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Genetic research into rice from the inlands of Suriname draws attention to the history of West Africans who were deported as slaves to this former Dutch colony. While there are many grains of Asian rice, Surinamese black rice, ‘Blaka aleisi’, turned out to be almost identical to rice farmed by Mande-speaking farmers in West Ivory Coast according to research by Tinde van Andel. This rice was rarely eaten but instead was sacrificed to ancestors and used in spiritual herbal baths.

Grains of this rice were brought to Suriname by the women on the slave ships who braided the rice into their hair. Later some of these slaves escaped the plantations, fled into the inlands and took rice with them via the same method. This allowed them and their descendants, the Maroons, to survive in the inlands. Many rice varieties are called after the women who took the rice with them during their ‘marronage', including Milly, Sapali and Paransa.

Ma Pansa was the first to bring rice to the inlands when she fell in love with the marron Adjako and fled into the jungle. According to Pansa oral history many of the Saamaka rice varieties descended from this single ‘mother variety’.



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Video credits by Tinde van Andel

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The Introduction of African Rice in Suriname


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