Director: By van Prague| Script: By van Prague | Time to play: 58 minutes | Year: 1978
The director and correspondent At van Praag (1940-1986) ventured into the most diverse political issues with his films and reports. In response to the film censorship of political films about the Vietnam War, he founded Cineclub Vrijheidsfilms together with journalist Bertus Hendriks, among others. In 1978 he premiered the documentary under the banner of this production company oema new srenan (Women for Suriname). In 2021 EYE Filmmuseum restored the film which can now be seen again in Dutch cinemas.
made by prague oema fou sranan in the years before independence. She portrayed the lives of different women. As different as those lives were, they were all dominated by deprivation, exploitation, and poverty. Women often raise their children alone, who often couldn’t go to school due to money problems and didn’t get new clothes when they really needed them. Some women stayed in Suriname and tried to work for other women through a women’s union. Others sought their luck in the Netherlands.
A combative and activist voiceover talks about the conditions in which women live, which are not very good. At that time, seventy percent lived below the poverty line and in deplorable conditions. The conclusion drawn is clear: all this is due to colonialism.
To some it seemed that the Netherlands was the solution to all problems, but this documentary does not exactly present the Netherlands as a paradise. Holland is being dragged by the mud, attended by all the problems that the country has caused as a colonizer and that it causes to the Surinamese who settled in Holland.
Quotes from Wij Slaven van Suriname by Anton de Kom are read and illustrated with drawings. Haarfijn explains to the voiceover how the Dutch enslaved the Surinamese in a horrible way. The film is dedicated to all the women and men who resisted and fought against colonialism.
The newspaper headlines from the 1970s floating around the picture do not lie: the Surinamese who arrived in the Netherlands could not count on a warm welcome. The Surinamese preferred to be strategically distributed throughout the country, read: hidden.
The documentary is full of songs that sing about the lives of Surinamese women or pay tribute to Suriname. Just as the music fits the visuals, it wasn’t written especially for the film. The mixture of traditional folklore, political songs and more popular songs not only symbolizes the rich musical history of Suriname, but also different population groups.
oema fou sranan it is on the one hand an ode to the Surinamese woman. The woman who has always fought for better living conditions for her and her children, and for the future of Suriname. The woman who has always continued to fight for a truly free Suriname. Until today.
The recent protests in Suriname emphasize once again that the problems of some fifty years ago have not yet been resolved. And let’s be honest: overcoming the excuse-for-slavery-past moment on December 19, 2022 wasn’t exactly a graceful move on the part of Holland’s politicians.
Has much changed in the last decades? With shame on our cheeks we have to admit no. In that sense, the restored version comes from oema new srenan go out at a good time. Not enough can be done on this subject to cultivate a sincere awareness of the historical facts.