Slaves Conversing, Paramaribo, Suriname, ca. 1831


Pierre Jacques Benoit, Voyage a Surinam . . . cent dessins pris sur nature par l'auteur (Bruxelles, 1839), plate xlii, fig. 88. (Copy in the John Carter Brown Library at Brown University)


Captioned, Takie-Takie, this image shows a group of women, including an elderly one, engaged in informal conversation; one of the women is nursing her child. In discussing this illustration, Benoit writes that slave women are in general excellent mothers, and as soon as they begin to breast feed their children they abstain from any physical contact with their husbands. During the period that they breast-feed, he writes, they can relax and have time to engage in takie-takie or gossip sessions (p. 54). Today, talkie-talkie, refers to Sranan, a widely used creole language of Suriname which combines grammatical elements of English and West African languages with vocabulary elements mainly of English and Dutch origin. 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.


Benoit, Pierre Jacques

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