Woodcarving and painting

Most carved products are left plain. Some products are carved and painted. They predominately paint on wood and with bright colors. They often paint on doors, gables and paddles. The resemblance between the art of the Maroons and the African art lies in the aesthetic ideas that were passed on by their ancestor. The style such as symmetry, color contrast, and syncopation were artistically and creativity used to design exclusive meaningful symbols. They also took over the habit to assign emotional value to aspects of their daily life (Sally and Richard Price).                                                 Woman Decorating a Calabash                                                                Calabash Tree        

                                                 Source: Kelemba info &  Wibo Vrede

Calabash Decorating
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 is used to make household items and souvenirs.  The usage of the various calabashes are determined by the form and the size. The name that is given to the calabash of a certain size suggests what it is used for.Washing calabash, drinking calabash, spoon calabash, ritual calabash etc. Until the mid-19th-century calabashes were only carved on the outside, by the male, when the female took over this trade they started to carve on the inside. They used other tools and produced an entirely new decorative style that made it more advance and artistic. Nowadays calabashes are more often made as souvenirs than for personal use.


In the 19th century missionaries started to visit the villages and teach the Maroons to read and write. The villages had only elementary schools. In the past, the formal education of most maroon children ended after elementary school. They had to leave for the city for higher education. Nowadays almost every Maroon leaves for the city whether it is for higher education or just to live in the city. They often sell food that they planted on the market. The proof to be good business men and women. The drive to succeed and partly to proof themselves to the city blacks is visible in the large group of Maroons with various degrees. The majority of the accomplished Maroons live in the Netherlands.

Afaka Writing
It is said that a man named “
Afaka Atumusi” from the Aukaner tribe, had dreamed about a spirit summoning him to teach the people of his tribe, the Ndyukas to read and to write. Even though he could not read or write he created a script named after him, the “afaka script”. Unfortunately, he didn’t get the chance to implement this in the society. A maroon of the Aukaner tribe, by the name of Andre Pakosie  published
a book with this script. People that are interested can learn to read and write this script. 

                              Women Removing Fleece From Rice                           Woman in Farmland                                   Woman Baking Cassava Bread  

Health Care

In the past, the Maroons had no access to the modern health care and medicines. They had their own remedies for all common illnesses. Maroons were very knowledgeable about herbs and the application of them. For complicated issues, they used the medicine man. Maroons lived and ate healthy fresh fruit, vegetable, meat, and fish. Maroons lived from the food they plant and what nature provides. They grew various roots such as yams, sweet potatoes, cassava (yucca) they used this root to bake cassava bread. They also plant grew plantain, rice, and various vegetables.  They kept chickens and other animals. The provision of food was gender related, the female planted food while the men went out hunting and fishing.                                                                                                            

Visual Appearance
Maroon women used to keep their hair natural which they braided or kept short. Scarification was in some regions an important part of beauty and sexuality. Scars were placed on the face, arm, leg, chest, back, breasts and abdomen. Scarification is now abolished. The modern Maroon women wear makeup, relax their hair, wear wigs etc.                                                                                                                        
                                                                                                             Woman with Scarification


Music and Dance
Music and dance played an important role in the Maroon culture. There are different kinds of music styles and dances for particular social events. There are various secular dances and party dances such as
susa, awasa, sunge, seketi, aleke etc.  The drum is the most important instrument in the Maroon culture, it is used for regular entertainment, as a tool of communication between humans and human and spirits.  There are various kinds of drums, the most popular are the apinti drum or talking drum, agidadein dein, apuku, langamang and mang-drum. These drums are also used by the other African descendants.                                                                           
                                         Females in Ritual Dance                               Males and Females Dancing                                              Drum 



The maroons have four categories of clothing:

Busiman-koosi: a variety of 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)




pangi is the most important Maroon dress. The name is used two ways, 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. It was also used to make slings to carry babies and hammocks. This fabric 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 adopted by the mainstream and is now worn by all nationality in Suriname.                                                                                                                 

There are different kinds of

Lalapangi (selenpangi or seenpangi): this pangi is plain                                                                                                             

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 name):  Pangis are specially created to mark memorable happenings (Andre Mosis). There is a pangi that is named after president Barack Obama.
“Pangi negre”, literally translated “skirted negro” refers to men that gossip and behave like females.

“Prieti pangi” literally translated “torn skirt” which refers to ghetto behavior.  

Source: Wibo Vrede

The Jewish David Star. The triangle symbolizes the soul in the Maroon culture.

      Source: Wibo Vrede

The snake sheds its skin every year.

It makes changes.

This is the belly of a snake. 

Due to the structure of the skin it can only crawl forward.                                                         

The tongue and teeth stick together even though the teeth sometimes bite the tongue.

                 ​​Abundance                                      Abundance                                         Survivor                                         Survivor

         Source: Wibo Vrede

The images are connected to one another in perfect harmony.

         Source: Tropen Museum          

                 Progress                                        Progress                                      Change                                       Change  

The fruit Soursop has many seeds that produce multiple plants which on their turn bear many fruits,  etc.

Maroon Huts and Interior

                                        Compatibility                                 Harmony                                  Spiritual Unity                         


The Maroon Culture

The word "Maroon" came from American/Spanish cimarrón: "wild, savage, fugitive, runaway,"

Maroon was used 
to describe slaves who escaped successfully from the plantations. The term Maroon was later generalized to include any slave or group of slaves that had rebelled or escaped from their owners, frequently within the first generation of their arrival from Africa.  In the Guyanas (British Guyana, Dutch Guyana, and French Guyana) they were commonly known as Bush Negroes or Refugee Blacks. The jungles around the Caribbean Sea offered food, shelter, and isolation for the escaped slaves. The slaves that fled into the interior of Suriname maintained most of their African culture which they preserved by passing it on from generation to generation. They established the Bush Negro tribes in existence today: the Aukaner or Ndyuka, Saramaccaner, Matuwari, Paramaccaner, Boni or Aluku, andQuinti. The escaped slaves sometimes went back to attack the plantations. Because of this, the government sent troops to fight them, but that didn’t stop them from attacking again. The attacks ended after the government signed peace agreements with the existing tribes. They started with the Aukaners than the Saramaccaners, followed by theMatuariers, Kwinti, Aluku, and Paramaccaners. 

The Maroons created their own communities which have survived for centuries and remained separate from the mainstream society until the fifties. Individual groups of Maroons living near local indigenous tribes occasionally assimilated into these populations. Some of them moved to French Guyana and British Guyana. Maroons in every country developed 
their specific patrons, lifestyles, and art so did the Suriname Maroons.

Family Life

Maroons had a polygamous community. Men were obliged to prepare each one of the wives a private agriculture plot and build them a hut (kampu). The men also built boats for their wives to use as transportation in the water-rich inland. Even though it is a male-dominated society the maroons have a matrilineal culture. Maroon women are very close, they take care of each other children and raise them if necessary. They have a central hut in the village where they cook and chat. There is also a hut away from the village where they stay during their period. Women were considered unclean during their period.  Maroons of the younger generation tend to reject this lifestyle.   



The Maroons in Suriname are 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 Gods. 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 others combined both.                                   


Art has a central role in the social life of the Maroon.They place symbols on items of everyday use, such as benches, paddles, combs etc. The resemblance between the art of the Maroons and their African ancestors lies in the aesthetic ideas. The style, such as symmetry, color, contrast, and syncopation were artistically and creatively used to design exclusive meaningful symbols. They have also copied the habit of assigning emotional value to aspects of their everyday life.  

Art has a central role in the social life of the Maroon. Objects decorated with various meaningful symbols are often presented at ceremonies, rituals, etc. In the gender-related Maroon culture male and female art is recognizable by the media used. Men carve and paint, while women create wicker-work, patchwork and embroidered fabric (Sally Price 1991). Men used to carve calabashes but women later took over this trade.
The carvings are meaningful symbols which are the most significant characteristic of this art.                        

There are three categories of symbols.                                                                                                                       

- Creations modeled after images observed in their surroundings, mostly animals.                                                      

- Images portraying social activities, emotions, and philosophies.                                                                               

- Symbols that represent familiar images. 

Suriname Maroon Community

         Source: Wibo Vrede

​​"Art that speaks without talking."​​

         Source: Heatler Leila &  Andre Mosis            

The tail of a monkey can hold the dead body of a monkey on a tree until it decomposes.

          Woodcarvers workplace                        Wall plate                              Bench easels                                    Table


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