Suriname: A Tapestry of History, Color, and Culture
Suriname is a beautiful country in South America that contains cultures and ethnicities from around the world. Fortunately, the acceptance of these cultures is a norm for every single inhabitant and not just because each one gives us a National Holiday off from work -although that does come in handy-, it’s much deeper than that. The different cultures give us a sense of identity, multiple senses of identity actually, as they all play a vital role in our upbringing, our traditions, our language, our fashion and everything else that makes us, us. Every culture and ethnicity that is represented in this little country has its own story, its own significance to the history of Suriname. Whether it be the Amerindians, who were the first inhabitants of the Americas, or the Africans, who were brought to work as slaves on the plantations, or the Indians, Chinese, and Javanese who came here as contract workers – they are all equally as important for the cultural development of Suriname. But, it’s more than just them, it’s more than just their presence; it’s what they came with, what they created, what they will leave behind, the visual evidence of their presence.
One thing you can use to differentiate between the different cultures is their amazing and unique clothing. The different types of clothing tell a particular story, a story of triumph and unity, a story that strengthens and inspires, a story that determines and defines who we really are. There are so many pieces of clothing to choose from, but since Day of the Marrons will be taking place on the 10th of October, let’s not stray too far from home and go straight to the motherland.
The American Spanish word ‘cimarrón’ is often given as the source of the English word maroon used to describe the runaway slave communities. In the plantation colony of Suriname, which England ceded to the Netherlands in the Treaty of Breda, escaped Blacks revolted and started to build their own villages from the end of the 17th century. As most of the plantations existed in the eastern part of the country, near the Commewijne River and Marowijne River, the Marronage (i.e., running away) took place along the river borders and sometimes across the borders of French Guiana. By 1740 the Maroons had formed clans and felt strong enough to challenge the Dutch colonists, forcing them to sign peace treaties. On October 10, 1760, the ‘Ndyuka’, which is a maroon tribe, signed such a treaty.
Taking on a European country, especially during that time in history, required a lot of bravery and mental- and physical strength. Fortunately, the maroon community had just that and more – their cultural strength was, and still is always visible. They can be recognized from a mile away because of their language, skin tone, and beautiful clothing. They refuse to let go of their culture and traditions as they know that that is what makes them unique.
The Maroons wear a long piece of cloth that hangs between the legs, this is called a ‘kamisa’. A ‘Pangi’, worn over the ‘kamisa’, is a brightly colored Scottish plaid cloth. The men tie the ‘Pangi’ at the shoulder, and the women tie it around their waist. The young girls and boys only wear a ‘kwei’ with a belt, this is an apron at the front that leaves them but naked from behind. When they become teens they also get to wear a ‘kamisa’.
This colorful cloth is not only useful as clothing, but also as the house decoration, a cute little blanket, or a comfortable throw. It is not made from the same material as the ‘Pangi’, but it gives it that same cultural and traditional look.
Click the link below for more information on the ultimate beach and picnic blanket: