TYPE: Artifact
DIMENSIONS: 20-1/2 x 9 x 12 inches
COMPONENTS: Openwork wooden rectangular topped stool; with brass studs
ITEM ID: 2448

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Stool Made by Descendants of Runaway Slaves

Decade: 1920s
Century: 20th (1901-2000)

A rare saramaka stool, made by the Suriname Rain Forrest descendants of runaway slaves in the 1920s – 1930s. This stool bears some similarities in shape to the stools made by the African Ashanti. However, the complex openwork designs of the Saramaka reflect the leaves and vines of the Suriname rain forest where the “maroon” slaves fled from their plantations. Of all the countries that were the recipients of African slaves, Suriname is the only one where runaway slaves occupied and held independent territory for centuries. Suriname was notorious for its brutal treatment of slaves. William Blake’s graphic depictions of the inhuman treatment of slaves in John Gabriel Stedman’s 1796 account “Narrative of a Five Years Expedition against the Revolted Negroes of Suriname,” shocked its readers and greatly aided the anti-slavery cause. Most of the original settlers, called “Maroons” by the English and “Bush Negroes” by the Dutch escaped from plantations, while others actually ran off immediately upon embarking from the slave ships that brought them. The Saramaka people made their colonies deep in the Suriname rain forest. Eventually, through sheer will and guerilla-type campaigns, these heirs of slaves forced the Dutch colonial agents to come to terms of peace, guaranteeing them full freedom and independence. See: Afro-American Arts of the Suriname Forest by Sally and Richard Price (University of California Press, [1980]).