|Regions with significant populations|
|Suriname (Paramaribo · Coronie · Brokopondo · Marowijne · Para)|
Netherlands, United States
|Dutch, Sranan Tongo, Saramaccan, Ndyuka, Kwinti, English, French|
|Christianity, Islam, Afro-American religions, Traditional African religions|
Afro-Surinamese people are the inhabitants of Suriname of Sub-Saharan African ancestry. They are descended of enslaved people brought to work on sugar plantations. Many of them escaped the plantations and formed independent settlements together, becoming known as Maroons. They maintained vestiges of African culture and language.
Most of the enslaved peoples imported to Suriname came from Central Africa (more than 66,900 enslaved, 35 % of the total number), Ghana (more than 53,000, 28% of the total) and Bight of Benin (more than 34,700, 16% of the total). Thousands of enslaved people also arrived from Senegambia (more than 1,300, 0.7% of the total) and the current Sierra Leone (more than 1,400, 0.7% of the total), Windward Coast (more than 7,520, 3.6% of the total) and Bight of Biafra (more than 4,300, 2.1% of the total).
The Akans from the central Ghana were, officially, the predominant enslaved group in Suriname. However, in practice, slaves from Loango, purchased in Cabinda, Angola, were the largest group of slaves in Suriname since 1670; they surpassed the number on the Gold Coast in almost all periods. Enslaved people including the Ewe (who live in southern Ghana, Togo and Benin), Yoruba (from Benin) and Kongo (who live in the Republic of Congo, Democratic Republic of the Congo and Angola), all left their cultural footprints in Suriname.
The Dutch were involved in the slave trade during the early colonial years. They sought office space for their plantations. The space they received was when the British in the Treaty of Breda (1667) gave land on the northern coast of South America, ceded to them in exchange for New York. Suriname became a slave colony. Slaves were rapidly shipped from Africa to Suriname to work on coffee and sugar plantations for the Dutch and other Europeans.
Over time, the slaves got used to their new environment and they created space for their African religion with many 'wintis', spirits. Some slaves asked their spirits for help with fleeing from the plantation.
Thus, every Saturday night under the watchful eye of the plantation owners and black overseers, dance parties were held until late into the night, to the great amusement of the slaveowners.
Afro-Surinamese scholar Gloria Wekker argues, for example, that working-class Afro-Surinamese women retained pre-colonial African cultural understandings of gender, sexuality, and spirituality. She, and other theorists, argue that African cultural retentions are found most often in Afro-diasporic communities that either had irregular contact with dominant groups of the host community or that shielded their cultural retentions from their colonizers. As Wekker observes, Surinamese slaves socialized, communicated, and communed with little white cultural, social, or linguistic interference.
Escaped slaves in French Guiana and Suriname fled to the interior and joined with indigenous peoples to create several independent tribes, among them the Saramaka, the Paramaka, the Ndyuka (Aukan), the Kwinti, the Aluku (Boni), and the Matawai. Because of their long isolation in interior Rain Forests, they maintained more African culture than did ethnic Africans in the cities. From 1972 to 1978, two American professors, S. Allen Counter and David L. Evans, made seven voyages upriver into the maroon areas. Both African Americans, they wanted to contact these communities and learn about the peoples, to see what African cultures they followed.
By the 1990s, the maroons in Suriname had begun to fight for their land rights to protect territory which they had long occupied. They won an important case in 2007 at the Inter-American Court of Human Rights, which ruled they had rights to their traditional lands.