Granman Gazon- Voice of the N'Dukas

In keeping with the cultural importance of rum in the Maroon communities of Suriname and having spent so long away from the simple luxury of a fridge stocked with ice cold drinks, we acclimatised to the complete change of environment with a few drinks last night...Although we woke again to the intensity of a turquoise equatorial sky and the powerful brilliant white clouds that have mesmerised us throughout this trip, there did seem to be a thunderous cloud inside my head this morning. Not the most comfortable state to have visited the paramount Chief of the N'duka people, but having silently guzzled a large recuperating coffee, I gathered my senses and Johannes guided us to meet Granman Gazon.

We passed through the clean white sandy lanes that separate the intimately spaced houses admiring the intricately decorated old- style homes that serve as a living reminder of the strong cultural heritage of the N'Duka people. In comparison to its surroundings the house of Gazon is a stately two-storied concrete house that wouldn't look out of place in the suburban streets of Paramaribo. In his immaculately cared for garden we where briefly introduced to the Basha who would be conveying through Johannes our intentions. Looking strong for his 80 years, Gazon sat regally in a high -backed chair amidst all sorts of memorabilia, gifts and trophies that gave away the status of this well respected leader- a picture of Bill Clinton, the Dutch Royal family, past and present Surinamese leaders, a certificate from Yale University, military photos and tribal gifts all hung curiously from the walls. Granman Gazon listened attentively to the outline of our project, and as the clearest indication of what we are doing we took the opportunity to show our 'work in progress' on the computer. Again the unique position we are in and the advantages of such a direct approach won us favour with the Granman, and in a true display of Maroon diplomacy he suggested that we reconvene later in the day so that he could summon the Captains of Dritibiki and let them also voice their concerns about life here (and give himself time to eat and compose his thoughts). With the distant drumming of the mourning ceremony still filling the air, we made our way back to the lodge to prepare.

Having escaped the stifling mid-day heat we returned refreshed in the early afternoon to a room full of the wizened representatives of Dritibiki and the meeting began with a wide circle of warm hand- shakes. In turn the Captains spoke out as the Basha made constant and almost poetic affirmations of their words.... A fascinating process. It was clear from the animated faces and concise gesticulations that the problems are well recognised. Having filmed the whole meeting we let Johannes share the essence of the speeches and we would translate the full gravity of their words when we had more time, (for the documentary film).

Fundamentally the problems the N'Duka are living with seem to mirror the problems of all the peoples living in the interior- a lack of communication with 'the outside world' ,or more precisely Paramaribo, which often leads to them being misrepresented. The poor health facilities and, in some ways most importantly, the lack of adequate education. The older generation are totally aware of the importance of the surrounding 'bush' but the youth will exploit any means necessary to fulfil their needs. Sadly the most rewarding way seems to be at the expense of their homelands in the highly damaging goldmines that are springing up all over this area.

The Maroon community here has a long history of gold panning, but this 'old school' low impact method that introduced much needed income to their old forest ways is long gone. It is now replaced with the unmonitored teams of largely Brazilian miners that bring in heavy machinery, bars and in some cases prostitutes. The elders of Dritibiki expressed to us the need for change, but they simply do not have the resources to stop the breakdown of the traditional fabric of community life. We would like to spend more time in this vibrant place but we are racing off tomorrow to meet a mining specialist (Jan Horsden) who will hopefully shed more light on these complex issues.

Finishing the meeting Gazon jovially remembered what he had said to his hosts at a conference in New York "You are a rich country, you should put more energy into sharing your knowledge than making weapons" we wish so too.............


Echoes of the Past

How it Works

Considering the Platform

Sharing Views

Closing Notes

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