On the 9th and 10th of November, the Willem de Kooning Academy (WdKA) hosted an EDI conference, initiated by my colleague Sylvia Erlings. The conference began with an opening statement from our new dean, Úna Henry. She addressed the current global issues of systemic violence and highlighted crises in countries such as Congo, Myanmar, Ukraine, China, and Sudan. She commemorated the 75th anniversary of Kristallnacht and reflected on the ongoing conflict in Israel and Palestine. In a symbolic act of solidarity with the Israel/Palestina conflict, WdKA turned off the lights of the entrance artwork. reflecting our our commitment to change in the face of widespread suffering and ethical dilemmas. She underscored the role of higher arts education in promoting political freedom and justice, aligning with the core values of equity, diversity, and inclusivity.
I participated in 2 workshops; one about decolonizing the curriculum of geography.
I learned how the KNAG (Royal Dutch Geographical Society), established in 1873 in the Netherlands, has influenced high school geography courses. In 2023, they issued an apology for their involvement in the Dutch colonial past. During our workshop, we delved into the current educational materials used in teaching geography. It was depressing to notice the persistent Eurocentric perspective in these materials. A significant challenge in decolonizing the curriculum for teacher training programs is the reliance on the Centraal Schriftelijk Examen (Central Written Exam). While individual teachers can voluntarily enrich their programs, the formal content is largely dictated by the SLO (Foundation for Curriculum Development), which influences the final assessment. To truly begin the process of decolonization, it’s important to reassess the criteria for these final assessments. Until this happens, efforts towards decolonization tend to be limited to extracurricular activities. Regarding extracurricular activities. In the context of extracurricular activities, I raised a concern about Dutch study trips to former colonies. While I understand these visits are intended to offer students valuable and authentic insights, I see a risk associated with them. My worry is that we might unintentionally replicate colonial dynamics, characterized by one-way visits and the extraction of information. I believe it’s crucial to explore more reciprocal forms of engagements.
After the first workshop we had a second guest speaker: Bregje Termeer lector Diversity and Inclusion at RUAS. She has identified that within RUAS there are currently multiple definitions of EDI. She was criticial about the perspective on sense of belonging because this often only involves the psychological space and is less related to power dynamics.
The second workshop involved a session with Vivian Skye Rehberg about the wide age span in which we work in higher art education. This context requires intergenerational communication skills. The title of the workshop referred to a book by Nell Irvin who wrote a memoir about her experiences as a distinguished historian; to enroll in a bachelor arts programme at the age of 64. The workshop attracted many senior participants and we took time to reflect upon the perks, and disadvantages of age in an art academy. Interesting to learn that the age for participating in the Prix the Rome for example has been increased.
On the second day Aminata Cairo served as both a guest speaker and facilitator. Her expertise lies in cultivating inclusive educational settings. She emphasized the power of stories and the challenges in altering them. In her own words: ‘When people start messing with your story, it’s disruptive.’ She advocated for reframing the concept of ‘us’ versus ‘them,’ encouraging a more unified approach of the Dominant and The Other. Central to her philosophy is the belief that education should be accessible and welcoming, irrespective of one’s background or identity. To achieve this, she identified three essential elements: nurturing care and empathy, having the courage to confront and voice concerns, and practicing humility and patience. With her sing and dance workshop we concluded this event, that marked positive step in a longer journey towards fostering a more inclusive & diverse education for the WdKA.