Een taal die zwijgend spreekt uit hout en steen
: De functie van lokale (religieuze) kunst uit de missielanden zoals gezien door de katholieke missie in Nederland 1930-1939.

Translated title of the thesis: A silent language spoken through wood and stone: The function of local (religious) mission art as seen by the catholic mission in The Netherlands between 1930-1939.
  • M.G. Hovens

    Student thesis: Master's Thesis


    The 1930s were a period of intensive Dutch missionary activities. Numerous missionaries were sent abroad, mainly to the Dutch colonies, and in the Netherlands, mission activities were organised throughout the country to support the mission. Amongst these activities were the very popular missionary exhibitions. Here, countless objects were displayed which originated from the countries that the Dutch catholic mission tried to convert. These missionary exhibitions were mostly expressions of propaganda, and mainly existed to create goodwill for the catholic mission. Here, collected items, such as local (religious) art from the colonised countries, were shown, thus presenting the ‘heathen’ to the Dutch public. The displays often showed the more sensational objects, such as weapons, swords, and relics from murdered missionaries. The choice to display these objects perpetuated the idea that the missionaries worked in dangerous conditions, and underlined the statement that they were ‘heroes’ who tried to carry out their work against all odds. The public took part in this ‘heroism’ through their financial support,
    Catholic scientists maintained a distance from the missionaries. These scientists controlled the written discourse and were seen as authorities concerning local religious art from the (Dutch) colonies. Their main concern was the way in which the local religious art in the mission countries could be used in the converting process. One of their basic principles was the necessity to adapt local religious art to western norms, western visual language and the western white appearance, thus putting the western culture in a superior position. By publishing articles concerning visual arts from the colonies, and by writing books about the principles of the way in which this art should be handled by the Dutch catholic missions, these scientists could transfer a message of this so-called ‘superior’ western identity through their more expert scientific position. The main message which they tried to underline in their publications was a denial and rejection of the ‘heathen’ culture from the people in the colonies and countries they wished to convert. At the same time, they looked at the missionaries themselves with contempt: these missionaries were looked upon as being petty, bourgeois, and incapable of handling colonial art the ‘right’ way. In this study, the differences in vision between scientists and missionaries concerning the function of local art and culture from the colonies is studied through a discourse analysis, trying to formulate an answer to the question of why these differences in vision occurred.

    Date of Award2 Oct 2023
    Original languageDutch
    SupervisorCaroline Drieënhuizen (Supervisor) & Pieter de Bruijn (Examiner)


    • religieuze kunst
    • missielanden
    • katholieke missie

    Master's Degree

    • Master Kunst en Cultuurwetenschappen

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