|Back to Witagron
Today Started with a
hurried trip to the last highlights of Raleagh Vallen. The nearby waterfall
was guarded by a Kwinti shrine. Raymond explained that it, like most
such constructions was a grandmother shrine and the bottles at the foot
of it are offerings to grandmother ancestors. Later we interviewed the
Captain of the Kwinti who explained how the headship of the tribe passed
matrilineally down to him. He is his father's first wife's eldest son.
Bidding a hurried farewell to Pistol we were soon on our way, and were
treated to a gloriously sunny river trip back down the Coppername River.
Just before we met the road at Witagron, we payed a short visit to Kaaimanston
(So called because in earler days a huge Caiman was said to habitually
languish on a rock by the landing station. We saw no sign.....
Kaaimanston is Raymond's village and he did us the honour of introducing
us to his grandmother. He then explained to us some of the customs and
history of the Kwinti. There are less than 1,000 Kwinti and they formed
a uniquely close relationship with the local Amerindian groups. As a
result they have a much deeper understanding of the rainforest than
some of the other Maroon tribes of Suriname. It was interesting that
Raymond had little idea of the days of slavery that preceded the establishment
of his people. When asked hoow long the village had been there he replied
"Thousands and Thousands of Years". We have heard that the Saramaccas
and Njukas have a much deeper sense of that bloody part of their history.
This isn't surprising since thy form the vanguard of the struggle against
the Dutch and eventually won their freedom. The Kwinti seem to have
had a much more humble origin.
The tribe was established by two brothers, with the eldest who obviously
gave his name to Witagron, and his younger brother who founded Kaaimanston
a mile or so up river. There are still customs and traits which we can
only assume derive from African roots. Healing techniques, and menstrual
prohibitions etc.... One interesting (and amusing) detail is the adult
initiation which consists of standing naked in front of the entire village
for half an hour; so that, as Raymond explained, everyone knows who
is (and isn't) a "bigiman".
We moved on to Witagron and finally met the captian of the Kwinti who
gave us a short interview. He outlined the way in which the Kwinti were
working with STINASU and that it was a good partnership. The Kwinti
earn some solid income through guiding tourists and researchers in the
area. In addition they were still able to hunt in their ancestral lands
and fish in waters that are sure to be clean after flowing through the
Central Surinamese Reserve.
We left having just scratched the surface of this small but fascinating
culture. If anyone out there has any deeper information on the Kwinti
then we would love to hear from you and learn more. All I can say for
sure is that we left the Kwinti with the impression of an irrepressible
and musical people full of jokes and stories around the campfire .......
Oh and Raymond............... Aye Man!!
The Captain of the Kwinti