As we continue our post-production and research—and as we interact with a wider variety of communities, we are experiencing that each tribe is its own nation. I have known this from history textbooks, but I am really seeing it now. All Amerindian tribes are not united and all Maroon tribes are not united. They are each their own people. I think it is amazing how leaders in Suriname (Indigenous and Maroon) are working to bring the distinct groups together. The key is that this time, it is voluntary AND cultural identity can be retained in the interaction. Historically, when tribes came together it was often through war or colonization. Both events led to extinction or marginalization of one or more ‘nations’.
I believe that it is critical for the interior tribes of Suriname to unite in the face of global development. They need to preserve (and cultivate) their own identities, but their survival depends on being heard. It’s like the little voice in Horton Hears a Who. Every voice counts. And “a person’s a person no matter how small [or remote his/her location!].”
We are working on the next Suriname film. This one will be about an hour long. Why is it still taking so long? Translation time, 2 full time jobs (between my husband and me) and family are the big reasons. Regrettably, our documentary work must take second to our family income—but this is the way of so many non-profit projects, right?
In any case we are very excited about this 3rd film! We are including Amerindian (Indigenous) and Maroon (lived there for about 500 years or so) tribes. The issues that the Amerindian and Maroon communities face are really the same on so many levels—access, health, education…
On November 2010, we finished a rough cut (a very rough cut) and sent it to Suriname with Sarah Augustine, co-director of Suriname Indigenous Health Fund. The tribes have all had an opportunity to view the film and have been sending us their feedback. Because we are only using community directed filmmaking methods, we will not release anything until we get approval from the people participating in the films. So, this trip in November was very important! We have been unable to contact the Maroon communities of Kwakogroen since 2007. There were no cell phones, internet or reliable connections to their communities. When Sarah returned last November, she learned that a lot has changed for Kwakogroen! They have several cell phones now. Also, there is at least one man who travels to the coastal capitol city regularly, so we can mail supplies and dvd’s as needed. It is such a relief to be able to know that we can contact our friends regularly now!
On a more somber note, one of Kwakogroen’s communities is almost gone. Makki Kriki is the smallest village that we interviewed in 2007. Sarah reported that only 2 families remain in this tiny village. I hope that this move has been good for the people involved. However, I know that when we talked in 2007, they were very concerned about losing their village. It appears that their fears are being realized. I found Makki Kriki to be such a charming little village. I can’t help but feel like we have lost something precious. I can’t imagine how its people must feel.
The fresh water situation has been a rollercoaster of activity, as well. The mining company (I AM GOLD), helped install a water system in Kwakogroen, but they did not work with the community, and the water system is not providing enough water or consistently safe water. Since the community was not involved with the installment or design, they are struggling with knowing how or if they can repair it. This is just one more example of how working with a community (actually, just enabling the community to do the work) is more sustainable and effective.
We don’t have a release date for this third film yet, but we are making progress. We have the software to do color correction on the footage. We are ready to do final audio mixing. We are continuing work on graphics to illustrate some of the more technical scientific concepts that impact the communities…many details remain, but it is exciting!
I think a lot about how interconnected we all are to each other on this planet. Perhaps it is common knowledge (if that exists…) to know that our resources are connected. But we are connected by threads far more diverse, as well. We are animals. We are humans. We are communities. We are governments. We are economies. And when a majority system intersects with a minority, what happens next? Is it necessary for the majority to become the only norm and the minority to change/assimilate/disappear?
In Suriname I was impressed with the diversity—of people, of animals, of plants…of life. And yet, it seemed that the diversity I so valued is at the root of the issue for Suriname and its people. There is a tentative blend of cultures and lifestyles that are inherently at odds with each other. The majority culture of the outside is pushing for individualistic, western ideals. This pressure can be seen on how property rights, wealth, and government intersect with everyday life. Those on the inside—the people of the interior—want to maintain their communal/group value systems and governments. But when the majority meets the minority all too often only one can survive. I don’t think this is a case of who wins and who loses. I think we all lose when we lose diversity—we lose resources, culture, life.
So, what does this diversity have to do with being interconnected? My trip to Suriname causes me to ask myself, what role do I play in this dilemma? How does my lifestyle impact the lifestyles of indigenous and Maroon tribes? How does my desire for consuming threaten their lives and culture? The answers to these questions are complex, unsettling…and interconnected.