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Saamaka Maroons in Suriname have recently founded the Saamaka Akademiya. This nonprofit organization aims to preserve, promote and maintain aspects of the Saamaka culture – the Saamaka language in particular.
The organization kicked off its activities in September 2012 with a seminar on the Saamaka language. Keynote speaker Berry Vrede discussed the linguistic origins and development of Saamaka with panel members Randolf Linga and Salomon Emmanuels. (Berry Vrede is best known for his co-founding of the Maroon Museum in the Suriname village of Pikin Slee; Randolf Linga has done extensive research on Saamaka culture; Salomon Emmanuels is an anthropologist).
The Saamaka language is one of several Maroon languages spoken in Suriname. Founded in colonial times, it is strongly rooted in Portuguese, but also displays influences of French, Dutch and Amerindian speech. A feature characteristic of Saamaka is its myriad of vocal distinctions: phonetically similar words carry different meaning when spoken with altered intonations.
Saamaka Akademiya president Marijke Agwense notes that although Saamaka culture and language have long been documented, these efforts are still lacking in focus and categorization. “We want to establish structure and thoroughness”, she says, adding: “All aspects of the culture should be documented and archived, including oral traditions.”
Marijke Agwense’s colleagues in the board of Saamaka Akademiya are Ifna Vrede(vice-president), Justina Eduards (first secretary), Annelies Agwense(second secretary), and Wilco Finisie(treasurer).
To connect with Saamaka Akademiya on Facebook, please visit: http://www.facebook.com/saamaka.akademiya