Mapping Suriname: Heritage

Mapping Suriname: Heritage

An introduction to the past that connect Suriname and the Netherlands.

Suriname and the Netherlands have had a historical bond for centuries and have a special tie through the presence of Suriname natives in the Netherlands. The ancient historical ties have left a lot of buildings and infrastructure in Suriname, which we today determine as shared cultural heritage.

A Shared History of Suriname and the Netherlands

The legacy of Suriname and the Netherlands goes back centuries. The native community of the Guyanas (northeastern South America) faced the first Spanish around 1500. The first Dutch sailed from the province of Zeeland at the end of the 15th century. The Dutch West India Company (WIC) built forts and posts. The first trade was with the native community. Later the WIC set up sugar, coffee, cotton and cocoa plantations. Suriname became a colony in 17th century and remained an English and Dutch colony until 1975.

Due to its Dutch influence, Suriname has many connections with other shared hertitage countries. The connections between the west coast of Africa and the ‘Wild Coast’ of Guyana are obvious: since labourers were scarce in what is now known as Suriname, the Dutch ‘bought’ labour in Africa. The WIC and other private companies transported men and women from the west coast of Africa to Suriname.

Suriname is connected to Brazil because a considerable part of the Brazilian Jewish population sailed to Suriname in 1665, settling in Jodensavanne. Many of these Jews continued on to the Antilles or New York.

After the abolition of the slave trade, Suriname was short of labourers. The WIC recruited contract labourers in Java, in the Indonesian archipelago. After the contracts ended, many Javanese returned to Indonesia, whilst others stayed in Suriname. Even now, the Javanese influence in Suriname can be seen everywhere. In 1873, the British recruited contract labourers from British India for the Dutch. Many British Indian contract labourers stayed in Suriname after their contracts ended, though some returned to British India. The most recent large migration stream from Suriname took place in 1975 when Suriname became independent of the Netherlands.

The Chinese community in Suriname has a similar history. Together with the native inhabitants of Suriname and the European-Surinamese, the Surinamese community has a rich legacy of shared cultural heritage.

The end result of all these contacts is the wealth of different kinds of tangible and intangible shared heritage that can be found in Suriname. Tangible heritage in Suriname comprises monuments, planning, plantations and sites. Examples of intangible shared heritage are rituals, language, oral history and stories, such as the Anansi stories. These stories, as well as the forms of tangible heritage, are a result of migration.