culture guide to Suriname

Anthropology: Overview of the History and Culture of Suriname

The name “Suriname” (Sranan, Suriname) may be of Native American origin. It is known for being a multi-ethnic as well as a multi-religious country. While there are multiple cultures present in the country, there is a distinct lack of representative culture to assign to the identity of the country.


Suriname tourism
by wanderlust travel magazine


Suriname is located in South America but is considered a Caribbean country. The total area is about 163,820 square kilometers. Most residents live in small coastal areas. Over 90% of the country is covered with tropical forests. Additionally, it is known to be a mostly tropical country, in which rainy and dry seasons alternate. Since the early colonial era, Paramaribo has been the capital.


The official population estimate for 2000 was 35,000. About 35- 0% of the population are descendants of British Indians (called Hindustani), 30-35% are Creole, 15% are descendants of Java, and 10% are brown. (Descendants of runaway slaves), 6,000 to 7,000 Native Americans. Chinese and Syrians are some of the other minority communities present in the nation. The population has increased since 1870, but there are many fluctuations. In the 1970s, large-scale migration to the Netherlands led to a declining population. Currently, about 300,000 Suriname’s live in the Netherlands.

Language links

The official language and teaching language is Dutch, but about 20 languages are spoken. Creole and the main language Sranan were developed in plantations and spoken between masters and slaves. Sranan is an English-based Creole language with elements of African, Portuguese, and Dutch. Efforts to make Sranan the official language have been hit by resistance from the non-Creole community. Other major languages are Hindustani Sarnami and Java Suriname. Chinese speaks Hakka. All Brown languages are based on English. Eight Native American languages are spoken.

History, ethnic relations, and identity

Early history

The history of the nation indicates Suriname being a classic Caribbean plantation society. In 1650, English settlers and Sephardic Jewish refugees from Brazil introduced the cultivation of sugar. When the Dutch took control from the British in 1667, 50 sugar cane plantations were in operation. After the number of properties declined, Suriname developed into a thriving colony producing sugar, later coffee, cocoa, and cotton. During the 19th century, sugar exports were more stable, but the value of these products plummeted.

In 1788, there were 50,000 slaves out of a population of 55,000, but there were not many slave revolts. In 1770, 5,000 to 6,000 fugitives or runaway slaves lived in the woods.

Progressive era

History of Suriname
by repeating islands

After working as guerrillas for a long time, they founded an independent company in it. 215,000 to 250,000 slaves were transported mainly from West Africa to Suriname. Slavery was not abolished until 1863. After a 10-year transition period when former slaves had to do paid work on the plantations, contract workers from Europe and Asia were brought in to replace them. From 1873 until the end of World War I, about 34,304 immigrants arrived from British India. The second stream of immigrants came from the Dutch East Indies and brought in around 33,000 Javanese contract workers between 1890 and 1939. The idea was that Asian immigrants would return to their hometowns as soon as the union was formed. Their coins have expired, but most remain.

The policy of the Dutch colonial government was a policy of assimilation. Indigenous customs, traditions, languages, and laws were to replace Dutch languages, laws, and cultures. Furthermore, a compulsory education aspect was added, which was a major element of the policy. However, the Javanese and Hindu traditions proved so strong that by the 1930s assimilation had been superseded by clear ethnic diversity. Despite the resistance by the Creole citizens, the Asian traditions and cultures were accepted by the governor.

Modern history

The Creole elite gained influence as a result of the political process that began in 1942 when the Netherlands promised greater autonomy to the colonies. Creole’s slogan, “My Boss,” represents a dominant emotion. Many political parties were formed before the first general election was held in 1949. In 1954, Suriname became an autonomous region of the Kingdom of the Netherlands. World War II had a strong impact on the socio-economic structure of the country.

In time, the security provided by the presence of troops from the US has helped in increasing employment. As a result of this urbanization, Paramaribo gradually became a multi-ethnic city and the proportion of Creoles in the urban population was decreasing. The position of the black Creole elite has been called into question by the so-called alliance policies related to the unethical political cooperation between the Creoles and the Hindustani. Later, Creole nationalism led to opposition to the aforementioned Hindostani party. Despite strong resistance from the Hindustan party and the fact that the majority in the government’s parliament is small, the Creole-Java coalition dominated the country.

National Identity

After independence, Suriname sought to achieve an integration process that transcended ethnic, social, and geographic barriers. The process was accelerated by the military junta, which came to power on February 25, 1980, but lost public support when serious human rights violations were committed on suspicion of murder in December 1982. The transition to democracy in 1987, helped in reviving the “old political party”. Empower. Race, class, and ethnicity continue to play an important role in national life.

Town planning and architecture

With a population of 280,000 inhabitants, Grande Paramaribo is the only city with a traditional commercial center. Paramaribo is multi-ethnic, but the rest of the coastal population often lives in ethnically divided villages.

Paramaribo is a 300-year-old colonial town with many wooden buildings in the old town. A unique ethnic architectural style has been developed, the most prominent of which is the house with its square brick foundation, white wooden walls, high gable roof, and green shutters. Multi-ethnicity is reflected in the many churches, synagogues, Hindu temples, and mosques.

Food culture and economy

Javanese food
by Suriname tourism board

Many immigrants to this country leave behind traces of cooking. The only real local dishes are chicken and rice. Paramaribo is famous for Javanese, Chinese, and restaurants. Bread, roti, and rice are the preferred breakfast options among countryside households. This depends on the ethnic identity of the household; Creole, Hindustani, or Javanese. Usually, the main meal is served at 3 pm.

Ceremonial habits

Weddings and birthdays, especially those celebrating Jubilee, the so-called bigari, are served in large quantities. In Javanese religious life, a ceremonial meal is called suramethane to commemorate events such as birth, circumcision, marriage, and death.

Basic economy

Commercial agriculture is confined to the narrow alluvial coastal zone. The small owners are mainly Javanese and Hindu. The largest paddy fields belong to the government. The country is self-sufficient in rice and also exports some tropical fruits and vegetables. In 1996, agriculture contributed 7% of the national economy and employed 15% of the active population. There is a small fishery. Overall, this country is a net importer of food.

Ownership and land title

Collective land tenure agreements are part of the legal system. Co-ownership of farmland is found among the Maroons, Native Americans, and Javanese.

Trade and major industries

The most important sector in the mining industry, with bauxite and gold as the main products. Most bauxite is processed to produce alumina domestically. Alumina and aluminum account for three-quarters of exports. It is difficult to estimate gold production.

During the 1990s, the main trading partners were Norway, the United States, the Netherlands, and the Netherlands Antilles. In addition to catches, exports include rice, bananas, shrimp, and timber. Imports are mainly from the United States, the Netherlands, and Trinidad and Tobago, including capital goods, basic products, and chemicals.

Department of labor

More than half of the workforce is employed by the state. These jobs are formally assigned based on education, experience, and expertise, but informally, ethnicity and politics often play a role.

Social Stratification The class is becoming more and more multi-ethnic due to the social mobility of all population groups. The class structure is based on income and based on social status. The upper class included import/export merchants, businessmen, politicians, and military officers. The devaluation of the currency has crushed the middle class (civil servants, retirees, teachers, health care workers) who traditionally relied on bonds. The gap between rich and poor is widening. Hindustani could not maintain the caste system after leaving India, but the concept of caste remained.

Social structure, cultural and religious views

Creole women
by eyes on Suriname

Relative gender roles

Data on the formal workforce points to a significant percentage of participation of women, many of whom are employed in the informal sector. Women also work in subsistence agriculture. Despite the financially independent positions of many women in the family, women, in general, cannot claim equal status in society. The domestic status of women varies. Women are the emotional and economic center of many Creole (motherly) families, yet they are subservient to traditional and patriarchal Hindu circles.

Marriage, family, relatives

Many couples belong to the same ethnic group, but in Paramaribo, there are mixed marriages. In traditional Hindu families in agricultural areas, parents still choose a mate for their children. Weddings can be very luxurious. Cohabitation without marriage is common but unacceptable to traditional Hindus whose wives are believed to be virgins. The Caribbean family system accepts that families with wives and wives have children from different partners. Some women practice monogamy. It is more common for men to have more than 1 sex partner at the same time. Having a mistress (buitenvrouw) is acceptable and is generally not kept a secret. Brown men often have different wives in different villages. However, these men were responsible for providing each woman with huts, boats, and cleared land for subsistence farming.

Domestic units

Domestic units vary in type, size, and composition, ranging from families with women to extended families. Among the Hindus, the community family system has been replaced by the nuclear family and the power of men is diminishing.

Parent group

The Maroon clan system is based on a common belief in a common matrilineal lineage. The village population can significantly overlap with matrilineal (lo) clans.

A typical Creole expression, mostly urban, is “no span” (“calm, don’t worry”), which generally symbolizes a relaxed atmosphere. People are known to be kind and most homes do not have applause or bells. They usually take off their shoes when entering. Usually, you need to attend a meal. Informal conversations begin with a handshake, and good friends are greeted with a hug (Brasa). Children should respect adults, use a formal address when speaking, and be quiet when adults speak.

Religious Beliefs

The most followed religions in the region are; Christianity, Hinduism, and Islam. About 80% are Hindus, 15% are Muslims and 5% are Christians. Most Creoles are Catholic. Moreover, the Moravian Church and Roman Catholic churches have the most followers among the Christians. The Pentecostal church has grown. Most Javanese are Muslims. Officially, most Americans are baptized, as are many Maroons. However, many of these groups also hold traditional religious beliefs. The most important alternative to Maroon and Creole is Winty, a traditional African religion banned until the 1970s. Religions of all faiths are covered by the Department of the Interior.

Medicine and health

Despite the lack of public funding, health indicators are comparable to those of other Caribbean countries. The average life expectancy in 1996 was 70.5 years, in contrast to 64.8 years in 1980. The infant mortality rate in 1996 was 28 per 1,000 live births (which used to be 46.6 in the 1980s). The intensive care unit is available at the Paramaribo University Hospital. There is a medical station inside. Healers are often consulted in all population groups.

Secular celebration

Public holidays include; January 1 (New Year), Eid al-Fitr (End of Ramadan), Holipagwa (Hindu New Year, March / April), Good Friday, and Easter Monday (March / April) ), May 1 (day) is included. , July 1 (Ketikoti, Liberation Day, formerly Free Day), November 25 (Independence Day), December 25-26 (Christmas).

Arts and humanities

Government, private, and art support is virtually non-existent. Most artists and writers are amateurs. The shortage of publishers and the lack of money made it difficult to write and sell literature. Some even have to resort to selling their works on the streets. The most famous writers live and work in the Netherlands. In contrast, oral literature has been more important to the locals.

Painting is the most developed graphic art. The most popular form of art is music. The music of Kaseko and Kawina, originally sung and played on the farm, was very popular with Creoles. Among Hindustan songs, Hindi movies and video songs take precedence. Some traditional Javanese gamelan orchestras play traditional Javanese songs.

Cultural significance in anthropology

culture guide to Suriname
by ITAP guide

The main symbols of the “fictitious community” are the national flag, the coat of arms, and the national anthem. A flag was hoisted on Independence Day. The flag has stripes of different colors on it(green, red, white, yellow stars, etc.). Green is a symbol of childbirth, white is a symbol of justice and peace, and red is a symbol of patriotism. In the middle of the red stripe is a yellow five-pointed star, representing the unity of people and the “golden future”.

The five points represent five continents and five major population groups. The coat of arms depicts two Native Americans with shields and the slogan JustitiaPietasFides (“JusticeLoveFidelity”). The reverse side of the shield shows the ship. The right palm represents the future and is a symbol of integrity. The anthem is based on Dutch compositions from the late 19th century.

Independence Day has lost meaning for many people due to political and socioeconomic problems since independence. Mamio quilts are often used as an intimate symbol of Suriname’s people and cultural diversity. It reflects a sense of pride and belief in cooperation between people. The wealth and potential fertility of a nation are expressed in the saying “Put a stick on the ground and it will grow”.

Surinamese are known for usually being calm and relaxed. They are known as excellent presenters. Most houses in the village have no bells or bells. Consequently, you need to remove the railing when you enter the house. Meals are provided for them. Handshakes and hugs are common greetings. Babies learn to respect their elders from an early age. Suriname’s culture is diverse, vibrant, and has a strong influence on Asia, Africa, and Europe.


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