Diorama of a Slave Dance, Suriname
Materials include wood and paper, by Gerrit Schouten, 1830, Rijksmuseum

The wooden case has a rising bottom and a curved back and top on the inside. The back wall is covered with painted paper with a forest and a blue sky with white clouds. The inside of the sides are also provided with blue with white clouds. The plastic representation consists of a small hut on the left in the background and a large hut with dancing figures in the centre. The performance proposes a performance of a du. These (dance) communities held a party several times a year, giving performances that often had a socially critical charge. There were several du's in the city, competing with each other to give the best performance. Schouten has shown a party on a plantation. The dance tent is built of four stands on either side connected by five horizontal beams. The sides of the hut are open. At the back there is a kind of balustrade that separates the space from the outside space with the slave yards. The sloping roof of pina-leaf rests on beams that are erected from the joists, and there is a large open space in the cabin. On the left are four male musicians. The first is a man who plays a flute, the loango tou-tou. He is wearing a light-coloured and striped rug. To his right is a man who plays a big drum, just like the man diagonally behind him. The fourth musician sits on a stool and plays a kwakwabangi with two sticks. Three women and a man dance in the centre of the show. The woman closest to the musicians is probably the afrankeer, the narrator who explains the performance to the audience. She was the central figure of the du (the company and the play). Fulfilling the role of afrankeri was honourable and esteemed. The afrankeer is dressed in a long pleated skirt, over which she has draped another cloth (pangi). She is wearing a headscarf. She wears bracelets, necklaces and earrings. She holds a cloth in her hands. To the right of the afrankeer, two women who are dressed in a similar manner dance, although the decorative motifs deviate from the canvases. To the right of the women a man dances, also with a cloth in his hands. On the far right is a group of three men. A man sits on a couch who seems to belong to the dancers. Standing is a man in a suit that consists of red pants and a red long jacket, a white shirt, white stockings and black shoes. He is the only figure who wears shoes. In his left hand he holds a stick with a silver button. He holds a handkerchief in the other hand. On the floor in front of him are a stone jug, a glass bottle and a glass. This figure probably played the role of king or, in any case, an authority. This red captain's skirt is probably a specimen that was given by the Dutch government to the authorities in the interior and that has become a symbol of authority. Next to the 'king' is a hunter. He is wearing a brown shirt with long sleeves. A weitas with a long strap hangs around his shoulder and over the shoulder is a gun that he holds with one hand. He holds a long knife in the other hand. Behind him is a bench.



  








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