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PARAMARIBO—A plan to include the historic Fort Zeelandia complex into the “policy center” of Government, has ignited quite some discussion in art and intellectual circles. The plan, apparently hatched by the cultural advisor of President Bouterse, calls for current users to vacate the fort and surrounding monumental wooden buildings by September 1st 2012, but opponents are taking a stand. In a letter circulated among artistes, intellectuals, human rights activists, religious and young people, unionists and politicians they’re calling for a rejection of this “attack on Suriname’s museum culture, the country’s human rights memorial movement and the friendship between Suriname and the Netherlands.”
Built in 1667, Fort Zeelandia is one of the first buildings in Suriname. In the beginning of the colony, it served as the center from where the city Paramaribo sprout westward. The fort, a massive structure on the left bank of the Suriname River, was built by Dutch settlers as their first defense against naval attacks. The wooden buildings around the fort served as homes for the officers. In 1967 the fort was restored and the Museum of Suriname was housed here. Over the centuries, the fort also served as military base and prison.
After the coup of February 25th 1980, the military rulers used the fort as their headquarters. The December 1982 murders of 15 prominent citizens were committed here; the bulletholes of their executions are still visible in the concrete walls. The Museum of Suriname returned to the fort in 1995 and the surrounding wooden buildings have since served as offices of several organizations and institutes, such as the Office of Culture Studies, Monument’s Care, and the Nola Hatterman School of Art. The president’s office is located next door.
The plan by the President’s cultural advisor is to regain the use of the fort and wooden buildings and give them a place in Government’s new cultural direction. “All buildings will be manned and actively contribute to the cultural display of Suriname,” the policy document of the cultural advisor reads.
PARAMARIBO—Suriname’s annual Rainforest Art Festival got off to a good start Thursday morning. Around 8.00am hundreds of school children poured out of buses at Paramaribo’s historic Fort Zeelandia to take part in the Students’ Program that was designed to increase awareness among Suriname’s youth about the importance of preserving nature on the Guiana Shield. They followed workshops in nature preservation, first aid, sanitation, pollution and even journalism. When they were driving up, it may not have been clear to all the children why they were heading for the Fort; but once they got there they certainly did enjoy themselves. “It’s going great,” fifth graders from the public school at Clevia cheered when they were asked how they were doing.
The Rainforest Festival brings together creative art performance including dance, song, theater and art; it was initiated in 2005 to promote awareness of rain forest protection. This year’s edition is themed “the Guiana Shield”, a 2.5 million km2 area of South America that spans from Colombia in the west to the Brazilian state of Amapá in the east, including the Venezuelan states of Delta Amacuro, Bolívar and Amazonas, all of Guyana, French Guiana, and Suriname and continuing into the Brazilian States of Pará, Roraima and Amazonas. All events that are part of the festival are in light of the Guiana Shield.
“The start was definitely great, the vibe has been awakened,” said Maikel Austen, initiator of the festival. “You can feel that a lot is about to happen.” Around 4.00pm, with the children already back at home, he was still at the Fort preparing for the opening event that featured performances by the Rainforest Orchestra lead by director Rielle Mardjo and performances of kaseko music by Ruben Muringen’s Wan Famiri band. “I’m here at the presentation and it’s a great atmosphere, seeing all everybody prepare for tonight,” said Austen. The opening also featured the Forest Film Festival which is done in cooperation with the US embassy; first to show was the film “Queen of the Trees”; also opening was the art expo and art café featuring work by some of Suriname’s leading artistes and rare work from the Bank of Suriname’s Art Collection.
Austen promised a stellar overall event. “We’ve organized for an event that’s totally out of the box, with events in which art will be used as a tool to call for attention for the Guiana Shield,” he explained. He said the public would get its “money’s worth”. “The fashion show on the wall of the Fort is going to be great, as will the fair and the musical performances. We have a good blend of local and foreign performers in our line-ups,” he said.
click below for more pictures by Naomi Loswijk and Ruth San A Jong
PARAMARIBO, Suriname--The Ministry of Labor, Technology and Environment is hosting a biodiversity expo, in collaboration with the French embassy, cultural organization Alliance Francaise and the World Wildlife Fund.
The exhibition that offers a glimpse at the world’s biodiversity –and in particular that of Suriname-, opened on Friday at the imposing Fort Zeelandia. Visitors can marvel at biodiversity pictures featured throughout the historic fort – too often only associated with the December 8, 1982 murders- that serves as a museum and art gallery. GFC Nieuws reports that the objective of the exhibition is to show people the importance of conserving the forests of Suriname, and if possible earn sustainable income from them.
The exhibition comes at the close of 2010, the International Year of Biodiversity, a year-long celebration of biological diversity and its value for life on Earth. The celebration, which took place around the world in 2010, is meant to help raise awareness of the importance of biodiversity through activities and events in many countries. This means, as well, to influence decision makers, and “to elevate biological diversity nearer to the top of the political agenda.