Suriname: : “Taki-Taki, Maroons, Fireworks and Dancing Funerals”

Coat_of_arms_of_Suriname.svg

The coat of arms for Suriname represents the indigenous heritage of the Tainos and Arawaks who occupied the region for over 3000 years.

Q: Do you know what  Taki-Taki, Maroons, Fireworks and Dancing Funerals have in common?

A: They are all part of Surinamese culture.

Interesting Facts about Suriname

  • Taki Taki is the common name for Sranan Tongo, the creole language spoken in Suriname.
  • Suriname only has two seasons: dry and rainy.
  • Suriname is rumored to have had the highest per capita “consumption” of fireworks in the world.  Pyromaniacs begin shooting off “bombel” (fireworks) a few days before Christmas and the late night explosions continue well into the first month of the new year.  On New Year’s Day the stores in downtown Paramaribo shoot off long rows of little red-papered fireworks call “pagara”.
  • The Surinam Toad, also known as the “Pica Pica”, has some seemingly unique reproductive practices. The female raises tadpoles to mini toad size in the spongy skin of her back and doesn’t have a tongue or teeth.Suriname-toad-
  •  Surinamese below the age of 30 cannot get married in Suriname without written permission from their parents.
  • The Maroon peoples of Suriname are thought to be one of the largest and most concentrated groups of runaway slave descendants in the world? After winning their freedom in the 1700s, the escaped slaves formed isolated tribes deep in Suriname jungle.  Slavery was officially abolished in 1863, but the six Maroon groups still remain: the Djuka, the Saramka, the Matawai, the Aluku, the Paramaka, and the Kwinti.

The Dancing Funerals

funeral-2One of the most common traditions among Afro-Creoles begins on the evening preceding the funeral, the wake. This is where relatives and acquaintances of the deceased gather, usually at the place where he or she lived, to share memories, sing songs, and ultimately, say goodbye. This meeting is known as the “dede oso”, which means “home of the deceased.”

  • The funeral itself is another important stage in the Afro-Surinamese death ritual  That dates back to the 19th century slave funerals.  Unlike typical American funerals, where mourners wear black, it is customary to wear white or combinations of white and black to Surinamese Creole funerals.  “Where there is death, there must be laughter” is a well-known Surinamese proverb that poetically describes the essence of the deceased’s memorial day. This practice of celebrating the dead person’s life is easily observed in funeral processions where the dead are carried to their grave site by a group of dancing pallbearers.  It is said that the dance steps act as sudden feints to prevent the spirit of the deceased from staying among the living.  The merriment produced by the music and laughter also acts as a social stimulant, temporarily easing the loss felt by those left behind. Note: we couldn’t verify whether or not the following video is a simulation or a real funeral, but the video will give you the idea: YouTube Video “Funeral in Suriname”

    plantageslaven2

    Colored lithograph printed circa 1840–1850. Source: Tropenmuseum

History and Geography

A former Dutch colony, Suriname, once known as Dutch Guiana, is one of South America’s smallest countries. Although the country enjoys a relatively high standard of living, it also faces serious political and economic challenges. Most of its people are descended from African slaves and Indian and Indonesian indentured servants brought over by the Dutch to work as agricultural labourers, making Suriname one of the most ethnically diverse countries in the Americas. However, there is little assimilation between the different ethnic groups, which confine their contacts to the economic sphere. Similarly, most political parties are ethnically based. This acts as an obstacle to consensus-building. (Source: BBC News)

map of SurinameBordered by French Guiana to the east, Guyana to the west, Brazil to the south, and Atlantic coast to the north, the Republic of Suriname is located in northern South America. The smallest sovereign state in South America, Suriname has an estimated population of 490,000. The country’s name is believed to be derived from a Taino group called Surinen, who first inhabited the region. Most Surinamers live in the narrow, northern coastal plain due to the fact that access to the interior rain forest and forest people is limited (see reference in “Inheritance of my father” 356).

Since independence from the Netherlands in 1975 Suriname has endured several coups and a civil war. Former military strongman Desi Bouterse dominated politics for much of the post-independence era, but the country is now under civilian rule.

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