Catalogue: Sweet & Salty

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‘Sweet and Salty’, the exhibition, ran from the 5th of September until 12th of November 2007 in the Vestingmuseum, Naarden, the Netherlands. It was born out of an exploration of the relationship between the Netherlands and Brazil and a wish to promote their mutual cultural heritage. In order to discuss the relationship between the Netherlands and Brazil, it was also very important to investigate and question the issue of identity. How do we represent ourselves? How do we relate to others? What are the elements which make us so distinctive and at the same time so similar? The exhibition aimed to show that society has a collective identity, and that it is an essential human need for people to feel associated with others. We are all part of a global, national, and local community; multiple identities which can be put together to tell our story. Like a sugar cube with many sides, they fit together to make the whole.




| When you think about Brazil/Holland, what is the first thing that pops into your mind? | Name something that comes from Brazil? Is sugar important in your life? |

no, everyone is the same no matter wherever you live or come from

sugar is like a sweet woman

bad weather


my husband




| Can you describe Holland/Brazil in three words? | Do you think there is a difference between the Dutch and the Brazilian people? | An integral part of developing the exhibition involved interviewing individuals living in Amsterdam. The interviews were configured into a video projection for the purpose of the exhibition. Some of the interviewees were Dutch and others were Brazilians. The purpose of questioning those people, was to stimulate a discussion and reflections about how we, individually and collectively understand our cultural heritage.









With new ideas and a fresh approach four students of the Reinwardt Academy, and members of an international network The Nucleus –, created this exhibition which brought history into the present. They believe in the importance of building a network of people to contribute towards exhibition development, as without these people there is no process, and together their individual inputs created a whole.


new holland foundation

The New Holland Foundation aims to promote scientific research into, and the preservation of, Dutch cultural heritage in Brazil and the advancement of better understanding of the mutual influence between the Netherlands past and present. As such it is proud to have been standing at the base of this small but successful exhibition. Thanks to the project ‘Atlas of Dutch Brazil’ forgotten forts and sites, with a relation to the Dutch presence in the 16th and 17th century, have been discovered recently in Brazil.

“Isn’t it a nice idea that symbols of war, as forts are, can be used to bring people together? The fact that we’re talking about mutual or shared heritage in relation to forts means that they are considered important for the common history of both peoples. Now that war and guilt are no longer standing in the way we look forward to an even stronger relationship between Brazil and the Netherlands in the future based on their mutual heritage. Let ‘Sweet & Salty’ be an inspiration to all”. Oscar Hefting, New Holland Foundation.



The choice to exhibit in the impressive Nederlands Vestingmuseum in Naarden was a logical one. The Vesting Naarden has the same structure as many defence works made by the Dutch in Brazil to protect the sugar-rich colony, which gives a strong link between the space and the concept, and a visual and atmospheric connection with the Brazil of the 17th century. Today it is a monument in itself, with original buildings and external earthworks, as well as being a museum about the history of the fortification with both permanent and temporary exhibitions and a beautiful outdoor space.


Reinwardt academy

The Reinwardt Academy was the first institution in the Netherlands to offer education in Museology and, more recently, in Cultural Heritage . Since its foundation in 1976, the academy has played a leading role in training and producing knowledge in the Netherlands and abroad. A crucial aspect of its work is the link with the international museum and heritage field through the co-operation with various projects, the participation of staff members in international networks , and particularly with the International Master’s Degree Programme in Museology, offered since 1994.

The ‘Sweet and Salty’ exhibition was an opportunity to link the Master’s Programme with this innovative co-operation aiming at stimulating cultural dialogue and fostering an international network. For the Reinwardt the exhibition also represents the outcome, and a positive confirmation, of its approach to museum and heritage education, in which theory and practice are intimately related, constantly feeding each other.


Brazilian embassy green



The exhibition team were grateful to have received much support from the embassies on both sides of the Atlantic Ocean. The Brazilian Embassy in the Netherlands was particularly enthusiastic about the Sweet & Salty project. The Dutch period in Brazil - especially the seven years under the rule of Johan Maurits van Nassau – is significant for their ongoing development and understanding of the two countries and their relationship in the future. They acted as a cornerstone in the network to connect the Brazilian community to the project and to add interpretation from the perspective of the Brazilian culture in the Netherlands today.

teatro munganga

Teatro Munganga was founded by Carlos Lagoeiro and Claudia Maoli in 1987 in the Netherlands. Both Carlos and Claudia are originally Brazilian and for the last 20 years have made outstanding and in depth theatre productions. Teatro Munganga uses a mix of emotion, expression, playfulness, music, dance, puppets, novel sets and humour to narrate stories that shed light on the poetry as well as the magic of everyday life. MUNGANGA (pronounced: mungang-gaa) is a word of Afro- Brazilian origin. It means literally, to pull faces, dance with exaggerated gestures, to make sudden comic movements, to make an impression, to strike a chord. Teatro Munganga makes theatre from the perspective of involving marginalised and displaced people with the primary aim of engendering in children a respect for the fundamental self-worth of every individual.


Teatro Munganga is proud to have taken part in the Sweet and Salty exhibition with a performance of their play, Verhalen van Overzee (Stories from Overseas). It is a combination of theatrical interpretation (free, critical and playful) of the events that characterised Dutch Brazil in the 17th century, and the actual historical version of what occurred which was exhibited by the makers of the Sweet and Salty exhibition, in a particularly enriching meeting between Theatre and Museum.

lego lima Lego Lima was born in Brazil. She has lived and worked in Amsterdam since February 1992. She is a remarkable representative of the youngest generation of the graphic artists in Brazil and the Netherlands. In the exhibition Lego Lima’s work was a contemporary view of this historical period, as her personal connection with both Brazil and the Netherlands gives her art a truth and sensitivity which is beyond the facts of history.


Her work brings to life the people of this story, both in the past and the present, and gives us an emotional connection to this vibrant culture. She is a living example of the mutual heritage between Brazil and the Netherlands, and her work is a symbol for the continuing relationship between them and their people.


NiVAlson miranda

The artist Nivalson Miranda lives and works on the NorthEast coast of Brazil in the city of João Pessoa. The town was part of the Dutch colony in the mid 17th century and Miranda’s work aims to connect the several different ‘Brazils’ which came out of this period of change and multicultural influence. This historical viewpoint has created a bond between his work and the archaeological work of the New Holland Foundation in Brazil, both being at once art and science, and both connecting the history of the past with the reality of the present landscape. Miranda’s work gives us a real and personal connection to these sites which would otherwise be confined to the past without this visual association. His art is a testament to the connection a Brazilian living today has with the history of this region, and is a living example of the mutual cultural heritage the two countries share.


culturalia foundation

Culturalia is an initiative of Dutch and Brazilian cultural heritage professionals dedicated to facilitating connections with and between the Portuguese-speaking countries. They work closely with museums in countries in Africa and Brazil, international professional organisations, academic organizations and the Brazilian Government. In 2005, they launched the Lusophone Network , which aims to strengthen the co-operation and exchange in the museum field within these countries, and which is now active in developing museum training strategies and programmes.

They also have a particular interest in fostering the connections between Brazil and the Netherlands. Together with the New Holland Foundation and the Brazilian Ministry of Culture they are developing a new museum in Brazil on the mutual heritage of these two countries and so were very enthusiastic and supportive of the ‘Sweet and Salty’ project. This mutual heritage (which keeps evolving) is an excellent platform to foster connections and improve co-operations between cultures and people.


The exhibition itself focused on the Dutch colonial period in Brazil and its impact on the two cultures past and present. From 1630 until 1654 the Dutch established a colony on the northeast coast of Brazil, which they called New Holland. In the year 1637 Johan Maurits van Nassau Siegen landed on this coast with a fleet of ships from the Dutch West India Company. This period was highly influential to the economy and society of both the Brazilian and Dutch cultures, and it formed the basis of the mutual heritage that was created through this interaction between these different cultures. In many ways the Dutch never left Brazil and Brazil never left the Dutch. While this is a fact commonly recognized in Brazil, awareness in the Netherlands is remarkably low. Some historical and pictorial information remains about these early contacts, but little is known about the built cultural heritage from this period. One of the most important constructions from which archaeological remains are left were the fortifications, built to the same design as those in the Netherlands in that period. Along the coast of Brazil at least 48 of these defence works with a relation to the Dutch period are expected to be discovered.


Sugar has a long history with these countries as it was one of the main reasons why the Dutch decided to go to Brazil, which is why it is such a strong analogy to use when discussing these issues. It was a powerful currency in the past, and is now powerful symbolically. Under a microscope sugar looks like a mix of different crystals of all shapes and sizes, yet in the end it’s all the same: sweet and desirable for people all over the world. Three secondary themes created the structure for the exhibition space, entitled ‘From the salty sea’, ‘Snapshot’ and ‘People are people’; each addressing a different aspect of this complex story.


The theme of ‘From the salty sea’ explored commerce and trade. It examined how trade has been one of the most important reasons for continuing relationships, voyages and commerce between Brazil and the Netherlands, and the products of Brazil itself, such as sugar. Slavery was also closely linked with the sugar trade. Ships went from Europe to Africa to collect the slaves, on to Brazil to the plantations and then returned to Europe with chests full of sugar.


The second theme of the exhibition was ‘Snapshot’, which explores how and why the Dutch were especially interested in documenting the flora and fauna as well as the inhabitants of Brazil. Artists and scientists were brought from Europe, particularly from the Netherlands, to record and document their discoveries about the ‘exotic’ Brazil. In the past it was paintings, letters and maps, nowadays we take photographs to record what we feel and see and share it with others using email, postcards, and social networking through the internet.


‘People are people’, the last theme of the exhibition, focused on the lives of the people who lived within the Dutch colony of Brazil –particularly the rituals, customs, and lifestyles of the various communities– showing how they were interpreted, and often misinterpreted, by each other. There were many different groups of people: native Tapuyas and Tupis, Africans, Portuguese and Dutch. As they lived together the lines began to blur. They made a new culture, a mixture of all of these different traditions which then grew into the Brazil we know today. It is these people who made our mutual heritage.

| What is your definition of a stranger? |

“This is the Tapuyans dance, completely naked with terrifying yells in a circle, standing one behind another for two or three hours without stopping, which is seen with pleasure and as something worthy of such great admiration� Zacharias Wagener


The exhibition aimed to raise more questions than provide answers. Who decides what makes up our cultural heritage? How do you define your identity? Like in a sugar cube its crystals, although different shapes and sizes, are all the same underneath. Sugar connects us to those in the past, and connected them to each other, linking people individually towards the building of a collective heritage. This is a story without an ending; we are living within it today and what happens next is in our hands.



Exhibitions are notoriously difficult to assess in terms of success. We intended to raise awareness of the subject but also to get people to rethink their own ideas of ‘otherness’ and to allow them to challenge their own perception of the world they live in. This may happen over long periods of time, and within the thoughts and actions of individuals, so there is no definitive way to judge whether our objectives were met. The Brazilian community were enthusiastic, generous and strongly networked within themselves. We, as objective outsiders, could facilitate a connection between these different cultures, skills and perspectives towards building ongoing relationships. By using the exhibition as a networking tool we strengthened bonds which already existed and introduced new branches of professionals to hopefully create lasting connections. Artists, performers, politicians, government bodies, academics, archaeologists, museum professionals and the public were given a common issue to discuss and participate within in their own way. By creating an exhibition subject which could be used to address broader issues such as multiculturalism and mutual cultural heritage, we also created common ground to connect these different professions and ideas to create something new.


This exhibition was, in a way, an experimental project to test new ways of working within the museum sector. We intentionally tried to break down the conventions of the past which we believe to now be holding back the potential of the heritage field. The use of contemporary objects, the design and the artistic contributions aimed to create a more dynamic and open communication between the museum and the visitor. Clearly one exhibition cannot penetrate the long standing lack of communication between the museum and its community. Museums have become places with closed doors to the very organisations they could offer the most to, and this culture of silence between them will take a radical change to break.


This exhibition and its related projects were made possible by the generous contributions of the Brazilian Embassy, the Netherlands Vestingmuseum, the New Holland Foundation, the Prins Bernard Culture Fund and the Menno van Coehorn Foundation. This extensive project would not have been possible without the crucial support and enthusiasm of many individuals and organisations from both the Brazilian and Dutch cultures with whom we have had the opportunity of working, and with whom we hope to have created an ongoing relationship. In particular we would like to thank the Ambassador Gilberto Vergne Saboia and the Brazilian Embassy for enabling the opening of the exhibition to be such a success, and for their support especially with the artist interventions.


We would also like to thank: Bas Gebbing, Bas Kreuger, Brazilian Embassy (Den Haag), Carlos Asfora, Carlos Lagoeiro, Carlos Veloso, Cláudia Maoli, Culturalia Foundation (Amsterdam), Ernst van den Boogaart, Gilberto Vergne Saboia, Hans van Westing, Jerke van der Braak, Jorn Konijn, Kees Zandvliet, Lego Lima, Nationaal Archief (Den Haag), Nederlands Vestingmuseum (Naarden), New Holland Foundation (Amsterdam), Nivalson Miranda, Oscar Hefting, Oudeschans Museum (Groningen), Paula dos Santos, Reinwardt Academy (Amsterdam), Rijks Museum (Amsterdam), Teatro Munganga (Amsterdam), The Nucleus (Amsterdam), University van Amsterdam Kaartenzaal and all the kind people of Amsterdam who didn’t run away when they saw our video camera.

Catalogue Content development: Chloë Southam, Marcela Marcos, Rosa Aray and Suzanne Collins Text editing: Chloë Southam and Suzanne Collins Graphic design: Marcela Marcos and Rosa Aray Photographs of the exhibition: Emilio Espinosa Dank u wel, Obrigado, Thank you, Gracias, Merci!