De Architectuur van Suriname, C.L. Temminck Groll, A.R.H. Tjin A Djie, De
Walburg Pers, Zutphen, 1973 ISBN 906011.441.8
Subject: The Old and The Young Javanese
Dr. G.D. van Wengen's article 'Javaans Leven' describes: the arrival of the Javanese in Suriname, their strugle to survive, their adherence to Javanese customs and traditions and their problems of adjustment to city life such as Paramaribo.
The Javanese who arrived in 1890 were emploed at the sugar plantation Marienburg in the District of Commewijne. The economic crisis on world markets in 1930 caused many plantations to be shut down. Thus, immigration of Javanese after 1932 slowed down and in 1939 the final group of 1000 Javanese arrived.
Unemployment was rampant when the plantations closed and many of the Javanese started to work on their own small farms. The colonial government allowed only small parcels of land to be distributed to small farmers in order to keep them on the plantations and to have a pool of part time workers. The size of the land was just too small for full time employment. The Javanese strugled to survive as many were in poor health, poor physical condition for plantation work. There was malnutrition and many deaths even among children. In those times crime among Javanese was prevalent and were caused by the low wages, shortage of women and poor working conditions. Today the Javanese have the lowest crime rate.
Among the Javanese, those who started farming in Nickerie were better of than those in the District of Commewijne due to soil conditions and the problems resulting from cultivating on old plantations. The Javanese went into rice farming mostly for home consumption. Only the women planted the rice plants one by one which is a Javanese custom and related to the concept of fertility. They also kept 10 to 15 chickens, some ducks and geese for their own consumption and their 'slametan' (often religious festivities). The men and boys fished in the swamps, canals and rivers to supplement their meals. The Javanese lived in Javanese communities where they came to each others help like to build a house ('gotong royong') and took care of each other including their Javanese neigbors ('sambatan'). They were a close knit community who volunteered to help other Javanese in good and bad times and that is how they survived. Although most of them were of the Moslem faith they maintained pre-islam customs and traditions with a thin layer of Islam on top. They believe in 'rukun' which is in harmony and good relations with other human beings, between their people (Javanese). In bad times they shared whatever they had with others who were less fortunate. They were satisfied with their low steady wages and would therefore not easily switch jobs and move. Even those who moved to the bauxite villages went to live among other Javanese already there. The Javanese women almost all stayed home while the men went to work. Some Javanese families who moved to the city and lived among the Creoles and Hindus (descendants from British India) did not feel happy en often pregnant Javanese women returned to their Javanese village to await the birth of their child. The Javanese (older generation) do not master well Sranan Tongo or Dutch which was an obstacle to communicate with non-Javanese.
Times are changing, the younger generartion born in the city does assimilate and seeks out contact with other ethnic groups. They show a lesser interest in their parents 'wayang' shadow play and 'gamelan' percussion music. They rather go to the movies or disco with their Creole and Hindu friends.
Met dank aan Albert Buys
Met dank aan Albert Buys