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Interview with Andre Pakosie, Kabiten of the Ndyuka in the Netherlands

Photos from: www.Maroons-Suriname.com

André Pakosie was born in 1955 in the village of Diitabiki (Drietabbetje), the capital of the Suriname Ndyuka nation, amidst a family of herbal and spiritual leaders. He was educated as a phytopharmacist, a herbal doctor, and initially practiced his profession at his native village, where in 1980 he founded the health center Sabanapeti.
Forced to leave Suriname in the mid 1980’s – due to the civil war between Maroon leaders and the military government – he relocated to the Netherlands. He reopened his health center in Utrecht, now under the name of Fytotheek Pakosie, and took his passion for Maroon culture to new levels through the launch of the Sabanapeti Foundation.

Through the Sabanapeti Foundation and its twice yearly published magazine Siboga, Pakosie spreads cultural and historical awareness regarding Maroons. He also promotes the rights of Maroon nations. Annually, Sabanapeti hosts a festive conference called Mitiimakandii Dei (Meeting Day). Proceeds of all Sabanapeti’s activities are awarded to projects that support the development of Maroon communities in Suriname.

André Pakosie has often been lauded for his achievements. Some years ago, he received the Gaaman Gazon Matodja Award and was honorably decorated by the president of Suriname and the queen of the Netherlands. 2010 marks a special year for him, as the annual Maroon Day – which Pakosie devised and launched in 1974 – will be a national holiday in Suriname for the first time.

André Pakosie can be contacted through the following websites:

www.Maroons-Suriname.com

www.Fytotheek-Pakosie.com

AbengCentral contacted André Pakosie to ask him about his life, his career and the position of Maroons in Suriname today.

Q-Mr. Pakosie, thank you for taking the time to do this interview. Over the years, you have established yourself as a notable figure in the documentation of Maroon history and culture. You’ve also come a long way in the field of Maroon advocacy. Considering, for example, that you were only 19 years old when you declared October 10 ‘Maroon Day’. What were the major influences in your life that inspired you at that time?

From childhood on I was attracted to older people and drew inspiration from their stories of the freedom struggle of our Maroon ancestors. These older people taught me much about the culture and history of the Maroons – the subjected ones who fought themselves free of slavery and who forced the colonial rulers to acknowledge their freedom and human dignity through the signing of peace contracts. I am proud of this. When I attended school and received history lessons, I noticed that the Maroons in the history books were portrayed as arsonists, looters, and so on. While in reality they were a people who refused to accept the unjust authority of others and who fought for their freedom.  I considered the history books of that time a form of mental slavery; the books instructing a people to view its heroes as criminals. Rude and brash Dutch pirates like Michiel de Ruyter were presented to us as our heroes. There is no worse way to demean a people.

I did not attend school until I was ten years old. Between the ages of ten and twelve I attended a Christian school in Albina, in the district of Marowijne. There were no public schools there. A Christian school devoted much of its curriculum to Bible teachings. They taught you to renounce your own culture. I even wanted to become a minister at the time. But my interest in my own culture prevailed. In 1968 I moved from Albina to Paramaribo for continuing education. In Paramaribo I witnessed the discrimination of children from the districts, especially youth from the forest, by other youths from Paramaribo. This greatly impacted the children, in particular the Maroon youngsters. They dared not to raise their hand to speak in class, out of fear of making mistakes and being ridiculed and pestered by their city peers. This was one of the things that incited me – at age thirteen – to start advocating Maroons rights and interests. I founded an organization called ABJO, Algemene Binnenlandse Jongeren Organisatie (translated: organization for youth of the interior) and launched an awareness movement of Maroon youngsters. This is how I began the struggle to improve the social position of Maroons. I no longer desired a career in the Christian ministry. I realized that the church, Christianity, taught one to look down upon one’s own culture and to accept subjugation and injustice, as they had done with the African ancestors during the times of slavery. To me Christianity is the evil that destroyed the Afro-Surinamese culture and that teaches people to accept injustice as a fate to which one should resign oneself. Therefore, at age thirteen, I turned my back on it.

In light of the awareness process, I took the initiative, in 1969, to install a special day, the Day of the Maroons, to celebrate the struggle for freedom and acceptance of the Maroon ancestors. Finally in 1974, this day was proclaimed. I am happy that the initiative spread nationally in Suriname. Aside from Maroons, more and more Surinamese from other backgrounds recognize its value and participate in it. This day is also celebrated in French-Guyana and the Netherlands, countries with large concentrations of Suriname Maroons. It is rewarding to see that what we start today, by ourselves, tomorrow may be taken up and carried forth by thousands of others.

Q-Your body of published work has grown tremendously, as has your list of achievements. For a man who has done so much already in such a short time, what goals have you set for the future?
I am of the opinion that you need to work diligently until your goal is fully reached. Much of the focus in the struggle I commenced has already been achieved. For example, Maroon culture is now an integrated part of Surinamese culture. Maroon dress is now worn by everyone in Suriname, including non-Surinamese. Maroons now participate fully in Suriname society. They embraced opportunities in education and employment. There are now Maroon scholars and Maroons are found in all sectors of the labor community: public service, education, law enforcement, health care (nurses, doctors), legal professions. You also see them on all levels of government offices: administrators, district supervisors, commissioners, heads of departments, people in diplomatic services (consuls, embassies), and so on. In short, Maroons no longer need to feel excluded because of being Maroon. The struggle my generation had to engage in during the sixties and seventies in Paramaribo – against discrimination and for acceptance – is no longer needed. Maroons and non-Maroons now can and must work side by side towards the development of the country. But, not all has been achieved. There is still much to be done to eliminate certain discrepancies, for example between the levels of education in Paramaribo and the interior. In addition to this, our people in the interior, and likewise the Suriname population at large, have yet to learn to appreciate what is uniquely their own. Our people must practice reflection: to evaluate, prior to each new step, to hold still for a while and look back to where you came from and consider where you are now, and to take your next steps from there, and decide upon your future. In other words, you must know yourself. He who knows not himself, is a person without a name. And a person without a name is one who lacks in social and psychological development.

As for my present activities. As of 2005, when I had my 50th birthday, I gradually ceased my involvement in a significant number of projects. Not because my job was done, but because I had promised myself and my family that I would take it easier from then on. In all my years of active involvement I had not enjoyed much time for myself and my family. Not that I have lots of time right now, but at least a little bit more than before. And today there are plenty Maroons who can continue the struggle where such is needed. I now spend most of my time recording, documenting and publishing on Maroon culture and history, from the viewpoint of the people themselves. And I attend to knowledge sharing and advising. Aside from that, I am Kabiten of the Ndyuka Maroons in the Netherlands. That also demands much of my time.

Q-By education, you are a phytopharmacist, a herbal doctor. How does one attain the knowledge that you have? In other words, could you tell us a little about your training?
I was born in and spent much of my earliest years in the tropical rainforest of Suriname. The first lesson I received from my parents and our community, was that the jungle is my pharmacy, my food storage, my home. In order to live there, I would need to be in harmony with nature, with all that surrounded me. I was taught to use nature without destroying it. I was taught that respecting nature is a precondition for survival.

Already at an early age children are educated about the medicinal applications of herbs for emergency treatments. Children are taught how to recognize plants and how to use them. Each section of the forest as its own plants. Those near the village are different from those deep in the woods.  From about the age of five a child accompanies its parents to the garden fields and that is a long way by foot. That is where the first practical lessons begin. You learn which fruits are edible, which ones are not, and which ones are poisonous. Among the first names I learned from my father were the Maipa Tree, also known as the Maripa. We passed this tree along our way to the garden and my father – a renowned herbal expert and nature doctor – cut a few ripe bunch of fruits from the tree and had me taste it. He also taught me all the characteristics of this tree. The leaves are used for roofing, among others, the pits supply food oil, the fruits are eaten and the roots are medicinal. The Maipa Tree is multifunctional.

Next you learned to recognize the plants that may serve as antidote in case you are affected by poisonous plants. During this learning process you also acquaint yourself with plants that can help you stay alive when you are lost in the bush. For example which plant juices you can drink when you are thirsty.
At the garden your mother teaches you about produce that serve as nutrition and how they grow. The bitter and sweet cassava, yamsi, napi, plantains, rice, bitawiri, makoko, corn, pine apple, and so forth. Women also possess a  specific knowledge of the herbs that aid with female conditions, child labor and child care. The girls, especially, get these teachings from their mother.

In those days, each child born and raised in the forest was awarded this basic knowledge of medicinal and nutritional plants, used for daily personal care and health issues. This education continued until the child reached the age of twelve. At twelve, a child could choose how it wished to be educated professionally. I chose medicine. I wanted to become a deesiman (a doctor). To determine whether you were suitable for the responsibilities of a deesiman, they evaluated your motivation, stamina, analytical skills, learning desires, stability and integrity. If you were considered suitable, then your uncles, aunts and others within the family would attend themselves to your training in that field. Their knowledge of herbs and the treatment of diseases was then transferred to you. This formational period lasted until you were about sixteen years old. You are then a basic healer at family or village level. As of your sixteenth birth day you can choose a specialization, such as treating bone fractures or contuses, paralysis,  internal diseases, male conditions, fertility defects, and so on. You are then apprenticed to specialists, also outside your family. After specialization you are a healer on national level. I was fortunate in that my father, who was a doctor, was also a veterinarian. That is how I learned to treat animals with plants as well, in addition to people, and how to use herbs to train hunting dogs. Specialization in one or more disciplines was a tough task. Your teacher or teachers constantly put your suitability to the test. The learning process was not continuous, however. It could take several years before your teachers considered you sufficiently capable to teach you all that they deemed necessary. After several practical exams your teachers announced to the community that, as of that day, you were a licensed healer and that he regarded you suitable for the position. A healer must also practice medicine with the utmost care. You have to take an oath on this.

Practicing as a deesiman is not easy. It requires expertise. It is a sabi, a science. It requires thorough knowledge of herbs and demands precision working. One is not willing to acquire the necessary knowledge and to be exact, is not suitable as a medical expert. Aside from knowing facts – theories of herbs, recipes, preparation, diseases, treatment – you must also be able to observe and to listen, be able to stand a great deal, have integrity, know people, and be willing to continuously explore your profession. I have been in this profession for over thirty years and continue to learn every day. I have also learned much from other cultures who also practice traditional medicine. I have learned, for instance, techniques that we, Maroons, do not know. For example in America I have familiarized myself with techniques that  longer preserve traditional   herbal health products. In the Netherlands I finished a pharmaceutical degree program and completed a course in clinical psychology provided by the Dutch federation for psychologists, the FZP (Federatie van Zelfstandige Psychologen). Furthermore, I enjoyed training in Hong  Kong, China, Thailand, India, Ghana and Nigeria.

Q-Herbal doctors are a widely known and accepted in Suriname, where people of various walks of life seek the help of professionals outside the ‘western’ medical field. Who are your clients in the Netherlands, a country that is known for its preference for ‘western’ medicine? How often and to what extend do you have to explain yourself to the Dutch public?
I came to the Netherlands in 1987 and although I did not officially found my health practice, Fytotheek Pakosie, until 1991, within three weeks of my arrival various organizations petitioned me for lectures, advice, research or treatments. My first assignment came in 1987, from the Dutch government, the Department of Justice. Then followed psychiatric institutions from all over the country. I was also asked to give guest lectures, among others at the faculty of Medicine of the University of Amsterdam. For two consecutive years I taught senior students of this faculty. In my spare time I explored the field to found my own practice. I studied laws and regulations, took courses, such as in business management, but also in pharmacy and clinical psychology. The course in Clinical Psychology, in particular, aided me to better fulfill assignments from psychiatric institutions and the department of Justice (prisons).

It gave me greater insight into the psychological and psychiatric reports on patients and offered me the tools to appropriately translate and communicate my own research results in the reports I wrote for the organizations that hired me.
In 1989 a Dutch family doctor in Amsterdam offered me to set up a practice in his office. I stayed there until 1991, when I started my own practice in Utrecht. In the beginning, only Surinamers, Antillians and Arubans elicited my services, but that soon changed. Others too, and among them white Dutch people, found their way to my office. Today, approximately 25 percent of my clientele are white Dutch. I do not need to explain myself or my methods to these white Dutch and other non-Surinamese clients any more than I do to other clients. They simply want help and seek this where they can find it. I subscribe to the idea that disease has no fatherland and so neither does medical science. Every culture has its own ways to treat disease. Each method of treatment is therefore applicable to every ill person, regardless of race, religion or culture.

Q-Considering your family’s tradition, will one or more of your children be following in your footsteps as a herbalist?
That was my wish, but I must face reality. The times in which I was born and raised in the tropical rainforest, are very different from the times in which we are now. Even if a child of our times would want to follow in the footsteps of its father or mother, in order to become a traditional Maroon herbalist, the current lifestyle and environmental conditions would prevent this child from receiving an education on a level equal to mine. I no longer live in the forest with my children. If they would want to learn, they would only be able to acquire knowledge of the treatment methods, the techniques and the methods of preparation. My own education contained much more, for instance the identification of herbs, gathering herbs, and so on. The herbs are only to be found in the forest. That is the only place where you can learn to identify and gather them. An established healer must be able to identify at least 500 different plants and know how to apply them. You don’t attain that wisdom in just a few days, and certainly not outside the forest. Young Maroons in the Netherlands are currently unable to obtain a full education in traditional herbal science. But I am happy that at least one of my children, my youngest daughter, has chosen medicine for a profession. She is to become a Farmaceutical Assistant.

Q-How often do you visit Suriname?
As of 1992 I have been to Suriname each year, especially to visit my home region in the forest. I gather herbs and exchange ideas with older people.

Q-You are widely regarded a pillar of Suriname Maroon culture. People respect you and look up to you. Who, in turn, do you look up to and admire?
The people I looked up to and admired were my father and a couple of other older people. Unfortunately, none are alive today. I learned much from them about Maroon medical science, culture and history. The present gaanman (highest authority) of the Ndyuka Marrons, Gazon Matodja, is someone I admire and for whom I hold the utmost respect, because of his wisdom and especially because of the dignified way in which he carries himself, as gaanman as well as an individual. Nelson Mandela is also a rolemodel to me. As is Mahatma Ghandi.

Q-In 2000, you were assigned the title of ‘kabiten’ (‘captain’) among the Ndyuka nation. What does this title mean?
As kabiten of the Ndyuka (or Okanisi) Maroons in the Netherlands I am the highest representative of the traditional authority of that community. I am its traditional leader. Together with my male and female Basiya (assistants) I comprise the Council of Kabiten and Basiya of the Okanisi in the Netherlands (you can find more information on this on the website www.Maroons-Suriname.com, under the tab Marron traditionele gezag: Raad van Kabiten en Basiya van de Okanisi in Nederland). The mission of the Council lies primarily in providing solutions and assistance for Maroons in matters that the Maroon organizations in the Netherlands cannot adequately solve through western methods of governance. Our role is particularly relevant in issues that pertain to the acquiring and fortifying of Maroon cultural identity. Everyone who so desires may appeal to the Council. The Council also aims to advocate the interest of the Okanisi community, especially in the Netherlands but also in Suriname.

Since my inauguration as kabiten in 2000, the Council eased a number of policies regarding the culture of the Okanisi community, in order to improve our position in society. To name some of these changes: the Council enabled the Potibaáka (the offical commencement of the mourning period for a widow or widower), and the Puubaáka (the official ending of the mourning period) to take place in the Netherlands, including adaptations to the ceremonies and rituals involved. Previously, people had to travel to Suriname to have this ceremonies. Now families may turn to the Council to conduct a Potibaáka and/or Puubaáka in the Netherlands. Within the structure of the Council a basiya may, in conference with and on behalf of the kabiten (the Council) conduct practices at Maroon traditional occasions. This new method has proved successful. The Council acts at disputes, deaths, birth rituals, initiation rituals and marriages.

Q-You recently organized a Ndyuka language course, the first of its kind. How difficult is it to learn Ndyuka? How does Ndyuka compare to Saramacca, what are the most important differences and similarities?
For starters, the Ndyuka language is linguistically categorized under the group of Surinamese Afro-English idioms, whereas the Saamaka language falls within the group of Surinamese Afro-Portuguese. These two Afro-Surinamese languages are so called Creole tongues. A Creole language is a language that develops in regions where the population consists of people whose mother tongues are different and unintelligible to one another. An assisting language, so to speak, derived from every day contact, a pidgin language. The history of origin and development of these two languages goes back to the seventeenth century, when Africans were held captive in European slave depots in Africa. To communicate with one another and the slave dealers, they devised new languages. This is how Ndyuka and Saamaka were created. Acquiring an understanding of Ndyuka is not any more difficult than learning any other language.
The Ndyuka Maroons did not have a written culture up until three decades ago. Nor do we have a written history, hardly at least. In the past, not even Sranan Tongo, the lingua franca in Suriname, was put in writing, except for translations of church books. Consequently, until the middle of the eighties of the previous century no official spelling for Sranan tongo existed. Anyone was free to write it in his own preferred way. Then secretary of Education, Alan Li Fo Sjoe, changed this. He installed a commission of linguistics who created an official spelling for Sranan tongo. However, most people have continued to write Sranan tongo the way they please. The same goes for Ndyuka. An official spelling does not exist. Many simply apply their own preferences.
To correctly write Ndyuka, you need a good grasp of Ndyuka alphabet. In 2003 I published an article ‘Writing in Ndyuka tongo, a creole language in South America’ (also found at www.Maroons-Suriname.com, under the tab Taal), which also contains the proper Ndyuka alphabet and the correct spelling.

Q-The Sabanapeti Foundation publishes a magazine, Siboga, featuring articles that are authored by you. The proceeds of the sale of this magazine go toward projects that aim to support Maroon communities in Suriname. What type of projects does Sabanapeti help finance?
Sabanapeti finances sustainable development projects of a smaller scale. Our aim is to enhance economical self-reliance, to ensure sound social-economical conditions and to improve the physical and mental well-being of people.  We have completed a number of projects for women, such as the deliveries of machines. We have provided tools for the processing of peanuts and cassava, the sowing of clothing, the fabrication of wood works, and so on. We have aided with computers and helped construct houses (again, for more on this, see http://www.Maroons-Suriname.com). A yearly activity, since 2002, is the School Bag Project: ‘Help a child in Suriname to a good start of the new school year’. Here, we donate school bags filled with school supplies to seventy children from lower income families in Paramribo and surroundings, so they can properly attend to their education.

Q-In general, what are the most pressing needs of the education system serving Maroon children in Suriname’s interior?
The quality of education in Suriname’s interior is still inferior compared to that in Paramaribo. A great number of teachers in the interior is unlicensed and poorly trained. They have no proper teacher’s education; merely a crash course of a couple of weeks. Despite their utmost efforts, they are incapable of providing lessons of standard quality. Nor are the schools sufficiently equipped with the necessary learning tools. And the results don’t lie: Maroon children of the forest who seek further education in Paramaribo and other towns that provide secondary schools, they score low at the admission exams. Licensed teachers for schools in the interior are often hard to find. But you cannot blame the licensed for not wanting to go there, either. Accommodations and other amenities in the forests are often substandard. Often the teachers are simply dropped in the woods and left to themselves for long periods of time. The government must first provide good infrastructure and build adequate teacher homes and ensure well payments. If a teacher in Paramaribo earns relatively more than his colleague in the forest, then no licensed teacher will have the ambition to go to the interior. The government needs to put an end to all these discrepancies. They should introduce a uniform system that equalizes the quality levels of education throughout the whole country. After all, education is a right, not a favor.

Q-After the 2005 elections in Suriname you wrote an article in Siboga on the successes of Maroon parties. You praised the nomination of three Maroon representatives in prime positions within the government, but also sent out a warning, namely that this victory – it being the first time Maroons were so widely represented in Suriname politics – should not be taken for granted. You urged Maroon politicians to continue to work diligently in order to maintain the acquired political influence. Unfortunately, the 2010 elections do not look good for Maroons. What are your thoughts on this?
The situation in which the Maroon parties, united in the A Combination have recently maneuvered themselves into, resulting in their exclusion from the May 25 2010 elections in three electoral districts – Paramaribo, Wanica and Para, is the worst thing they could have done to the community of the interior. Especially in these times, now that the community of the interior is so very conscious of the importance of representation in parliament and government, this situation is a hard blow in their face. The factual cause of this dramatic situation I do not know. I hear many rumors and insinuations. Of one thing I am certain: the quarreling of the leaders and advisors of the three parties in the A Combination was not about the interests of the people of the interior whom they represent. During a meeting of kabiten and basiyas with the leaders of the A Combination on April 6 2007 at Diitabiki, that I too attended as kabiten, the meeting summoned the three parties to merge into one party before the 2010 elections.

This summoning now seems to have fallen on deaf ears. Had they listened, then this blunder would probably not have occured. It is a pity, because whatever your critique on the A Combination, its participation in the government has bore fruit. A number of accomplishments have been reached for the interior, that would not have existed had the people of the interior not been represented in government. Now people may say that the realized plans originated in previous governments that the A Combination was not part of. But even so, the A Combination still made achievements. Making plans and carrying them out are two different matters. We know this from previous governments. From the time of Suriname’s autonomy in 1954 to well after its independence in 1975, up until, even, the time of the previous government, 5 and 10 year plans have been constructed including objectives for the development of the interior, which were never carried out. If they had, the interior would have long been developed.
Moreover, although the A Combination representatives serving in the government as secretaries of departments were being new to the job, their performance proofed second to none of their colleagues of other parties. Considering that they, contrary to their peers, had to do without the feedback of more experiences party members who had been part of previous governments, or experts whom the other parties did have, then they have not done bad at all.
Therefore it is unfortunate that the A Combination itself caused the present situation. I do hope, still, that in the A Combination will do everything in its power to collect as many votes as possible in those districts that it is allowed to participate, so that the party will at least be able to maintain the 5 parliamentary seats it won in the 2005 elections.

Q-As a well-known public figure, have you ever considered running for political office yourself? Why so, or why not?
In 1969, at the age of 14 I joined the PBP, the political party for Maroons at the time. I was its youngest member. Already at that age I had political amibitions and envisioned myself a future parliamentary representative of the interior. I took example from the older politicians in the party, such as Bill Pryor, George Leidsman,  Jarrien Gadden, Themar Strijder, to name a few. After the elections of 1969 Bill Pryor was chosen as party chairman. Jarrien Gadden felt passed over. Gadden then shrewdly, without the knowledge of the other PBP members and with the help of his guru, Jagernath Lachmon, who was not only the leader of the party for Hindustanis, the VHP, but also a lawyer, founded his own board on paper. He then proclaimed himself chairman of this board and legally appropriated the PBP. Gadden subsequently forbade the further use of the name PBP by the member elected board that Pryor presided. That is how we were forced, in 1970, to launch a new Maroon part, BEP. I was cofounder of this party. For the 1977 elections I was a candidate nominee for the electoral district of Upper-Marowijne.  However, I had not yet reached the legal minimum age of 23 for representatives. Paulus Dansiman, one of the party’s main propagansists was assigned to look for another candidate. He proposed Caprino Alendy. Caprino at first refused, because he thought he lacked the necessary political experience. I promised him my full support and he accepted the candidacy. I coached Alendy, in so far I was able to, until 1977. I was also campaign leader of the party in Upper-Marowijne. You should see Caprino Alendy now, he is a proficient politician, aside from the mistakes he too made and that have led to the exclusion of the A Combination in three electoral districts.

At the planned elections of 1980 I did act as advisor in the district of Lower-Marowijne. Although I had reached the legal minimum age and therefore was able to become a candidate, I was no longer available for this. The elections did not come off, either. Bouterse and his henchmen committed a coup and subjected Suriname to military dictatorship. Only in 1987 did elections again take place in Suriname. No, I have not ambitioned political candidacy since 1979.

Q- 2010 will mark the first celebration of Maroon Day in Suriname as a national holiday. How will the celebrations of this year be different from those in previous years, when Maroon Day was not an official holiday?
I was not personally present at the celebration of Maroon Day in Suriname, when president Venetiaan stated with certainty that Maroon Day will become a national holiday. I have heard his statement through videos of the celebrations and read about it in the press. I am very touched by the statement. Touched, because Maroon Day is my spiritual child, I am its founder. Again, it pleases me to see that what you do b yourself today, tomorrow may be taken up and carried forth by thousands of others. I am also happy that it is president Venetiaan who made the statement, because Ronald Venetiaan was one of my advisors in the time when I took the initiative for Maroon Day. He attended the first celebration of this day in 1974, as representative of the government. Venetiaan was secretary of Education and Development at that time. He was accompanied by his colleague, Olton van Genderen, the vice-premier and secretary of District Administration and Decentralization. So again, I am happy with the statement. But personally I do take into account that a national day does not have to be a holiday in the sense of a free day. I am not really sure what the president’s statement of a national day entails, precisely. It is not known to me if the organizers of Maroon Day in Suriname have consulted with the president afterwards. I did advise them to do so.

Q-There are also significant Maroon societies in Jamaica, Colombia and Venezuela. How close are the ties between the Maroon nations of Suriname and those of other countries in the region?
Work still needs to be done in this area, especially from Suriname and Frans-Guyana, but also from the other countries mentioned. In 1992 the Smithsonian Institution in Washington (USA) organized a conference for Maroon leaders. Maroon leaders from all over were invited: Suriname, Frans-Guyana, Jamaica, Colombia, and so on. I represented the Maroons in the Netherlands. At the closing ceremony the desire was expressed that the Smithsonian would repeat the meeting sometime in the future, but that never happened.

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