Suriname, Inside-Out
Suriname is a country that stumbled forward from the crush of Dutch colonialism, followed by a bout of coup de tat' - so typical of all American countries South of the border. Typical statistics about this country will include surprising numbers – it’s half a million inhabitants - total, it’s more than 80% of untouched rainforest, its large mix of immigrants from all over the world.

In 2007, I returned to my home country to gain international work experience and further my photography skills. What I found in Suriname was a country full of cultural contradictions, swelling potential, woeful corruption, spiritualism, and spooky small towns with all-time high suicide rates.
I also found a single pin barely holding together the folds of a precarious democracy, heavily weighted by private money laundering companies, social imbalances edging on civil unrest, government monopolies of, for instance, a national airline company that smacks of corruption and all that prevents a small country, floating in gold, from reaching its true potential.

I wanted more. I interviewed local citizens and documented their lives with all of my reserves: my Canon 30D, wide to zoom lens, Sony audio recorder, and past professional experience -- compliments of the Boca Raton News. I documented and analyzed Katwijk Plantation, the sole remnant of a failed plantation economy, and followed the campaigning efforts of one of the leading political parties in the country, the Verenigde Hervormings Partij. Finally, I flew back into the interior of Suriname to the village of Kwamalasamutu, where I was once again confronted by an unintelligible native language pared with a highly guarded Trio tribe that has been desiccated by missionary manipulation and stuck into a purgatory where no amount of brand-named clothing can catch them up to the 21st century.

I discovered Suriname. No longer the resting my place of vague, childhood memories, this country is instead, sometimes charming, sometimes alarming, always home. And yet, even as I enjoy citizenship status in this country, I am not wholly accepted as a “local.” Rather, I am pointed to as the small American with the oversized camera. The twang of my English exposes my background, my progressive thoughts, my best friends up until now. Yet, I have traversed lands unseen to most Surinamese locals. I have lived in the rainforest with Native communities and shared chili-fish with leaders of their tribes. I feel as if I have dipped my finger into the pulse of the Surinamese community. While half of me remains locked out as a foreigner, the other half of me has been singularly exposed to secret facets of the country, uncovering them to even those people who have lived in Suriname for all of their lives. This, then, becomes my goal: to bring the “inside” of Suriname, its many undiscovered parts, “out,” for all the world, and especially, it’s own lifelong inhabitants, to see.

Ultimately my perspective is unique. To me, Suriname is still dragging its heels in the march of progress, preferring instead to lounge in the shade of its many palm trees and make everything up as it goes along. The physical architecture of the “staat” or city is nonsensical, the government actions are colored by the many cultures of its inhabitants – some more tribal than others, and the population itself staves off any singular classification. But I no longer seek to “sum-up” Suriname. Rather, I intend to explore this country just as it exists, at this point in time: on the eve of an election year, on the brink of progress, in the ebb and flow of inevitability.
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