Our Story, By Us
< Current local time in Suriname – Paramaribo
From Trinidad Newsday
Last Sunday 11 delegates competed for the title of Miss Plus Size Caribbean Universe 2013 and 29-year-old Miss Suriname Cheryll Rijger emerged victorious.
The pageant, which was held at the Cascadia Hotel, St Ann’s hosted delegates from various countries including Brazil, Bahamas and the USA. This was the second staging of this pageant, which was first held in Barbados last year. The new Miss Plus Size Caribbean Universe 2013 stopped by Newsday’s office earlier this week with pageant coordinator Pearl Williams, to talk about her winning experience in Trinidad and Tobago.
A well known singer in Suriname, she was understandably elated with her win. This was Rijger’s first pageant, but pageantry runs in her family as her younger sister was Miss Suriname World 2009. “She helped me with this pageant,” the new queen said smiling. “She taught me everything – how to sit, how to walk everything.”
AMSTERDAM—A working group of human right experts –lead by Jamaican university professor Verene Shepherd- has called on the Dutch Government to take the lead in the ongoing debate about a tradition many Black people in the country find offensive. The experts recommended on Tuesday that Government facilitate an “open, inclusive, non-confrontational and respectful” debate on whether Zwarte Piet, the wacky blackfaced helper of bearded gift-giver Sinterklaas should undergo a change.
This year the opposition against the portrayal has reached new heights, with for the first time a townhall hearing by the Mayor of Amsterdam, at which opponents could voice their views. Their opposition against the beloved Dutch tradition has met with resistance from conventionalist Dutch people, oftentimes accompanied by blatant racist slurs.
The working group of UN independent human rights experts had become part of the heated Zwarte Piet debate earlier this year, after receiving complaints “from individuals and civil society organizations in the Netherlands” that the portrayal of the helper of bearded do-gooder Sinterklaas “perpetuates a negative stereotype and derogatory image of Africans and people of African descent.”
AMSTERDAM–A motion to forbid giving zwarte piet a different color than black did not survive in the Dutch Second Chamber. The motion was brought on Tuesday, by conventionalist PVV parliamentarians Geert Wilders and Martin Bosma, who felt that the calls for a change to the blackface tradition were a “blatant assault” on Dutch heritage and tradition. The majority of parliament voted against it. Only Wilders and former PVV-er Louis Bontes voted for a piet who is nothing but black.
It may be considered a modest victory for the people who complain that zwarte piet is a Dutch racist tradition. The opposition has reached unprecedented proportions this year, but that still could not prevent the embattled black-faced helper of bearded do-gooder Sinterklaas cajoling his way into towns all over the Netherlands last weekend. The annual Sinterklaas season kicked off as usual, albeit in some cities under tight police protection.
PARAMARIBO–Monument Walking Guide Paramaribo, the newest publication by Vaco features descriptions of more than 40 monuments in the center of Paramaribo, all within walking distance and in sequential order. It contains background details such as that in 1750, the center of the current Domineestraat was one of the borders of the city of Paramaribo? And that the Valliant’s square arose after the city fire of 1821, as an open space to prevent flames from leaping over during fires. “It is very informative for locals as well as tourists. Finally a guide packed with information about these beautiful monuments,” Vaco writes in a press release .
The book features facts and many historic as well as architectural details about each monument in Paramaribo, as well as their current functions, accompanied by detailed illustrations. “The reader acquires an often unique ‘behind the scenes’ portrait of the monuments,” Vaco writes. The bilingual (Dutch/English) publication features a map on the back that takes the reader on a five-kilometer walking route. The publication also contains an introduction into the development of the city of Paramaribo. “Due to the handy format, the book is easy to bring along on a city walk.”
PARAMARIBO–WWF Guianas is driving its anti-mercury message further home this week with presentations of the movie “Amazon Gold” in Suriname, Guyana and French Guiana. “It is a really good movie; worth seeing,” WWF Regional Communications Officer Karin Spong said in her email accompanying the invitation. Regional Director Dominiek Plouvier add: “We have made our standpoint clear: Mercury is destroying our country. The Minamata convention is a first step in banning it, but we have a long way to go. Suriname needs everybody on board for the debate about mercury.” The insightful movie shows in Suriname on Wednesday.
Amazon Gold is the disturbing account of a clandestine journey into the Amazon rainforest. It follows Ron Haviv and Donovan Webster, two journalists who normally cover wars and human rights issues on their voyage along Peru’s Madre de Dios River to uncover the savage unraveling of pristine rainforest. Accompanied by Peruvian biologist Enrique Ortiz they bear witness to the apocalyptic destruction in the pursuit of illegally mined gold with consequences on a global scale.
PARAMARIBO–Many football enthusiasts in Suriname took advantage of the opportunity earlier this week to have their picture taken with the solid-gold FIFA world cup. The coveted six kilogram trophy arrived in Suriname last Tuesday, as part of its 267-day journey that will take it across 88 countries.
The cup took off from Rio de Janeiro on September 27th in a Coca-Cola branded jet, accompanied by former Trinidad national team captain and former Manchester United Dwight Yorke. The plane first touched down in Costa Rica, from where the trophy headed off to an unprecedented 34 Member Associations from the Confederation of North, Central America and Caribbean Association Football (CONCACAF). Its final leg will take it back to Brazil next year, the FIFA World Cup 2014 host country.
In Suriname the trophy was presented by President Bouterse to an audience gathered at a gala event in Hotel Torarica on Tuesday night; earlier in the day the Fernandes Group of Companies –the representatives of tour sponsor Coca Cola- hosted a series of sporting events, during which enthusiasts could pose with the cup.
Bouterse said he was honored to present the trophy; he called on young sporters to make a dream reality and bring it back to Suriname once. John Krishnadath, chairman of the Suriname Football Association SVB agreed; he too said he hoped the presence of the trophy would work as motivator.
PHILIPSBURG–The community of St. Maarten will get a taste of Surinamese culture and music this Saturday November 2, when Surinamese/St. Maarten music band Jazzeko presents “An evening with Lieve Hugo: a taste of Suriname” at the island’s Philipsburg Jubilee Library.
The entire evening will be dedicated to Kaseko, the characteristic Afro Surinamese style of music. Jazzeko and the Library say in a joint press release that in tribute to Kaseko, the documentary “Iko, The King of Kaseko”, will be shown, which pays homage to the late Julius Theodoor Hugo Uiterloo, better known as “Lieve Hugo”.
The organisers say the event is meant as an exchange, part of a series of events to introduce the St. Maarten community to the rich, cultural heritage of Suriname. “At the core of this jointly organized event will be the use of Surinamese music as a tool to bring awareness about the diversity within the Surinamese culture,” the press release says.
LONDON–HopeRoad Publishing, the London-based publishing house that recently put out an English (E-book and print) edition of Cynthia McLeod’s best seller ‘The Cost of Sugar’ (Hoe Duur was de Suiker) has said that it is keen to hear from more writers from Suriname that write in English. “We were set up primarily to publish writing by and about the Caribbean, Asia and Africa, (to balance) the lack of opportunities for these writers within many traditional publishing houses,” Managing Editor Rosemarie Hudson said this week.
The Managing Editor said HopeRoad exists to provide Caribbean writers and readers with stories by them and about them. She stressed that she cannot promise to accept every submission, “but we ensure that all material is read and discussed before a decision is made, explaining furthermore that HopeRoad focuses on writing in English is because translations are very expensive, especially for a new company.”
Hudson said that her company is always on the look-out for well-written, exciting projects in English. “We’re keen to see the type of writing that can stand proudly next to established writers and with the potential to win international literature prizes.” She said that most of the writing that HopeRoad is sent from the Caribbean consists of short stories and poetry. “That is all well and good, but there is still a large proportion of readers who want to read literary fiction or good, solid mainline novels. The golden rule we impress on our authors is: always think of the international market.”
AMSTERDAM—Writer Cynthia McLeod appeared excited on Wednesday night September 26 during the kickoff of the Dutch Film Festival at the City Theater of Utrecht. The movie from her well-read novel “Hoe Duur was de Suiker” (The Cost of Sugar) premiered at the annual festival that features a selection of Dutch produced films at theaters throughout the Netherlands. “Never in my wildest dreams would I have thought that my book would have sold so well; and I certainly never expected it to be made into a movie,” she told journalists.
Hoe Duur was de Suiker takes place in the 19th century Suriname and tells the story of two Jewish step sisters, Elza and Sarith and Sarith’s half-sister/ body slave Mini Mini. Growing up on a plantation alongside the Suriname River, in the Jewish settlement known today as Joden Savanne, the pampered Sarith fails to come to grips with the hardship of plantation life, while Mini Mini finds her own chance at love.
Director Jean van de Velde tells the story from the perspective of Mini-mini -played by newcomer actress Yootha Wong-Loi-Sing- who narrates her memories of serving her white mistress Sarith. “I didn’t want to make another ‘slave movie’ but rather one about loyalty and treason that existed within the very oppressing system,” the director said. He did not shy away from portraying the contrasts that were norm during the days of slavery; planters are dressed in beautiful costumes, while slaves wear rags.
The film got mixed reviews so far in the Dutch press; Volkskrant newspaper on Thursday said it is “dressed up beautifully, but sometimes a bit unbelievable.” Another medium said it was a movie full of good intentions.
AMSTERDAM–As the movie from Cynthia Mcleod’s gripping historical novel “Hoe Duur was de Suiker” heads into cinemas this month, London based e-publishing house HopeRoad has announced that it will soon put out the English version of one of Suriname’s most read books. “We acquired the e-book rights to The Cost of Sugar in 2011 from Kees de Bekker of Uitgeverij Conserve. From the moment I read the book I fell in love with it and we are delighted to have now acquired the print edition,” said HopeRoad Commissioning Editor Rosemarie Hudson. “The Cost of Sugar”, the first book HopeRoad publishes in print, will be on shelves internationally just before the movie goes into premiere.
Hudson characterized the book as an engrossing account of eighteenth century Suriname at the time when the country was ruled by the Dutch. “The hypocrisies behind the veneer of a respectable colonial life are revealed through the eyes of two Jewish step sisters, Elza and Sarith, descendants of the settlers of New Jerusalem of the River, known today as Joden Savanne. The pampered Sarith fails to come to grips with the hardship of plantation life up the Suriname River, while her body slave Mini Mini finds her own chance at love. In the book the planters’ existences become intertwined with the fate of the plantations as the slaves decide to fight against the violent repression they have endured for too long…,” she said.
The (Dutch edition of the) book sold 50,000 copies and has also been produced as a theater play. Hoe Duur was de Suiker has also been produced as a six CD audio book, narrated by jazz singer Denise Jannah. Following her debut, McLeod, the daughter of the late Johan Ferrier, Suriname’s last Governor and first President, went on to publish a series of other historical novels.
Expectations are now high for the Dutch language movie that will open the annual Dutch Film Festival, which starts on Wednesday September 25th in the City Theater of Utrecht. Its trailer is already going viral online. The movie, starring Yootha Wong-Loi-Sing as Mini-Mini and Gaite Jansen as Sarith comes as Suriname –and other former colonies of the Netherlands- mark the 150th anniversary of the abolition of slavery this year. It is not clear when the movie will be shown in Suriname.