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Ashley Swagers
Role
Advisor - Focal Countries
Email
a.swagers [at] dutchculture.nl

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Josine Backus
Role
Advisor - Focal Countries | Brazil
Email
j.backus [at] dutchculture.nl

Cultural cooperation Suriname-Netherlands 2021-2024

Cultural cooperation Suriname-Netherlands 2021-2024

Looking back

The years between 2010 and 2020 were not a prosperous time for the arts and cultural sector in Suriname. Cultural initiatives, museums, galleries, even historical buildings and art collections were long neglected. With COVID-19 coming on top of that, and with no financial government safety net, the sector has had a lot to endure. The current government led by president Santokhi, who was elected in May 2020, has opened up new possibilities for the cultural field and for new partnerships with the Netherlands.  

Continuity: future vs the past

In the last few years, heritage and (post)colonial history, including the (post)colonial relationship between the Netherlands and Suriname, have played an increasingly big part in the knowledge discourse. Many new research projects have been launched and it has been a frequent topic in the public debate. Arts and culture play a major part in this development by sharing (sometimes formerly obscured) stories about the colonial past and making them accessible for the wider public. The Dutch embassy in Paramaribo and DutchCulture have been supporting projects of this type. Beautiful examples of heritage-related projects in cooperation with Suriname are the podcast series Plantage van onze voorouders, made by Maartje Duin and the interactive documentary Casa Blanca by Magda Augusteijn.  

In the new policy period 2021-2024, the focus on heritage remains an important part of the international cultural cooperation between the Netherlands and Suriname. Extra efforts will be taken to create more awareness for Dutch material heritage (e.g. the historical city centre of Paramaribo and art collections) and immaterial heritage in Suriname. There is a clearly growing interest for immaterial heritage such as traditions, rituals and historical stories. A perfect example of a project launched in 2019 that evolves around immaterial heritage is the Saamaka Marron Museum. In the coming years, the embassy will continue to support this museum and other projects devoted to the preservation of immaterial heritage.

Looking forward

The main goals of the Dutch government’s international cultural policy 2021-2024 are to increase the visibility of the Dutch cultural sector abroad, to support bilateral relationships with the focus countries and to harness the power of the cultural sector and creative industries towards achieving the Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs). Furthermore, there is special attention for international heritage cooperation projects. In close collaboration with the Dutch cultural funds, DutchCulture and other institutions, the Dutch embassy in Paramaribo is giving these goals extra focus in the 2021-2024 policy period.  


For many cultural professionals, Suriname has been and will remain an interesting partner for cultural cooperation in the field of heritage. However it is good to know that it can also be an interesting platform and/or partner for cultural productions that evolve around different themes. Besides heritage projects, the Dutch embassy in Suriname has a small budget for this as well.

Societal projects 

First of all there will be more space for the programming of projects in Suriname that address societal themes, such as gender equality, domestic violence and preservation of nature and climate. Cultural projects previously conducted in Suriname showed that addressing contemporary themes through arts and culture is received with great enthusiasm by the Surinamese public. Examples of this are theatre show Man Down by Dutch theatre company Lost Project, which was performed in Suriname in 2019 by actors from both Suriname and the Netherlands, and which addresses themes such as sexism and gender privileges. In the same year another theatre production from the Netherlands, Shrew Her, was performed in Suriname. Shrew Her, directed by Ira Kip, addresses gender stereotypes and gender identity.  

Sustainable partnerships and collaborations 

The Surinamese arts and culture sector does not receive any government funding, which often makes it difficult for non-profit venues and museums to make ends meet. The COVID-19 pandemic has made this worse. The Dutch embassy in Paramaribo is willing to support some of these Surinamese institutions and to establish a long-term cooperation. Supporting local cultural institutions in Suriname would help its cultural sector grow, which would also benefit the international cultural cooperation between the Netherlands and Suriname. Another form of sustainable cultural exchange is structural cooperation between schools and academies in the Netherlands and Suriname, including annual student exchanges and a joint curriculum of a sort. A collaboration like this has already been initiated between the Rietveld Academy in Amsterdam and the Anton de Kom Academy in Paramaribo.

Beyond the big cities, online events

As mentioned above, most of the cultural activities in Suriname take place in the capital city Paramaribo. The same goes for the Netherlands: most of the cultural activities take place in the bigger cities like Amsterdam, Rotterdam etc. One of the objectives is to include the rural areas in Suriname in the process of creative international exchange and to disseminate the cultural focal point throughout the country. Different regions all have a specific outlook on the world, a craft that is characteristic for their town, a historical story to tell. Exchanges between regions can be of great cultural value. This not only applies to the cultural professionals working on international projects but also for the public. People outside the big cities have a need for new cultural initiatives as well and do not always have the resources to travel.  

In light of this, it is also valuable to invest in the online execution of cultural projects. It is inevitable that digital is the future, and it is important to keep up with this evolution. Online cultural events have proven to be successful and accessible for an even broader range of public by transcending geographical boundaries, and because they are often accessible free of charge. When it comes to international cultural exchange between Suriname and the Netherlands and within Suriname, digital programming can be a great tool.  

Information & advice

Would you like to receive more information regarding opportunities for cultural exchange with Suriname? Feel free to contact our Focal Countries Desk with your questions. We can inform you about the latest developments in the country, relevant contacts and cultural venues.