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Renowned anthropologists Richard and Sally Price have accepted the Gaanman Gazon Matodja Award. The ceremony took place on April 25 2010 in Utrecht, the Netherlands, at the occasion of the annual Mitimakandiidei (Reunion) festivities. The couple received the award from captain André Pakosie, chairman of Maroon Institute Sabanapeti, the organization that hosts the annual celebration. Also present were Paramacca dignitary Fidelia Visser and her Saramaccan colleague Veronica Abori. They devoted the accompanying honorary pin to the American scientists.
During the ceremony, captain and chairman André Pakosie held a speech in which he praised the attitude of the Prices. Among others, he said: “You are the only anthropologists, so far, whose studies have put forward the Maroons own visions regarding their community, history and culture, and you have done so without disparaging the knowledge of our people, without judging our culture against western standards. Your attitude shows that you do not view the Maroon society as merely an object of study, as many of your colleagues do. You write about this in your book Maroon Arts: “We had begun writing ethnography in which individual, historized Saramaka voices took center stage – in which people who had traditionally been viewed by scholars as mythic heroes or as objects of study began to take their places as teachers, collaborators, and historians in their own right.”
Pakosie continued: “You also actively lobby for the Saramacca society. In the nineties, you, Richard, testified as an expert before the Inter American Human Rights Tribunal in San José, Costa Rica. This resulted in the conviction, in 1992, of the Suriname military regime for the torture and murder of seven Saramacca Maroons in 1987. Throughout the years, you also supported the Saramacca in their struggle for territorial rights, and against deforestation and exploitation of minerals in their traditional environment.”
After the ceremony head-captain Mutu Poeketie of the Saramacca community in the Netherlands said:“I congratulate professors Richard Price and Sally Price with this award. Gaanman Belfon Aboikoni of the Saramacca community has been informed of your receiving this recognition. On behalf of him, I tell you that we are very grateful for all that you do and have done for the Saramacca community. You have brought the attention of the world to us, the Saramaccans, and you have ensured that our culture has been documented in a valuable way. Many people write about us with condescension and only view us as an object of study. You don’t. You have documented our oral history and made it globally known. Many contemporary Maroon writers may merit from your work and that shows why you are important. Not only for your many publications, but also for your work within the realm of territorial rights and human rights.”
André Pakosie reports on the reaction of Sally and Richard Price: “They were very moved. They expressed pride, and said that they were deeply touched. They also said that the award means a lot to them. That they have received many prizes for their work, but that they consider this one to be their most meaningful.
About the Gaaman Gazon Matodja Award
The Gaanman Gazon Matodja Award was founded in 1996 by Maroon Institute Sabanapeti, which has its headquarters in Utrecht, the Netherlands.
The award, which is intended to acknowledge exceptional people and organizations, lends its name lends its name from a highly respected and revered Ndyuka Maroon leader: Gaanman Gazon Matodja, who himself received various notable recognitions in his life time, among others the Great Ribbon in the Order of the Yellow Star, a Suriname presidential award, and The Chubb Fellowship, devoted by Yale University.
Upon request of the Sabanapeti Foundation, Gaaman Matodja bestowed his name to the award on the condition that the foundation would ensure its dignified and honorable use . Living up to this condition, Sabanapeti thoroughly screens all nominees on the basis of their impact on society. An international committee with members in the Netherlands, Suriname, French-Guyana, the USA and the Dutch Antilles, decides on a winner.
Previous recipients of the award are Suriname president Ronald Venetiaan, author Robin Raveles (also known as ‘Dobru’ – the award was given after his death), consul general Richène Libretto, professor Michiel van Kempen, and the mayor of Utrecht, Annie Brouwer.
Videos: Sally and Richard hold a speech in the Saramacca language at the award ceremony (see video posted below)