In 2022, the University Library acquired a special collection of Surinamese poetry that is housed in the Rotterdamsch Leeskabinet. The collection contains beautifully published volumes of poetry, roughly from the 1960s to the present day, with a variety of poetic themes and an impressive wealth of images. The volumes were carefully collected by Fresco Sam-Sin, Leiden scientist and director of Het Taalmuseum.
Most of the poetry was written in Sranantongo, one of the many languages spoken in Suriname and Rotterdam. Sranantongo is a Creole language that came to fruition on the plantations as enslaved people from different language areas in Africa needed a way to speak to each other. As such, Sranantongo is a symbol of resistance, connection and resilience, showing that colonial history resonates to this day and will continue to do so for a long time to come. We therefore consider it of the utmost importance to cherish and cultivate this beautiful language in its ultimate aesthetic form, that of the poem.
In addition to work by well-known Surinamese poets such as Dobru, Edgar Cairo, Michaël Slory and Albert Helman, the collection also includes poetry by lesser-known writers.
In addition to Sranantongo, other Surinamese languages are also represented, albeit to a lesser extent due to the often small number of speakers. At least twenty languages are spoken in Suriname, such as Sarnami Hindustani, Javanese, Saramaccan and Aukan.
Together with Het Taalmuseum, on September 17 2022 the Leeskabinet organized the first edition of Powema tori, a festive presentation of the collection with performances by poet Guillaume Pool, Hermine Haman with percussionist Carlo Hoop, and Arnold Schalks. This event was the starting point for a structural expansion of this special collection of living heritage, which we will add to in the coming years in close collaboration with Het Taalmuseum, both with existing and upcoming Surinamese poetry.
From October '22 to February '23, an exhibition on the collection was on display in the University Library. The online exhibition can still be viewed.
In this way we aim to contribute to the celebration and translation of Surinamese poetry within Rotterdam and beyond. We preserve this unique collection in our climatized depository, so that it can be made available for research by scientists and other interested parties, for current and future generations.