Wij Slaven van Suriname

Wij Slaven van Suriname

Anton de Kom [1898 – 1945] masterfully dictates Surinamese history in ‘Wij Slaven van Suriname’ [We the Slaves of Surinam]. Marking it as the most crucial book in the fight for a Surinamese identity.

‘Wij Slaven van Suriname’ is a page in [Dutch] history so black, it cannot be covered up. So it is often left out… Not to be used to understand the current social-economical and political climate in Surinam and more importantly, the Netherlands. 

Yet it is the first page in Surinamese history, my history. Reminiscing to when I first encountered the book, I felt an overwhelming sense of… clarity. ‘Ah, so this is my history’.

I was immediately intrigued by the man himself. Who is this person wasting no pages, no words and not a single letter in revealing the horrific truth! Writing honestly and with a hint of bitterness anybody would possess that called themselves a son of a former slave.

The publishing of his book [in 1934] was a direct attack on the then Dutch colonial regime. The first anti-colonial perception within a heavily whitewashed history.

‘Sranang’, my beautiful country, boasting unparalleled beauty in animals, forest and people. With gold mines marking it to be ‘El Dorado’ mismarked! Or the wild wild west reborn…? Surinam stands unbothered and to her knowledge, unconquered. For she cannot be tamed by foolish men, but only respected by her people. Who come far and wide from five different continents, marking it one of the most diverse countries in the world. 

In my young life, I have encountered few books that have drastically changed my perception in all directions. For all the answers I craved at a young age; every person, education, institution, and government failed me where de Kom’s book gave me a sense of closure I did not know I needed…

Anton knew that the children of Surinam would have a long and hard road to go before we could see ourselves as true equals ready to contribute to the world. ‘Wij Slaven van Suriname’ is simply offering a sliver of direction in a history that is commonly overlooked.

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