In the Bijlmermeer, between Bijlmerdreef and Jolicoerstraat, there is a street named after Tula (died 1795), close to the Bijlmer Park Theater, where a workshop and theater performance will take place on Friday 1 July in honor of Keti Koti and free heri heri will be handed out.

On July 1, it is commemorated and celebrated that the Netherlands abolished slavery in Suriname and the Netherlands Antilles in 1863. Tula had tried to end those malpractice in Curaçao more than six decades earlier.

At the end of the 18th century, Tula worked as an enslaved man on the Kenepa plantation in the west of Curaçao. In 1795 he convinced dozens of fellow sufferers to go to their ‘owner’ Casper Lodewijk van Uytrecht and call on them to be released. This was partly due to the fact that the Batavian Republic had been proclaimed in the Netherlands in 1795, so that, according to Tula, French law would apply in the Antilles – where slavery had already been abolished a year earlier during the French Revolution.

Also read: ‘The Netherlands, acknowledge mistakes around Tula’

It was the start of the largest slave revolt in the Antilles to date. Van Uytrecht said that Tula had to be with the governor of the island. He then went to Willemstad, a journey of more than 40 kilometers. During that journey, Tula convinced many other slaves to join him, causing the group to swell to over two thousand people. Several free blacks and even one plantation owner also offered help to the insurgents. A priest sent to intercede was told by Tula: “Lord Father, don’t all humans come from Adam and Eve?”

Finally, the rebellion was cracked down and after several battles, Tula was rounded up, publicly crucified and tortured to death, after which his head was placed in a field on a stake as a deterrent.

It would take another 68 years before slavery in Suriname and the Antilles would be abolished – long after other European countries. Despite that long duration, the influence of Tula’s courage was felt right after his death. Slaves were released on Sundays and rules were introduced for maximum working hours and minimum supplies of food.

In 2010, Tula was proclaimed National Hero of Curaçao and on August 17, the uprising is commemorated on the island every year during the Tulah commemoration. There is a statue where he was beheaded and a Tula Museum on the former Kenepa plantation. In 2012, the feature film Tula: The Revolt made his story more known to a wider and international audience. Several roads around Tula Street are named after slaves who fought for their freedom, such as Tula’s comrade Karpata and the Surinamese rebels Baron and Mathura.

Photo Olivier Middendorp

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