had far reaching consequences for how the Dutch perceived their colonial role in the years following.
Little public documentation remains of that period, unless you know where to look. One more public reference is the body of work that the Dutch landscape painter Frans Post left behind.
To reflect on the act of walking through the landscapes painted by Frans Post is to tread a path that combines the inspiration of natural beauty with the dark underbelly of Dutch colonialism.
Journey back to the 17th century, to the Dutch colonial era in Northeast Brazil. Through the eyes of Frans Post, the land is majestic, untouched, almost Edenic. But behind the vibrant hues and idyllic scenes lies the troubling narrative of colonial exploitation, cultural erasure, and economic opportunism.
While Post painted landscapes that showcased Brazil's beauty, he was simultaneously chronicling a period of Dutch expansionism. His paintings, for all their allure, can't be divorced from the broader story of colonization. The landscapes, though seemingly pristine, are punctuated with signs of human intervention – settlements, fortifications, and the often subtle but undeniable marks of resource extraction. These signs aren't merely depictions of human activity; they are tokens of domination, symbols of a European power asserting its control over less-charted territories.
The act of walking through these landscapes, whether physically, as Post did, and you can do today, or through the lens of Post’s art, becomes a journey laden with contrasts. The untouched wilderness speaks of nature’s splendor, while the scattered signs of human presence whisper tales of usurpation and cultural imposition. The verdant forests and winding rivers, though beautiful, are also witnesses to the dark legacy of forced labor, displacement of indigenous communities, and the plundering of resources.
As we imagine traversing these terrains, the act of walking takes on a dual significance. It becomes both an exploration of breathtaking natural beauty and a confrontation with the ghosts of colonial ambition. Walking, in Post's landscapes, is an oscillation between being an awed observer and a remorseful witness to history's darker chapters.
It's easy to lose oneself in the beauty of Post's artistry, but the dark aspects of Dutch colonialism lurk in the shadows. Quite literally, as the paintings that post made while in Brazil feature, mostly, curiously, few people, while the bulk of his work, painted after his return, slowly became more and more exotic.
But, just beyond the edge of his paintings, the forts, the European figures surveying the land, and the marginalized indigenous figures are reminders of a time when cultural pride often masked economic greed and territorial ambition.
In the modern era, reflecting on Post’s works is not just an artistic indulgence. It's a historical journey, a walk through beauty marred by exploitation. The lush greens, the radiant skies, and the distant mountains are both an ode to Brazil's majesty and a somber reminder of colonial encroachment.
As we walk, whether through actual landscapes or the canvases of history, we need to remind ourselves to both see the beauty as well as the shadows. It's a journey that beckons us to remember that every stroke of art, every step on the ground, is intertwined with stories of both awe and affliction.
You might know I'm Dutch (though originally from Iran) and live in Brazil. So, I have a keen interest in bringing this project to fruition.
Meanwhile, it's September. We're speed-running through the year, which means there's less than a month to submit your work for the Sound Walk September Awards. If you're still in need for some inspiration, do join us for The SWS Winners' Circle, this Tuesday, where the winners of the SWS Awards 2022 will discuss their work, their process, and their ideas. It's free to attend for everyone.
Co-founder of walk · listen · create
Researchers use Placecloud to mark sites of significance with short podcasts.
Free for all
Support walk · listen · create
walk · listen · create is a member-supported organisation. If you like what we do, and want to see more of it, please become a supporting member.
You will be facilitating a more sustainable organisation and you will contribute to larger prizes for both the SWS and Marŝarto awards. And, as a supporting member, you get free access to our online cafés.
Support us from 5 euros per month. It’s even a bit cheaper if you commit for a whole year. Check out the details.
New walking pieces
In March 2014 I had a walking residency with Deveron Arts (now Deveron Projects) exploring the large expanse of land between the Aberdeenshire / Moray heartland in the north and the Cairngorm mountains in the south, encompassing the Ladder Hills. I walked widely, and often slowly, throughout the area, identifying sites... Keep reading
A unique ambulatory audio experience across two hours took people on a sound walk around the seaside town of Apollo Bay, on Gadubanud Country led by an imagined radio show hosted by project creators Amy Tsilemanis and traditional owner Richard Collopy. Participants were then transported to a theatrical scene on the bea... Keep reading
05 Sep · Tue · 18:00 (UTC) · Churston Ferrers, Brixham TQ5 0LH, UK
What: Take on an epic challenge this year by taking part in Alzheimer’s Society’s Trek26, a series of 13 and 26-mile treks in eight breathtaking locations across th... Keep reading
09 Sep · Sat · 10:00 (UTC) · Royal Victoria Park, Marlborough Lane, Bath BA1 2NQ, UK
This workshop involves a tree-sound walk. Starting in Victoria Park, participants will follow a ‘tree walk’ route. Led by Vicky Hunter and Rosie Montford, participa... Keep reading
From our network
Stuff we found
Splash Magazines Worldwide is your destination for in-depth culture coverage including theatre, opera, classical music, jazz, dance and the arts; travel and leisure... Keep reading
Art in Rotterdam during the Second World War: exhibition, book and walking map. Source: Museum Boijmans Van Beuningen presents Art Amid the Ruins | Museum Boijmans ... Keep reading
If you love stories and walking, you’ll find a lot of both at StoryFest 2023. The annual festival is back with a new format that lets you explore the Civic District... Keep reading
Using the principles of passive dynamics, engineeers have built a walking robot out of one motor and two rigid legs Source: Introducing The Simplest Walking Robot |... Keep reading
It’s a long way to Nowhere on foot. Source: Walking to Nowhere: French artist breaks out of a slump with two epic trips Keep reading
The app explores the city’s connection with the weather Source: New app offers ‘soundwalk’ around Derry Walls – Belfast Live Keep reading
The AI-powered, TikTok-famous “Moonwalkers” can be strapped onto your shoes to make you reach a top walking speed of 11 km/h. Source: ‘Moonwalkers’: These AI-powere... Keep reading