Saramacca Life

The serious nature of our conversations yesterday were gladly relieved when, out of a still moonlit night came a boat-load of drummers pounding their way down river. There was a celebration......... and we were invited. Later, walking along wet paths alive with the sound of frogs, the muffled beat of drums drew us nearer. The dance was sponsored by one of the many political parties wooing the people of the Interior for their vote in next week's general elections. Although the campaign gifts are readily accepted, seeing people wearing hats from one party and T-shirts from another is not uncommon. The effects of the tactics, while eagerly enjoyed, don't seem to attract any true loyalty.

No Ghetto blasters here! Just six men and boys thumping a range of percussion, the dance hut was hot and sweaty and jammed with people shaking to the raw beat. Around the edges the children gyrated, enthusiatically mimicking the evocotive dance of their elders. And it wasn't long before, amid screams of amusement, we were draggd into the dancing.......

We awoke with last night's drums ringing in our ears. We spent the morning gathering our gear together for an afternoon depature, swimming in the river and shaking off the effects of last night's 90% rum. Then we were treated to a Seketi Dance, lead by one of the captain's wives - Short chorus-like songs of love and loss. It was beautiful to watch as the women performed by the river's edge. The songs are sung in call and response, the leader singing the main part and the chorus section behind her responding, and keeping the rhythm with hollow clapping. A kind of blues that harks back to this proud people's African Roots.

Then we were taken off by Hugo and the captain's wife for a tour of the village and shown the different types of houses; the old with thatched palm roofs and walls and the new with corrugated iron roofs and breeze block walls. We were taken to a house where a group of women were preparing palm cooking-oil, baking the nuts before pounding them in a rhythmic thud with a giant pestle and mortar. Around the village different shrines stood under shaded thatches, I think the ancestor/grandmother shrines of the different families of the village, though I'm not sure about this and the people themselves are reluctant talk about their spiritual beliefs to complete outsiders like us. The impression we got of the village was of a kind of heaven - children peeping out of shaded doorways, and vistas through smokey paths back to the rivers edge; a veritable shangri-la.

Hugo wanted to show us the difference between Semoisie and his own village which is Christianised. So with sadness we ate lunch and bid a formal goodbye to the captain who wished us well with our work and hoped that it would be effective. After a two hour trip down-river we arrived at New Arora. Noticably there is no palm fronded entrance to the village and no scattered shrines throughout the village - instead a church and a school. Everything else seemed much the same As we wandered the paths through the village this evening we came across a group of elders carrying their traditional wooden stools. They had come for a meeting. Hugo greeted them and the discussion again imediately turned to yesterdays refusal by the Granman to speak to us. They nodded sagely as Hugo explained the situation and sympathised with our position.

Then we washed and swam in the creek slowly becoming more at home in the culture and nature that surounds us.


A Seketi Dance by the River

Making Palm Oil

Timeless Innocence