August 26, 2006 9:16 PM   Subscribe

The Bushi-Nenge of French Guiana and Surinam (Bush Negroes or Maroons) are a unique, and little-known group of peoples (Boni or Aluku, Saramaca, Ndyuka) who escaped from Dutch plantations in the early 1700's, who battled for independence which was recognized through various treaties -- notably by the Treaty of Albina which France and the Netherlands signed in 1860 (I can't find any info on the net), and who still live an African-type life largely based around the Maroni River between French Guiana and Suriname, as citizens of either one country or the other. Their language is Sranan Tongo (a mixture of African Languages, English, Dutch, Portuguese and Hebrew -- also known as Taki-Taki -- click for a listen). Historical and scholarly works are scarce, but they exist (In English but mostly in Dutch or French). Some pictures of typical houses. Symbolic Woodwork. More art. Images of the people of French Guyana. Images of various canoes in French Guiana. More photos of the Maroni River. Amazonie Francaise.
posted by pwedza (11 comments total) 9 users marked this as a favorite
Don't forget their greatest achievement.
posted by turducken at 10:28 PM on August 26, 2006

flagged as fantastic!
posted by moonbird at 10:32 PM on August 26, 2006

Terrific post, and the artwork is stunning! A similar "network" is the Black Seminole groups scattered throughout North America, also described in this short Yale article.
posted by rob511 at 11:05 PM on August 26, 2006

one more link.
(I'm on a bit of a trip 'cause I just got back from the area.)
posted by pwedza at 11:34 PM on August 26, 2006

and another
posted by pwedza at 11:54 PM on August 26, 2006

Nice post! (Minor gripe: Your first link, to "Bushi-Nenge," doesn't mention the word Bushi-Nenge.)
posted by languagehat at 6:14 AM on August 27, 2006

I know, I know. Sorry about that. I think the French actually spell it Bushinenge or Bushinengué. Bosneger in Dutch. Bush Negro in English.

Nenguétongo (name for the language of the Bushinenge - I have read that, whiel many speak Taki-Taki, there are also quite different languages between the different "tribes") is not a written language and there is no official spelling as of yet. Here is a French link to the different languages of French Guiana ) - including: the Bushinenge languages (distinguishing Aluka or Boni, Ndjuka and Paramaka from Saramaka), the Amerindian languages of the Arawak, Caraibe, and Wayampi. and excluding French Creole.

They also referred to in the more general Noir Marron - not refering to color, but to state of being a fugitive or runaway - from the Spanish word cimarron.
posted by pwedza at 7:30 AM on August 27, 2006

pwedza, do you happen to know anything about the music of these people? Any field recordings that you're aware of?
posted by flapjax at midnite at 7:41 AM on August 27, 2006

Is it possible that when they say "What a maroon" this is related to an ethnic slur? I always thought it was some Brooklynese variant of "what a moron."
posted by dances_with_sneetches at 10:23 AM on August 27, 2006

"They" would be Bugs Bunny. Bugs purposely mispronounced words all the time for comic effect (e.g., "maroon," "Los Ange-leez"). Yet, interestingly, his malapropisms eventually became part of the lexicon. For example: A "nimrod" is a hunter. Yet when Bugs called Elmer Fudd a "nimrod" (correctly), viewers thought it was a funny kind of slur, and it has now become synonomous with "buffoon."

(Probably belongs in another thread, but since you asked...)
posted by turducken at 2:28 PM on August 27, 2006

Hey flapjax,

Unfortunately, I am not familiar with Bushinenge music. Though I understand that the traditional music is very "african" in that in is largely based on drum and chant.

Like their art and many aspects of Bushinenge society, the music is quite symbolic.

The book Le monde des Noirs Marrons du Maroni en Guyane (1772-1860) by Jean Moomou, a Boni who has conducted etho-historical research on his people, mentions talking drums and a wide use of prayer in daily life. The talking drums are traditionally used to codify names of important tribe members and ancesters, later creating sequences to send certain messages. The book is very interesting and he explains in detail the methodology he used to help construct the history of the Boni people by comparing oral tribal history and written accounts during the colonial period. The Bushinenge have been very guarded about revealing themselves to outsiders - particularly whites.

I understand that the people on the Maroni River have had satelite TV since 1998 and that their social structure has been quite affected by the development. The youth pays much less attention to the story telling of the elders and they are quite influenced by the bling they see on the TV. As for modern music, reggea, ragga and dancehall are also quite present. Energy Crew is a local music group - obviously not traditional.

Article in French on Noir Marron music..

This is an ad for a bi-annual music festival called the Les Tranamazoniennes.
posted by pwedza at 3:00 PM on August 27, 2006

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