Exposing the Colonial Exhibition


Dutch Empire
Colonial Exhibitions
League Against Imperialism
Anton de Kom


In 1932 anti-colonial activists from Surinam, Indonesia and the Netherlands formed a committee to oppose the Indonesian Exhibition staged in The Hague, the Netherlands. They called themselves the Anti-Koloniale Tentoonstellingsaktie (AKTA) (Anti-Colonial Exhibition Action). The Dutch government used the exhibition to spread a pro-colonial message. The committee confronted the Dutch audiences, on the other hand, with a radical critique of colonialism. This article recounts AKTA’s history for the first time. I focus on the writings of the committee and ask why the committee criticised the exhibition in the ways it did. This close attention to discourse brings to light the thought, message and aims of the committee. It also illuminates the different contexts, both local and transnational that influenced AKTA. I complement the focus on AKTA’s texts with the reconstruction of social networks and comparisons to other anti-colonial discourses. This approach yields valuable insights. In this article I show how AKTA’s criticism of the Indonesian Exhibition was profoundly influenced by anti-colonial activism in Surinam, Harlem, Indonesia, Holland and Paris. The committee fashioned its activism on anti-colonial examples from these contexts. I introduce the term discursive repertoire of contention to describe this phenomenon.


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