Koto, angisa, odo interview

Interview met /with Christine van Russel-Henar

Christine van Russel-Henar is the driving force behind the Koto museum in Paramaribo. I spoke with her about the way language, oral culture and traditional Surinamese wear are connected. The interview is in Dutch. Below you will find a transcription in Dutch, followed by a translation to English.

Christine van Russel-Henar is de drijvende kracht achter het Koto museum in Paramaribo. Ik sprak haar over de verbinding tussen orale cultuur, taal en traditionele Surinaamse kleding. Hieronder vind je het interview uitgeschreven in het Nederlands, gevolgd door een vertaling naar het Engels.

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Kwatta Pasie

Buses in Paramaribo are privately operated, mostly by Hindustani owners. The buses are small, but still pack around 30 people. They are extensively decorated, mostly with movie heroes, crazy lettering, beautiful women, pop stars, slogans, patterns. In terms of themes, Bollywood seems to dominate the landscape.

The 2009 / 2010 SPAN project organised activities to stimulate conversation about contemporary art and visual culture in Suriname, about art practice in a particular location at a particular time. This was developed through meetings, a book, an exhibition, and a blog.

This blog post reports about a meeting between contemporary artists, street sign painters who paint advertisements on walls and bus painters. It mentions that “bus painters concentrate on stars and heroes, emblems of beauty, to attract people.” In itself that seems not too have changed that much since then, but an apparent change is the absence of hand painted imagery on buses. Most, if not all decoration is done using digital images, photo’s, computer designed typography, printed on self adhesive supports which are applied to the vehicle.

Mister Radjen operates a bus between Knuffelsgracht / Heiligenweg and Kwatta. His car is titled ‘Kwatta Pasie‘. The word ‘pasie’ being a brilliant mongrel between ‘passie’ the Dutch word for ‘passion’ and ‘pasi’ the Sranan word for road, or passage. I haven’t asked if this is a deliberate word play.
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Repetitie Ademhalen

Voorstelling Ademhalen, Cultureel Centrum Suriname, 18-03-2017

Zondag 17 februari. Ik val binnen in een kerkdienst van de gemeente Maranatha, die gegeven wordt in de voorzaal van het Cultureel Centrum Suriname op de Kwattaweg in Paramaribo.

Van ver hoorde ik de bulderende preek. Twee mannen op een podium, voor een zaal met meisjes, jongens, vrouwen en mannen. De dienst is in het Engels en wordt zin voor zin vertaald naar het Nederlands. De Engelstalige zware stem is luid en krachtig. Het Nederlands volgt functioneel op lager volume, en nestelt zich tussen de eindes en beginnen van de Engelse zinnen. De frontale opzet suggereert dat het de hogere machten zijn die hier aan het woord zijn.

De inhoud van de preek: de vrouw moet haar dienstbaarheid aan god tonen door gehoorzaam te zijn aan haar man. De man op zijn beurt dient god door te zorgen voor zijn kroost en vrouw. “Zoals Jezus voor zijn gemeenschap zorgt, zorgt de man voor zijn familie.” Voor de predikant, en voor leden van de kerkgemeenschap is dat misschien een waarheid die hier nog eens bevestigd wordt, maar voor mij kan dit soort patriarchale indoctrinatie echt niet door de beugel.

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IEKA St*rbucks HEMA

IKEA is a swedish furniture company.
IEKA is a shop voor building materials in Paramaribo.
Starbucks is an american coffee company.
St*rbucks is a shop for windows, doors and lighting in Paramaribo.
HEMA is a dutch grocery store.
HEMA is a surinamese chinese restaurant in Paramaribo.

Poti dati dape – getting to grips with Sranan basics

I am trying to pick up some Sranan tongo. Dutch might be the official language of Suriname, knowing a bit of the other languages that are spoken here in Paramaribo, helps in understanding how people communicate in such a multilingual city. Sranan is the most spoken language, it is a living language, in continuous state of change, and people from a wide range of backgrounds speak it. Creoles, Buru, Hindustani, Javanese, Chinese ….

This website has been a great help to start things up: it provides quite a good dictionary Sranan < -> English:

With some other neighbors I am staying in Stichting Unu Pikin (our children) Some of the neighbors are here for a holiday, some for a longer residency, some live permanently here. An is staying for several months, she is retired, living in De Bijlmer, in Holland. Being from Surinamese origin she comes here every year to visit family and revisit her former home town Paramaribo.

Today, before the rains came, she sat with me on the veranda to help with my pronunciation. Bless her, she takes time for that and she is bearing with my terrible beginner level.

Below is a recording, you can listen and speak along and improve your own Sranan. The little side note An adds about medicinal herbs testify of her professional life as a nurse and her common sense to be critical of too many chemical medicine.
I pasted a quick transcription of the most important words below. It will contain misspellings, please let me know if you have improvements to propose.

If you wonder why we talk about such sososani things, we are refering to some exercises from “Sranantongo, Surinaams voor reizigers en thuisblijvers” by Michaël Ietswaart and Vinije Haabo, a great help. So our subjects might not seem terribly exciting, but it all makes sense in the bigger scheme.

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ABS – In God we trust

I am in Paramaribo to look at how different languages are used. I am particularly interested in the relation between Dutch, being the national language, and Sranan which is the language most people speak. The goal is to look at comparative cases that will help to develop new methodologies for working in between language groups in Brussels, as in for example the previous language projects Parlez-vous Saint-Gillois? and De Schaarbeekse taal. As part of my five week stay, I roam the city to note and photograph language in public space. How is language choice, variation and diversity at play in official announcements, in commercial and individual notes, in how people speak to each other?

The Algemeen Bureau voor de Statistiek, or ABS (General Office for Statistics) has its headquarters on the Klipstenenstraat 5 in Paramaribo. A window display visualises the workflow logics of the ABS, see the image above.
In the middle we find the logo of the ABS surrounded by the national colours of Suriname. In the left green column we have the ‘data providers’ (government, enterprises and households). The ABS inquires (enquete), their ‘responses’ are outputted to the square Suriname.
The fallen ‘distribution’ arrow, was presumably meant to indicate that information is distributed to the parties mentioned in the right hand green column, the ‘data users’ (students, government, unions, enterprises, individuals, organisations) Their wishes are uttered to the Suriname square, critique is funneled back to ABS, which completes the circle.
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Demon on off

This light-piece is adding drama to the implicit and restrained art deco style of the Sainctelette bridge between Molenbeek and the center of Brussels. The general lighting of the whole bridge is quite sober. The four demon faces on the inner side of the bridges pillars are lit from below which creates an eery atmosphere, but rather of the cliché kind. One of the faces is now lit in a fast paste tempo that puts some nervous spice in the bridge’s nightly existence.

The work is on view since 2014. I still need to work on installing a sign with motivation, background info and credits.

Demon relief in context of the bridge pillar and surroundings.

Metal box containing light fittings

In 2009, when the general LED lighting was provided, Phillips together with Brussels minister for mobility and public works Pascal Smets were proud to announce on the Phillips Newscenter website that the electricity consumption of the new LEDs was “less then the consumption of three vacuum cleaners”.
(In case the site is down or no longer available, I pasted that news in a PDF file which you can read here.)

The information panel next to the bridge reads:

Sainctelette square takes its name from Charles Xavier Sainctelette (1825 – 1898), a liberal politician, an industrialist who was linked to coal merchants in Hainaut and a staunch defender of the Port of Brussels. It dominates the junction between the Willebroek Canal (16th century) and the Chareleroi Canal (1832), two waterways that are complementary but that have distinct histories.

The bridge was built in 1934 by the architect Victor Rogister, and is framed by four large idealised human figures made from blue stone by the sculptor Ernest Wijnants. They are in the Art Deco style, thereby demonstrating one of the styles showcased during the Brussels International exhibition of 1935.

(port.brussels / visit.brussels)

The central theme of the world exhibition was colonisation and the 50th birthday of Congo-Freestate. (the Belgian colony) The style of the bridge is very much in keeping with that of the Exhibition Palace on the Heysel, or even the Basilic of Koekelberg which is further up the road. Typical projects built with money from the colonies.

Creative Politics

Between 6 and 15 october, I participated in a residency organised by LCD lab in Guimarães Portugal focussing on the theme Creative Politics. The participating hackers, artists, theoreticians, developers, designers tackled many ideas in small groups, and some more ideas were being discussed over diners and after hours.

A few axis that dominated our work during the residency:
– Much work was done on the development of digital works and platform. A scenario and demo of an online game was developed in which the player is attributed points helping him or her to succeed as a ‘political manager’
– Thought was dedicated to how to set up strategies to ‘market’ political engagement; how to involve people in the somewhat unsexy work of politics? What about songifying your messages ? (or Rapify if that is your preferred Android app)
– Some people investigated citizen journalism and alternative ways to use information resources. Comparitive News looked at how trustworthy journalistic sources are by comparing news on the same subjects from different resources. Some paperware systematics were drawn for a method to harvest and publish spoken gossip from public places where citizens gather.
– The work on available resources extended to urban space: what basic needs can be provided for when using the city creatively ? Where to find free food and housing ? How can people appropriate hack and shortcut political decision making processes that determine hat can and can not be done in public space? This page served as a collection of interventions and test.
– Yet another related angle was to investigate open data in Portugal. A blog was set up to gather links and report on developments concerning open data.

A much more elaborate version of the above can be found on this etherpad page: http://meetingwords.com/pOAGlGlpEU