Slave Festival and Musical Instruments, Suriname, ca. 1831

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This record was last updated on 02 May 2012

Image Reference

Pierre Jacques Benoit, Voyage a Surinam . . . cent dessins pris sur nature par l'auteur (Bruxelles, 1839), plate xix, fig. 38. (Copy in the John Carter Brown Library at Brown University)

Caption, "Le Dou, ou grande fete des esclaves" (The Dou or great festival of the slaves). The author writes that enslaved people and creole blacks place great emphasis on dancing in general and particularly on gatherings which they call "Dou." The Dou "is ordinarily danced by the negros and by the slaves, above all on New Year's day. It is in these kinds of get togethers that they forget the shovel/fork and the whip, and they appear in all kinds of fancy clothing which is very different from the clothing they wore the day before or will wear the following day when going out to work" (p. 23). Note, the drummers in the left corner; women on the right and left of the picture hold a rattle, or the maccari, "a small instrument which makes the same noise as a vessel filled with stones; the women hold it in their right hand and pound the beat with the left hand." Benoit (1782-1854), a Belgian artist, visited Suriname around 1831 and apparently stayed for several months. The 100 lithographs in his book (hand colored in the John Carter Brown copy), accompanied by textual descriptions of varying detail, are derived from drawings he made during his visit, which included time in Paramaribo, the capital, as well as trips into the interior visiting Maroons and Amerindians. Forty of his lithographs, with our translations from the French text, are shown on this website.