From the museum website
Starting on 22 October, Rijksmuseum Amsterdam will exhibit five dioramas and 19 individual figures made by Surinamese artist Gerrit Schouten (1779-1839). The dioramas, three of which were acquired in recent years, depict scenes from 19th-century Paramaribo, a plantation and a slave dance. The dioramas will be a permanent feature of the new exhibition on Surinamese history once the Rijksmuseum is reopened. The acquisition of the dioramas reflects the museum’s ambition to expand its collection of Surinam-related art.
The newly acquired diorama from 1820 depicts Paramaribo’s Waterkant (Waterfront), the junction where all trade took place. Several boats can be seen, as can several houses that were completely destroyed in a fire a year later. Other dioramas show Paramaribo’s Government Square including the residence of governor Sir Pinson Bonham (1812), and a coffee and cotton plantation, possibly Zeezigt, established in 1785. Another recently acquired diorama, dated 1830, shows the performance of a “du”: a role play with music and dance, performed at the plantations several times a year. Schouten made these dioramas of “slave dances” as souvenirs for repatriating Europeans. The separate figures of Creole men and women and Indians were part of other dioramas now lost.
Gerrit Schouten was one of only a few artists in Surinam in his day. Born in Paramaribo, he was the son of a Dutch father and a mother of mixed descent. A self taught artist, he specialised in drawing plants and animals. About 40 of his dioramas have been preserved. They consist of framed boxes depicting scenes made of painted paper and papier-mâché.
Kijkkasten uit Suriname. De diorama’s van Gerrit Schouten
Clazien Medendorp with contributions from Eveline Sint Nicolaas
128 pp., 20 x 23 cm., paperback
Amsterdam (KIT) 2008