The Maroon Community
Maroons are the descendants of runaway slaves.The term Maroon was generalized to include any slave that had rebelled or escaped from the
plantations and fled to the interior.
The Maroons of Suriname Sometimes the escaped slaves were going back to attack the plantations. The government was sending
troops to fight them but that didn’t stopped the attack. This ended after the government signed peace agreements with the existing tribes Aukaners, Saramaccaners, Matuariers, Kwinti, Aluku and Paramaccaners.
The Maroons in Suriname created their own independent communities which survived for centuries and remained separated from mainstream
society until the fifties. Their African culture was therefore preserved by passing it on from generation to generation.
Individual groups of Maroons living near local indigenous tribes, occasionally assimilated into these populations. Some Maroons moved to French
Guiana and Guyana but are still considered to be Suriname Maroons. Maroons around the world have developed their own specific lifestyle and art.
Maroons had a polygamous community. The men were obliged to prepare a private agriculture plot and build a hut (kampu) for each of their wives.
They also built boats. Even though it was a male dominated society the Maroons had a matrilineal culture.
Maroon women were very close, they took care for each other children. The women had a private hut, but during the day they came together in a central hut where they cooked and chatted. There was also a hut away from the village where they stayed during their period as women were considered unclean during their period. Even though their lifestyle has been changed some basic cultural elements are well preserved.
In the 19th century missionaries started to visit the villages and teach the Maroons to read and write. As the villages had only elementary schools
the (formal) education of most children ended after they had passed the last grade.Some were living for the city to pursue higher education.
It is said that A man named “Afaka Atumusi” of the Aukaner tribe, had dreamed that a spirit summoned him to teach the Ndyukas (Maroon tribe) to read and write. Even though he could not read or write he created a script named after him “afaka script”. Unfortunately he didn’t got the chance to implement this in the society. A Maroon of the Aukaner tribe, by the name of Andre Pakosie made it possible to publish this script.ed.
There are classes to read and write this script. Because of their drive to succeed a large group of Maroons achieve high
education levels and held various degrees in Suriname and abroad. They also proved to be good business men/women.
The Maroons in Suriname were generally acquainted with a polytheistic and animistic form of worship. Polytheism coexists with monotheism. They
believe in a variety of divinities. Gaan Gadu is the highest God in Heaven, the sky God, earth God, water God, and forest God. They also believed
in the spirits of ancestors known as Yooka. Maroons believe in a life after death (Thomas Polimé). Some Maroon societies totally adapted the
Christian faith while other combined theirs with Christianity.
Maroons lived from the food they planted and from the product nature around them provided. They grew different kinds of roots, such as cassava (yucca) that was used to bake cassava bread, yams, sweet potatoes, plantain, rice, vegetables etc. They also raised chickens and other animals. The provision of food was gender related the women used to plant food while the men went out hunting and fishing.
In the days where the Maroons had no access to the modern health care and medicines they used their own remedies. They had a great knowledge about herbs and its usage. For complicated issues they used the medicine man. Maroons generally lived healthy and ate fresh food, meat and fish.
Maroon women used to keep their hair natural which was braided or kept short.
Scarification was in some regions an important part of beauty and sexuality. Scarf were placed on the face, arm, leg, chest, lower back, breasts
and abdomen. Scarification is now abolished.
Music and Dance
Music and dance are imbedded in the culture of the Maroons. They sing and dance at every occasion and have a variety of dance styles. The most popular party dances are susa, awasa, sunge, seketi, and aleke. There are many secular dances, each enjoyed in a particular social context. The drum is the most important instrument which is used for regular entertainment, as a tool of communication between human and spirits and to make announcement in the community. Maroons have various kinds of drums namely the apinti drum or talking drum, agida, dein dein, apuku, langa mang and mang-drum. They are used in different combinations to accompany different secular dance forms. They are used to activate and communicate with the various spirits. These drums are also used by the other African descendants.
Art has a central role in the social life of the Maroon. Objects decorated with various symbols are presented at ceremonies, rituals, etc. When
the Maroons started visiting the city they incorporate other symbols in their art but used their own interpretation. In the gender-related
Maroon society male and female art are recognizable by the media that was used. Men carved and painted, while women did wicker-work, patchwork and embroidery (Sally Price 1991). Men used to carve calabashes but the women took this over.
Woodcarving and painting
The Maroons of the early days produced little decorative woodcarving and textiles. In the 20th- century this art started to develop to where it is now. Some carved designs are also painted. This is often seen on doors, gables, paddles etc. The resemblance between the art of the Maroons and the African art lies in the aesthetic ideas that were passed down by their ancestor. The style, symmetry, color contrast and syncopation were artistically and creativity used to design exclusive meaningful symbols. They also copied the habit to assign emotional value to aspects of
their daily life (Sally and Richard Price).
Calabash is a fruit that comes in various shapes and sizes ranging from 21/2 -20 inch. When this fruit is ripe (this can be seen on the hardness of
the skin) it is cropped, cleaned and placed in the sun or on fire to dry. The calabash was used to make household items and souvenirs. The size and shape defined the usage of the various calabashes. The name indicates the usage. Washing-, drinking-, spoon-, ritual calabash etc. Until the mid-19th century calabashes were only carved on the outside by men, later the women took over the carving and started to also carve them on the inside. They started to use more advance tools and produced an entirely new decorative style that was more artistic. Nowadays
calabashes are mostly made as souvenirs then for personal usage.
Source: Wibo Vrede
Source: Wibo Vrede
Source: Wibo Vrede
Source: Wibo Vrede
The maroons have four category clothing’s:
Busiman-koosi: a collection of variuos costumes made of natural materials’ such as tree barks, leaves, reeds and creepers.
Wenti-koosi / Gadu-koosi: religious dress
Poolo-koosi: stylish dress
Baakaman-koosi: mourning wear (Andre Mosis)
The pangi is the most important Maroon dress. The name "Pangi", is twofold. It is the name of a cotton fabric with multi colored horizontal and
vertical stripes, traditionally used by the Maroons. Pangi, is also the name of the traditional wrap skirt of the Maroon women. The men used this
fabric as breech cloths, shoulder cape, etc. This fabric was also used to make hammocks, slings to carry babies, etc. This textile closely
resembles the West African kente cloth. At first the fabric was left plain but in the nineties the women started to embroider and appliqué the
pangis. Embroidered or appliquéd wrap skirts are all considered pangis whether they are made of authentic pangi fabric or not. The pangi is
adapted by the mainstream and is now worn by all nationalities in Suriname. There are different kinds of pangi
Lalapangi (plain pangi) also called selenpangi or seenpangi.
Gi pangi ( give pangi): this is the pangi that girls receive during the initiation ceremony from girl to woman.
Pangi uman ( pangi woman): the pangi from a woman of good standing.
Pangi nen (pangi name): Pangis are specially created to mark memorable happenings (Andre Mosis).
A pangi was named after president Barack Obama after he became president of the United States of America.
Source: Heatler Leila & Andre Mosis
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