24 April 2017

Suriname: A snapshot of current Shared Cultural Heritage projects

From a restored international cemetry from the 18th century to a documentary about descendants of Javanese-Surinamese people.

Jaji is a documentary about solidarity among people of Javanese-Surinamese origin.

Both Suriname and Guyana share a history with the Netherlands and have a wealth of cultural heritage. Here are some examples of current projects in Suriname and Guyana.

The Oranjetuin cemetery
Suriname has hundreds of old buildings and places with a rich history. The Oranjetuin, a cemetery from the 18th century, is one of those places. During the colonial era, people with different nationalities and social backgrounds were buried here. Each grave tells its own story.

The Oranjetuin is interesting for both the Surinamese people and for countries that have a shared history with Suriname. This piece of funerary heritage had fallen into disrepair over the years. As a public/private initiative, the Oranjetuin is now being cleaned up and restored. The Embassy of the Kingdom of the Netherlands in Paramaribo financed the restoration of the brick wall.

Jaji – a documentary about solidarity
Shared cultural heritage is more than bricks and buildings. Suriname has a wealth of immaterial heritage. In 2015, Suriname commemorated the arrival of the first group of Javanese contract workers from the Dutch East Indies.

To mark this historical fact, the documentary Jaji was made. The Javanese word ‘jaji’ refers to the special relationship that arose between people while crossing the ocean from the Dutch East Indies to Suriname. In this documentary, filmmaker Jeffrey Salimin seeks the answer to the question of whether the jaji feeling still exists and what happened to the descendants of Javanese-Surinamese people, 30,000 of whom are living in the Netherlands.

The Dutch Embassy in Suriname developed a corresponding school programme in which secondary school students interactively discussed culture, traditions, language, music, entrepreneurship and social engagement. Interested in this documentary? You can watch the trailer here (in Dutch).

European heritage in Guyana
Guyana also has an extensive cultural heritage from other European countries. The Guyana Heritage Society and the European Union, in collaboration with the National Trust of Guyana, have jointly produced the book Aspects of European-Guyanese Heritage. Guyana’s relationship with Europe stretches back to the 15th century, when Spanish explorers arrived at the mouth of the Essequibo River, followed by the Dutch, Portuguese, French and British. The book is a collection of the footprints of various European countries in Guyana.