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Thanks to Renzo Duin’s annotated translation, the voice of Lodewijk Schmidt—an Afrodiasporic Saramakka Maroon from Surinam—is finally available for Anglophone audiences worldwide. More than anything else, Schmidt’s three mid-twentieth-century ethnographic accounts tell the tragic story of Indigenous Peoples of the Eastern Guiana Highlands (northern Brazil, and southern Suriname and French Guiana). Schmidt’s is a story that takes account of the pathological mechanisms of colonialism, in which Indigenous Peoples and African Diaspora communities, both victims of colonialism, vilify each other falling privy to the divide-and-conquer mentality mechanisms of colonialism.

Accounts like that of the death and mourning of a magnificent Indigenous leader, Alapité, on 13-14 August 1941, suggest a deep respect on the part of the Maroon author, while his accounts also show his awareness of how the Indigenous Peoples vilified the Maroons. Beyond the ethnographic element, Duin argues that Schmidt was sent on a covert mission to determine whether or not the Nazis had engaged in covert missions and if they had established bases and airfields in the region.

As current ecological disasters, incurred by neocolonial, neoliberal and geopolitical practices, threaten to completely destroy the Amazonian forests that Schmidt describes, his meticulous accounts underscore the predetermined tragedy that is the result of the European and later North-American presence in present-day Suriname, French Guiana and Brazil. Duin’s profound knowledge of the history, topography, and fauna of the region contextualizes Schmidt’s ethnographic accounts and forces us to take account of the catastrophe that is deforestation and ethnocide of the Indigenous Peoples of the Eastern Guiana Highlands.
Narratives of the South Atlantic Past
The Caribbean imagination as framed within a Dutch historical setting has deep Portuguese-African roots. The Seven Provinces were the first European power, in the first half of the 17th century, to challenge the Iberian countries directly for a share in the slave trade. This book analyzes the philosophy underlying this transoceanic link, when contacts with Africa started to be developed.
The ambiguous morality of the ‘air of liberty’ governing the Afro-Portuguese past had its impact on the creole cultures (white, black, Jewish) of the Dutch territories of Suriname and Curaçao. Although this influence is gradually disappearing, it is astonishing to witness the engagement with which writers and visual artists have interpreted this heritage in their different ways. Recent narratives from Angola and Brazil offer an appropriate starting-point for an examination of strategies of self-representation and national consolidation in works by authors from the Dutch Caribbean. In order to reveal this complex historical pattern, the (formerly) Dutch-related port communities are conceived of as cultural agents whose ‘lettered cities’ (Ángel Rama) have engaged in critical dialogue with the heritage of the South Atlantic trade in human lives.
Artists and writers discussed include (colonial period): Caspar Barlaeus, David Nassy, Frans Post, and John Gabriel Stedman; (modern period): Frank Martinus Arion, Cola Debrot, Gabriel García Márquez, Albert Helman, Francisco Herrera Luque, Boeli van Leeuwen, Tip Marugg, Alberto Mussa, Pepetela, Julio Perrenal, and Mário Pinto de Andrade.