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Public Holidays in the Netherlands


Ketikoti, also written as Keti-koti or Keti Koti, is an originally Surinamese holiday celebrated annually on July 1st to commemorate the abolition of slavery. The name means "chains broken". In the Netherlands, this day is also observed, although it is not (yet) an official public holiday. There have been efforts for years to recognise this day as an official holiday in the Netherlands.

The abolition of slavery by the Kingdom of the Netherlands on July 1st, 1863, with the "Emancipation Act", affected Suriname and the Dutch Antilles. At that time, over 45,000 African slaves, including 34,441 in Suriname, were released into freedom. However, the act did not mean actual freedom for the liberated: they received no compensation and were required to continue their work on a contractual basis for another ten years in Suriname.

This led to the actual end of slavery being reached only in 1873. These ten years of "forced labour" were not uniform. Many of the former slaves withdrew from state control earlier, and there were also differences between the various Caribbean islands.

Dutch State and Royal House

In 2023, the end of slavery in the Netherlands marked its 160th anniversary, and it has been 150 years since slavery actually ceased to exist in the Dutch colonies. King Willem-Alexander apologised on July 1st, 2023, in a speech for the past of slavery in the Netherlands and asked for forgiveness because his ancestors did not intervene against the system at the time.

The official recognition of the complex history of slavery and its long-term impacts is still an important issue in the Netherlands. Despite the official apology and awareness of the importance of the Ketikoti holiday, the precise representation and recognition of this period in history in Dutch schools and the broader society remains an ongoing challenge.

The recent study (and the book developed from it) "State and Slavery" reveals that the Dutch state was consciously and structurally involved in slavery. The effects are still felt worldwide. The study also looks for the first time at the financial gains of the Van Oranje-Nassau family from slavery. Researchers estimate that the Oranjes earned at least 545 million euros (in today's values) in the Dutch colonies, where slavery was widespread, from 1675 to 1770.

This knowledge changes the self-image of the Netherlands as a tolerant, democratic trading nation and calls for reassessment. Hanke Bruins Slot, Minister for Internal and Kingdom Relations in the Rutte IV cabinet, described the results as "confrontational and very painful". The discoveries have broadened the national discussion about the history of slavery. Now the question arises as to how the Netherlands and its citizens will come to terms with this past and what measures will be taken to mitigate the effects of slavery.

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