Keti koti

Many of you may know that JW has some family roots in Suriname. His grandfather was the son of then chief superintendent of police in Paramaribo, Isaac Fernandes (jewish-Portuguese family) and from Elisabeth Clasina, a Creole woman. Betsie was born on plantation “De Guinese Vriendschap” as the daughter of the plantation owner and one of his female slaves. PHOTO 1 shows the family around 1910. In those years Betsie was already legally Isaac's wife.
So JW’s greatgreatgrandmother was a true slave.

With a family history like this, the celebration of abolition of slavery is even more appealing. It is celebrated every year on the 1st of July and the day is called Keti koti. Keti = chains, koti is derived from cut and/or cortar (Spanish). So it means: breaking off the chains.
PHOTO 2
Although the abolition of slavery was worldwide official in 1863, in Suriname slavery would last another ten years. The Dutch government granted the plantation owners this much time to find new labourers or to run down their companies with governmental support. Until then, the slaves had to work on the old terms! Anyway, after 1873 not one inhabitant of Suriname had to walk barefoot anymore and the chains were definitely broken.

On Keti koti day most Creole women dress in traditional clothes. The traditional kotomisi costume originates from the 18th and 19th century on the plantations, where female house slaves dressed in pieces of cloth and shawls.

The costume consists of a long skirt, a short little coat and an artfully folded headscarf. Underneath the skirt several underskirts were worn and the women wore a cushion on the back, so even the slimmest girls looked like elephants. One explanation is that the kotomisi’s (literally: woman with skirt) made themselves as unattractive as possible to distract their masters from sexual assault; and an other explanation is that the master's wifes were jealous and ordered the female slaves to dress ugly so their husbands wouldn't be interested.
The headscarf is a different story, as this one literally tells a story through design and way of binding. In this way female slaves communicated with each other, gave comments or showed that they were angry. For instance, one tip folded upwards means: “Fuck you”
PHOTO 3; and two tips up means: “Kiss my ass.”

Suriname is a multicultural community, so everybody celebrates Keti koti day: Creoles, Hindustani, Javanese, Chinese, indigenous and white people. We saw only one woman dressed in the original kotomisi costume (you can see it on the family photo as JW's greatgrandmother is wearing it), but almost everyone was dressed festively in a colourful panji (a piece of cloth worn as a skirt, today's daily dress of the Marrons) and headscarf. Traditional with sewn decorations of cloth
PHOTO 4, or trendy PHOTO 4A, but we saw many joyful African prints as well PHOTO 5A.
P also joined the panji club and received enthousiastic response. The binding of the headscarf was not exactly as it should have been, but a friendly lady from a flower shop corrected this instantly.
PHOTO 6A

All in all it was a great and swinging party with everywhere on the streets music and dancing, as this is innate with the Creoles. And of course little restaurants all over the place, the whole Palm Garden was crowded PHOTO 7 and to our delight the old-fashioned merry-go-round was working overtime.
Enjoy music and dancing? Click
Try the old-fashioned merry-go-round? Click


The boat was treated to a new starter motor, that we carried on board as a spare. The old one was grudging its gearwheel. Another little inheritance from the complete engine revision in 2004 in Den Bommel. Our sailing colleague Rob Hollander from Torn Too (ship's engineer) was so kind to diagnose the problem and mount the new starter motor. We'll have the old one repaired.

Ramona is her old self again: she is roaming around Domburg's square and flirts heavily with Boris, the leader of all dogs here. The ten puppies are all taken and now we hope they have found good homes. Here in Suriname danger is all around. Last week we read an article in the newspapers about a street that was covered with tarmac and this was done by Chinese workers. Probably because they work hardest. But when the job was finished, there was not one dog anymore to be found in the surroundings. All were eaten.

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