Source: Heatler Leila & Andre Mosis
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, highest God, is the God in Heaven. Beside they believe in 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. Objects decorated with various meaningful symbols are often presented at ceremonies, rituals, etc. Specific symbols were placed on items corresponding with the occasion. Maroons place symbols on items of everyday use, such as benches, paddles, combs etc. They have also copied the habit of assigning emotional value to aspects of their everyday life( Sally and Richard Price).
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. In the gender-related Maroon culture male and female art is recognizable by the media used.
Men carved and painted*, while women created wicker-work, patchwork and embroidered fabric (Sally Price 1991). Men used to carve calabashes but women later took over this trade. *The Aucaners carve and paint their art and also have painted art, while the Saramaccaners leave their carving plain.
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.
The tail of a monkey can hold the dead body of a monkey on a tree until it decomposes.
Calabash is a fruit that comes in various shapes and sizes ranging from 2 1/2 - 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 and name of the various calabashes were determined by the form and the size. The size suggests what it is used for. They had the 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 and artistic style. Nowadays calabashes are more often made as souvenirs than for practical use. Maroons use buckets, glasses, spoons etc.
The images are connected to one another in perfect harmony.
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.
Source: Tropen Museum
The Maroon Community
Source: Kelemba info & Wibo Vrede
Source: Wibo Vrede
The fruit Soursop has many seeds that produce multiple plants which on their turn bear many fruits, etc.
Maroon Huts and Interior
The pangi is the traditional Maroon wrap skirt and their most important dress. The name pangi is dual, as it is the name of the skirt but also the name of the cotton fabric with multi-colored horizontal and vertical stripes, traditionally used by the Maroons. The men used this fabric as breech cloths( camisa), shoulder cape, etc. This fabric is also used to make slings to carry babies and to make hammocks.
This fabric closely resembles the West African kente cloth. At first, the fabric was left plain but in the nineties the female started to embroider and appliqué the pangis.
The pangi is adopted by the mainstream in Republic Suriname and is now fashion worn by all nationalities.
There are different kinds of pangis
Lalapangi (selenpangi or seenpangi): this pangi is plain
Gi pangi ( give pangi): this is the pangi that girls receive during their 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). A pangi was named to honor president Barack Obama.
“Pangi negre”, pangi negro, literally translated “skirted negro” refers to men that gossip and behave like a female.
“Priti pangi” literally translated “torn skirt” refers to ghetto behavior.
"Maroon" came from the American/Spanish word cimarrón which means, "wild, savage, fugitive, runaway,"
Maroon was used to describe slaves who successfully escaped from the plantations and settled in the interior from Republic Suriname. Their descendants are still called Maroons or Bush Negros, even if they where born and raised in the city. Some find the term Maroon less desirable because of its meaning. The Interior offered food, shelter, and isolation for the escaped slaves. The slaves that fled into the interior maintained most of their African culture, which they preserved by passing it on from generation to generation. The Maroons established Bush Negro tribes, still in existence: the Aukaner or Ndyuka, Saramaccaner, Matuwari, Paramaccaner, Boni or Aluku, and Quinti. 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 followed by the Saramaccaners, the Matuariers, Kwinti, Aluku, and Paramaccaners.
The Maroons created their own communities which have survived for centuries and remained separated 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.
The Maroons have a matrilineal culture in a male dominated, polygamous community. Men were obliged to prepare each one of the wives a private agriculture plot and build them a hut (kampu). They also build them boats to use as transportation in the water-rich interior. Maroon women were very close. They took care of each other children and raised them if necessary. Each village had a central hut in which they cook together and chat. There was also a hut away from the village, where they stayed during their period. Women were considered unclean during their period. Most is still applicable for the Maroons that still live in the interior. The younger generation that lived in the city tend to reject this lifestyle.
Females in Ritual Dance Males and Females Dancing Drum
Woodcarving and painting
Most carved products are left plain. Some products are carved and painted. Some are only painted. Maroons predominately paint on wood and with bright colors. They often paint on doors, gables and paddles. The resemblance between the art from the Maroon art 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).
Source: Wibo Vrede
Woman with Scarification
The Jewish David Star. The triangle symbolizes the soul in the Maroon culture.
In the 19th century missionaries started to visit the villages and teach the Maroons to read and write. The villages had only elementary schools. At that time, the formal education for most Maroon children ended after elementary school. If they wanted to pursue higher education they had to leave for the city. Nowadays almost every Maroon leaves for the city, whether it is for higher education or just to live. Some of them go back and forth. They often sell goods that they planted, fish and hunted, on the market. They proof to be good business men and women. They have a drive to succeed which is visible in the large groups of Maroons in higher education and with various degrees. The majority of the accomplished Maroons live in the Netherlands.
The 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 got 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.
Back in the days, 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. The lived healthy and ate food they planted, animals the kept and what nature provided. They planted plantain, rice, yams, sweet potatoes, cassava (yucca) with which they bake cassava bread and make kwak. Kwak is a kind of cruesli, which together with the podosiri, a purple bevarage, are two typical Maroon.
The provision of food was gender related, the female planted food and kept chickens, while the men went hunting and fishing.
Woman Decorating a Calabash
Women Removing Fleece From Rice Woman in Farmland Woman Baking Cassava Bread
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 dress (Andre Mosis)
The snake sheds its skin every year.
It makes changes.
Music and Dance
Music and dance played an important role in the Maroon culture. There are various kinds of music styles and dances, each for particular social events. Some secular dances are, 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 between humans and spirits. There is a variety of drums, but the most popular are the apinti or talking drum, agida, dein dein, apuku, langa mang and mang-drum. These drums are also used by the other African descendants (city blacks).
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.
Source: Wibo Vrede