Pikin Slee: A Maroon Village in Development

Our thanks to Peter Jordens for bringing this to our attention and translating the text.

‘Pikin Slee: A Maroon Village in Development’ is the title of a new documentary about the famous Maroon village on the Upper Surinam River, as Iwan Brave of De Ware Tijd reports. Hans Arends, the film’s director, explains: “Pikin Slee is making the transition into the 21st century. Many developments are taking place, as people are looking outward and bringing the outside world inside.”

The driving forces behind the development of Pikin Slee are the five artists of the Totomboti Foundation, also known as the ‘rastas.’ Their wood carving is already becoming known internationally (‘totomboti’ means woodpecker). “It’s these men who are carrying the whole village forward,” says Arends.

The film has been made in support of the Pikin Slee Maroon Museum that will be opened officially and festively on Saturday October 15, 2011 (it has already been in operation for about a year). Arends made the film in close cooperation with Kashmindra Vrede, who did the interviews as well as complementary camera work. This year they came in from Amsterdam, the Netherlands, for the third time. The film provides information about the artifacts in the Museum and about daily life in Pikin Slee. “Education, emancipation and the economy are the three pillars that will help the village advance. And that’s what we have illustrated extensively,” says Vrede, whose father is from the Surinamese interior.

The villagers themselves tell the story, supported by the poetic voice-over in Saramaccan by Berry Vrede, Kashmindra’s father. The scenery is wonderful, even mystical, with stirring music and singing. There are interviews with the chief captain, the school headmaster and the village elders about the (partially worrisome) future of the youngsters and, by extension, of the Saramaccan culture. “The film consists of live images of the way things are now. Ten years from now, it will not look this way anymore. We have documented the end of an era,” says Vrede. Arends: “A certain part of the population is bringing the outside world to Pikin Slee. Showing the village to tourists provides an added impulse to recognizing the value of their own culture. And that is the philosophical approach of the artists of Totomboti too.”

Just as the Maroon Museum is a local initiative, the idea for the film also originated with the artists. “For example, they showed us all the sites in the village. Without them we would not have been able to do the film.” There were ten filming days in July, preceded by two weeks of research in April. Says Vrede: “Almost every evening in April we had a ‘krutu’ (consultation) with the men and we discussed everything thoroughly. By discussing we already got a good idea of the village. In July there was a large ‘krutu’ with the entire village, at which time they said: ‘We are behind it and we support this.”

Concerning the Maroon Museum, Arends says: “It is a unique project that has not yet been developed anywhere in this manner: from within the population itself rather than initiated by historians or anthropologists. That’s why I am convinced of its sustainability. The artists get their inspiration from outside and mix their traditions with new ideas. At the same time, they want to preserve their cultural heritage through the Museum.”

The film is being launched during the opening of the Maroon Museum where it can also be purchased on DVD.

Arends: “The copyrights belong fully to the Totomboti group of artists.”

For the original article (in Dutch), see http://www.dwtonline.com/website/nieuws.asp?menuid=41&id=95252.

For more information about the Pikin Slee Maroon Museum and the Totomboti collective, see http://www.devsur.com/tag/pikin-slee (in English) or http://www.nospang.com/index.php?option=com_content&view=article&id=12994:samaaka-marronmuseum-op-komst&catid=73:binnenland&Itemid=65,http://www.totomboti.nlhttp://www.youtube.com/watch?v=8ExydnC22a4&feature=related, and http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=cCTJ_ldFA1Q (in Dutch and Sranan Tongo).

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