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Het Keti Koti path

1. – Logement de Gaaper

(Hof 39, 3811 CK Amersfoort)

If you look carefully, you will see an image on the front façade, a so-called ‘gaper’ at Hof 38. In the 19th century, it was home to Mr W. Putman, barber, publican and retailer with his ‘Drogerijen en verfwaren De Gaper’ (Apothecary and pigment store).

In 1830, it became a pharmacy. A gaper developed into the trademark (sign) for pharmacies and drug stores he image at Hof 38 represents the head of a Roman soldier. The open mouth symbolises the taking of medicine and/or surprise ‘gaping’ at the huge variety of different products in the store. Apothecaries and pharmacies in the 19th century used spices and herbs from the colonies to make their remedies

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In the early modern era, various exotic medicinal components came into Europe through trade with the Ottoman Empire. This empire covered an enormous area in North Africa, Asia and Europe and had Constantinople, in what is now Turkey, as its capital city. Europeans traded with the Islamic Ottomans in aloe vera, senna leaf, bitter apples, opium, saffron, turmeric and various resins, gums and minerals, such as Arabic gum, frankincense, myrrh and bitumen. The gaper, dressed in eastern clothes, is almost certainly a reference to the arrival of these raw materials.

Traditionally, the eastern gapers were divided into two groups: the Muslim and the Moor. ‘Muzelman’ is an old Dutch word for Muslim which specifically references the residents of the north-western part of Africa. Gapers with a turban and white or olive coloured skin were in this category ‘Moorish’ originally referred to residents of north-west Africa too but the word came to be associated with ‘black’ or ‘Negro’ in the seventeenth century. Gapers with a turban and dark brown or even black skin were in this category.

Gapers have become controversial over the past few years as they depict a caricature.


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