The arts are not always in a prominent place on the political agenda in Africa, Latin-America and Asia. Nevertheless, an increasing number of governments recognise the importance of culture in itself and in connection to social and economic development. Part twenty-one in a series on cultural policy in non-Western countries.


October 2006 -

The Surinam government completed its draft cultural policy in August 2006. The agenda for the next ten months will be filled with intensive consultation with cultural partners and artists. The premise for the definite policy to be distilled from the discussions is the wide cultural diversity.

The Art and Culture Directorate of the Surinam Ministry of Education and Development, which has borne responsibility for the art sector since it was established in 1980, is in favour of an integrated approach. To date the individual art sectors developed separately. The culture policy is intended to serve as a common basis. Art will also be included in school curricula. Knowledge of art and culture not only generates unity and mutual respect. It will also enhance awareness of Surinam's cultural heritage, it is believed.

That cultural heritage is a primary pillar of the international culture policy formulated by Surinam in 2001. The country decided, for example, to sign a five-year treaty with the government of the Netherlands regarding the conservation of the joint heritage, e.g. colonial archives and the Fort Zeelandia complex. The historical centre of Paramaribo, dating from the seventeenth and eighteenth centuries, has been included in Unesco’s Cultural Heritage list since 2002. In January 2005, Surinam - the only Dutch-speaking country in Latin America – joined the Netherlands Language Union, a cultural cooperative between the Netherlands and Flanders.

Since Surinam gained its independence from the Netherlands in 1975, the search for identity has been a major objective for many artists. Organisations such as Writers Group 77 and the Federation of Visual Artists in Surinam (FVKS) focus on neighbouring Caribbean countries in particular. They played an important part, for example, in organising the first Caribbean Biennial in Santo Domingo and the annual Carifesta festival.