A Bush Negro (Maroon) Elder, Suriname, ca. 1831


Pierre Jacques Benoit, Voyage a Surinam . . . cent dessins pris sur nature par l'auteur (Bruxelles, 1839), plate xlix, fig. 98. (Copy in the John Carter Brown Library at Brown University)


Caption, Un Vieillard et son esclave (An Elder and His Slave). After remarking on a foreigner's difficulty in ascertaining status and rank differences among the Bush Negroes, since they are not differentiated by their clothing, Benoit describes a scene in which one of these people arrived at Paramaribo by canoe with two other villagers. All wore only loincloths, and none was distinguished from the other by clothing, except the eldest wore iron and coral arm and leg ornaments and an unsheathed cutlass around his waist. After disembarking, however, the elder proceeded to don a robe and carry an elaborate staff; his own slave put on a top hat and followed the elder into town (p. 62). 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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