Kura Hulanda Museum
Kura Hulanda Museum is an anthropological museum that is part of a complex in the Otrobanda District (the side of St. Anna Bay where ships on Caribbean cruises dock) of the capital city of Willemstad. This respected history museum in Curacao is set on the site of a former slave trading yard. A central focus of its exhibits concentrates on the history of the African slave trade and how it contributed to the ethnic diversity found in the Caribbean today. The Heritage of Africa is represented by the largest collection of African artifacts and anthropological exhibits in the entire Caribbean.
The history museum in Curacao covers more than 16,000 square feet and fifteen historic buildings set around a traditional courtyard (Kura Hulanda means Dutch Courtyard in the local Papiamentu language) including a colonial Dutch merchant’s mansion dating to the late eighteenth century. The mansion features primarily Dutch colonial furniture made on the island as well as priceless paintings, pewter, and furniture from Europe. There are also beautiful antiques from Indonesia, a former Dutch colony like Curacao. This house and other historic buildings in the complex are part of the Willemstad museum and can be toured by visitors.
Completed in 1999, it is the newest Willemstad museum and is internationally respected for its comprehensive collections. Tours will reveal how the cultures and traditions of Africa melded to create the unique language, cuisine, religious beliefs, and music you find today in Curacao. You can pre-book tours or direct yourself with an audio guide available when you enter. There is a Kura Hulanda Museum shop with souvenir items such as tee shirts, caps, and posters. Here you can also find African art to purchase, including masks, dolls, musical instruments, and stone sculptures. The Willemstad museum is open every day of the week except Monday, and charges a nominal admission fee.
Another history museum in Curacao (called the Curacao Museum and also located in Otrobanda) set in a restored 1853 military quarantine hospital. The collection in this museum also features colonial era artifacts and furniture, as well as an impressive collection concerning the live of the pre-Columbian indigenous people. In the Punda shopping district across the bay and near Fort Amsterdam are the fascinating Maritime Museum and the Jewish Historical Cultural Museum set in the Mikve Israel Emanuel Synagogue, the oldest synagogue in the Western Hemisphere. Head a little further south along the coast towards Sea Aquarium Beach, and there is a unique museum (the Octagon Museum) located on the grounds of the luxury Avila Hotel. Hop into your car rentals and drive into the rural area around Playa Porto Mari, and you can visit some old plantation mansions that today are museums.
The complex where the Kura Hulanda Museum is located also contains the Kura Hulanda Hotel, one of the best luxury hotels on the island (with both a full-service spa and one of the island’s casinos), numerous chic boutiques and shopping outlets, and restaurants and dining options. The hotel is sister property to the Kura Hulanda Lodge located on the island’s northern coast on the cliffs above Playa Kalki Beach.
Top image: Anja Disseldorp (flickr)