‘Nigerian movies, food doing well in Suriname’

Nigerians dominate the African immigrant community in Suriname, with Nigerian movies and food being very popular with the Surinamese, Suriname’s Ambassador Extraordinary and Plenipotentiary, Fidelia Graand-Galon told MARTIN-LUTHER C. KING in this interview in Accra.

She said that Nigerian immigrants have a positive influence on the Surinamese society. Excerpts:

Kindly tell us about Suriname and its people?

Suriname is a country of multi-ethnic people with descendants from Africa, Asia and Europe. Immigrants of our neighboring countries, such as Brazil, Guyana and French Guyana are populating Suriname as well. The official language is Dutch and the lingua franca is Sranantongo which is an Afro-Surinamese language understood by all Surinamese regardless of the ethnic group.

Suriname has about 24 languages with a population of a little over half a million. The people of Suriname are Christians, Muslims, Hindus, Afro, native and other religion. Indian descendants are the largest ethnic group. There are also Java Indonesians, Chinese and Koreans, but not too many.

Suriname is in the South American continent but its northern border is the Atlantic Ocean, which also makes it a Caribbean nation.

The transatlantic slave trade has forced Africans to Suriname. Due to marriage during slavery we have the formation of six Afro-Surinamese tribes (Maroons) along six rivers across the Suriname hinterland. This caused Afro descendants to have 7 languages, with the national language being one of them.

Does Suriname have immigrants from Africa presently living in the country? Which countries in Africa do most of such immigrants come from?

Yes, there are Africans living in Suriname with the majority of them being Nigerians, followed by Ghanaians. The Nigerians have small businesses in Paramaribo the capital of Suriname. They even have Nigerian restaurants selling fufu. The Redeemed Christian Church of God has at least three churches in my country. The Ghanaians are predominantly into fishing at sea.

What sectors of the Suriname economy are African immigrants in the country more prominent, or mainly engaged in?

Most African Immigrants are into trade and the fishing industry, entertainment such as gospel and movies industries. Nigerian movies and movie stars and gospel artists are very popular in my country Suriname.

Are there, possibly, novel lifestyles or cultural imports that immigrants from contemporary African countries have been brought into Suriname? Are such having positive or negative influence on the Surinamese society?

Yes there are, notably, African fashion and entertainment. These are having a positive influence on the people of Suriname, as they are more drawn to being more associated to the African continent with African prints.

Suriname is rich in bauxite, gold and petroleum. How can Suriname collaborate with other countries in Africa to harness these resources?

Suriname can exchange human capital using the human resource of both countries.

Both countries can also collaborate in sharing ideas on lessons learned in each country with regards to the mining of natural resources. They can exchange scientific studies in the mining sector, using lessons learned from each country so they can get more end-products from the raw materials they have.

Suriname can also have a student exchange program of university students in the field of science, technology and engineering to better empower the youth in this field.

Which other economic sectors is Suriname looking for cooperation in?

Suriname is looking for cooperation in the fisheries sector sector. Suriname is also interested in agricultural cooperation. (Suriname) also (has) great tourist attractions that can (be) capitalised on.

There is a physical distance of over 6000 kilometres between (West Africa) and Paramaribo, the capital of Suriname. Are there plans by Suriname Airways to commence (direct) flights?

Suriname is looking forward to direct flights. Since Paramaribo is considerably a hub of South America, the direct flight could be very important and beneficial to both (sides) and the South American continent as flying will be shorter.

Recently, you called for closer relations between Suriname and African countries, especially in the area of music, culture and tourism. What kind of relationship do you have in mind, specifically? And, what are you doing to make that a reality?

I look forward to creating collaboration with musicians. I also wish to have programs to inform people about the similarities between us in terms of culture as African descendants; especially the Maroons who kept some of the cultures their ancestors practiced like naming ceremonies, six tribal communities with paramount chiefs and chiefs in the hinterland of Suriname.

Furthermore, I intend to make use of any platform that can give me the opportunity to exchange information (about Suriname).

What do you intend to be your major accomplishments during your tour of duty as Ambassador?

During my tour of duty, I want Suriname to become more aware of the social and economic mutual benefits of Africa. I wish to let people know where Suriname is located as soon as they hear the name on TV.

It is my aim to inform people of the rich natural resources of Suriname and let them know that Suriname is also a football nation since some players in the Netherlands national team are of Suriname descent.

Your official title is ‘Ambassador Extraordinary and Plenipotentiary’. How does that work? Kindly explain what this means?

This means I am formally representing the Head of State of Suriname, who is the President; and, I have all the power and authority to represent the Government of Suriname.

Read also: Terra Academy to empower over 65,600 youths in arts, culture

kindly tell us about yourself?

I was born in the east of Suriname, Moengo, which is a bauxite town, and am a member of one of the Maroon tribes; we have 6 tribes. I belong to the Okanisi tribe which is close to French Guyana.

I worked as a lecturer at the University of Suriname at the pre-University level and worked as a senior policy advisor to the Ministry of Planning and Development now defunct. Currently, I am work with the Ministry of Foreign Affairs.

I am the founder of the Maroon Women’s Network which serves as a networking platform for development; working on awareness for social and economic benefits of the tribal communities’ sustainable development nationally and internationally. I am also the founder of Maroon Women Chamber of Cooperation and also involved in ‘Every Girl Wins’ International Institute that was started in the United States to empower girls with their talents, regardless of their ages.

I was a senior political advisor of the Ministry of Natural Resources in the implementation of Free Prior Informed Consent in tribal communities.

Any final words?

I would like to thank Africa for allowing us to work together to make the world a better place, in using natural and human resources to make life better for everyone. Using our talents and skills to effectively communicate, educate and empower each other and those who need it most. Let’s work together and give peace a chance.

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