An incredible community project came to life last week in Suriname, promoting knowledge and celebration of the country’s Black ancestry. In Sranan Tongo (Surinamese language), sabi yu rutu translates to “know your roots.” And with the Sabi Yu Rutu Exhibition and Opening mini-Symposium, we set out to inspire guests to do just that.
Sabi Yu Rutu was conceived by an international group of writers, researchers, artists, and family historians, including the founder of Ancestors unKnown. The collective began meeting over Skype, representing the Netherlands, Suriname, the U.S., Ghana, Tanzania, and the U.K. The group refers to itself as Who.Am.I., sharing the objectives to raise awareness of shared African ancestry and increase interest in family history research across the Diaspora. What better way to promote the group’s initiative than to explore the themes of art, history, and ancestry among a broader audience with a Sabi Yu Rutu event?
Looking forward to Suriname’s 150-year celebration of Emancipation from slavery on 1 July, 2013, Paramaribo, Suriname was the perfect location for Sabi Yu Rutu. And because Ancestors unKnown recently completed its first pilot project in Paramaribo in June 2013, the organization was proud to take a leadership role in coordinating the event.
Sabi Yu Rutu was a 5-day art and history exhibition. The event highlighted a painting from Ghanaian artist, Jeremiah Quarshie, depicting Ank de Vogel-Muntslag and the story of her ancestry, which she traced with years of research from Suriname to West Africa. (Both Jeremiah and Ank are members of Who.Am.I.) Sabi Yu Rutu was complemented by works from contemporary, Surinamese artists who work with themes of identity and ancestry, including Ken Doorson, Shaundell Horton, Raimen Bijlhout, and Sirano Zalman. Also included were images and artifacts from the archives of Ancestors unKnown partner organizations, NAKS and EBGS (Moravian Church) Archives, along with photos and sample family trees from participants in the Ancestors unKnown pilot project.
On the 27th of June, Sabi Yu Rutu opened with a mini-Symposium, which included a valuable presentation from Ank regarding her family history research. Ank also provided strategies to help others make similar discoveries related to their own Surinamese ancestry. Marilva Eiflaar, from the EBGS Archives, presented on other research strategies, as well as the results of the Ancestors unKnown project among EBGS and NAKS participants. Members of the audience took notes. And based on their enthusiasm and follow-up questions, they were inspired to do some family research of their own. The questions continued and enthusiasm maintained through the 1st of July, when the exhibition concluded following national celebrations of Keti Koti.
So we’re counting Sabi Yu Rutu as a success! And we’re thrilled that Ancestors unKnown is part of this growing community in Suriname and far beyond.
Now to keep the good work going, join us and the Sabi Yu Rutu community on Facebook! Who knows where and what we’ll come up with next?