Saamaka

16mm on digibeta, 50 minutes, b&w, 2010
concept and realisation: Karel Doing
in collaboration with: Totomboti
based on: Djoeka by L.C.Reedijk
original footage: EYE Film Institute



After completing 'Looking for Apoekoe' a second opportunity emerged to work together with the artist collective Totomboti and the people of the Suriname village Pikinslee.

In the Netherlands I was made aware of the film 'Djoeka' completed around 1932. This film was credited to L.C.Reedijk, a Dutchman, living and working in Suriname. He was a reserve lieutenant in the army. Besides Suriname, he spent some time in the east, where he had a plantations on the east coast of Sumatra. During his stay in the two colonies, he made a number of films including 'Djoeka'.

The film 'Djoeka' shows the journey of a group of white people to the Surinamese interior. They traveled by train and canoe and passed along the mission-post Botopasi, on the Suriname River, before going further into the jungle. Presumably by chance they find themselves in the middle of the events connected to the funeral of a granman (headman) and the many rituals related to those events. The original intertitles made clear that the filmmaker had no great knowledge of the events that he recorded. The original film was screened in the Netherlands as an attraction displaying the exotism of the Maroon people, self liberated slaves that established an independent society in the interior of Suriname and forced a peace treaty upon their Dutch colonial counterparts.

I proposed my Suriname collaborators to respond to the film by recording a soundtrack that explains the images from a contemporary Maroon perspective, with the aim to counteract on the white gaze of it's original maker. They selected a diverse group of participants who watched the film. We recorded their reactions, stories, performances and music, resulting in a soundtrack that follows their interpretation while leaving the original intact (besides cutting out the intertitles).

Saamaka is a dialogue between two times and two cultures. There is over 80 years between the image and sound recordings, and literally a world of difference between the Dutch and Saramaccan culture. Through blending these different elements into one document a work is created that mediates between the two cultures.


Screening History:

TENT (Rotterdam)
Eye Film Institute Netherlands (Amsterdam)
Marron Museum Saamaka (Pikinslee, Suriname)

Holland Doc - Digital TV channel in the Netherlands
Pärnu International Documentary and Anthropolgy Film Festival (Estonia)
Haags Filmhuis, Zaal 5 (Den Haag)
Lumen (Delft)
Nederlands Filmfestival (Utrecht)
Voodoo to Go Festival (Utrecht)
Museum Hilversum