Monday, April 05, 2010

Bondage - enslavement - serfage - confinement

I wish I could remember all their names. My 20,000 ghosts. They all had names. Beautiful African names. We were apes, they were human.
Remember those gripping words? Quoted them before. In December 2008 to be exact. They are John Newton’s, a former British slave ship captain. It was this very captain who eventually composed the song ‘Amazing Grace’, thus triggering thousands of people to fight this injustice called slavery, amongst them William Wilberforce a leading British abolitionist who spent his lifetime trying to get slavery abolished.

At the time British parliament would not hear of it. After all, why end such an incredibly lucrative trade that had been i
ntegral to the West Indies sugar cane plantations filling the bank accounts of British merchants and literally pouring sugar into millions of cups of so-called English tea. Britain eventually abolished slavery in 1807. The US followed suit in 1808. It took the Dutch until 1st July 1863 to do the same, thus ending some 250 years of bondage, confinement, serfage or any other word you may prefer to slavery.

The 21st century

If World War II - only 65 years ago - has left a huge mark on western society,
one cannot begin to fathom the impact of 250 years of slavery. In both cases the ideology of some sort of supremacy prevailed, giving food for thought for future generations. The long shadow of war, of slavery.

Ever since the early eighties of the last century various writers of Dutch and Surinamese origin have tackled the topic of slavery. In this respect, one of the most famous writers is Cynthica McLeod who recently had various of her novels translated into English, amongst them the much acclaimed Hoe duur was de suiker? – which has appeared under the English title The Cost of Suger.

With her fascinating novels Mcleod kickstarted a renewed interest in Surinam’s colonial past, this time from the perspective of the Surinamese themselves. And Mcleod ruled until ... Stay tuned.