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Book source: The Boni Maroon Wars in Suriname, W. Hoogbergen,E.J. Brill, Leiden, 1990. ISBN 90 04 09303 6

Subject: [Maroon] Matrilineal Kinship

Article: The Boni Maroon Wars

Did matrilineal kinship in Suriname come from Africa ? We can not say this with confidence as slaves from Africa who were brought to Suriname had a matrilineal and also a patrilineal heritage. For the survival of the Maroons possession of women was important since based on their fertility they were to take care of reproduction. There was thus a need to keep all women inside a group which may have led to a matrilineal kinship structure.

To illustrate the importance of women was that in time of danger they were brought to a safer place with the children. While the women were living in a kind of permanent settlement the men were wandering around. The relationship between men and women was casual under these circumstances. Most children in such a society may have one and the same mother but had different fathers. In a matrilineal society children were named after their mother's plantation.

The abolition of slaves in 1863 allowed the slaves to choose a family name but most names can be traced back to the proto-mother. In this society, the number of daughters and grand daughters is more important for the formation of a clan than the number of slaves from a plantation. Maroons themselves use the terms 'lo' or clan and 'bee' to indicate their family relationship. Bee comes from belly related via the mother's side. Lo is a slightly vaguer term of kinship.

If we look at the Boni, we see that they have 7 lo (clans). Example: Dikan, Ndju, Lape, Dipelu I, Dipelu II, Kotiba, Kawima. In a matrilineal society members live together in a village, they have the right to a plot of land. They own religious experts. They own ancestors. The kapiten is kept within the same matrilineage. These kapitens are always males. Their successors can never be their sons. Example: Gongo was Agosu's sister's son and from the Dikan-lo.

The Ndju clan is a clan where the proto-clan mother came from a plantation with Jewish owners. The Boni believe that there were 12 clans but from conducted studies it has been determined that there were a total of seven lo (clans) and some seperate matrilineal groups. Finally, emphasis on fertility of women and the mother's name are two important elements of the matrilineal kinship system.


Met dank aan Albert Buys

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