THE NETHERLANDS ANTILLES AT CARIFESTA
Over 500 miles of sparkling, foaming, hissing Caribbean
Sea separate the two groups of Island territories that is known
as the Netherlands Antilles; and some 10,000 years bridge the
cultures that are daily being purified in Its melting pot that
will boil over in the C.RIFESTA fire come August 25.
These six islands in the sun Bonaire, Curacao, Aruba,
lying near Venezuela; and St. Maarten, St. Eustatius and Saba -
are exciting as they are strange with great salt ponds, cactus,
orchids and rare birds.
Giant monolithic figures of.pre-historic creatures carved,
as the natives say, by the hands of giants and odd rock carvings
done by the indigenous Caribs make up the local sceneJ but it is
the people, the folk, that in their own peculiar way help enrich
the islands' opulence of colour.
The folk in the Netherlands Antilles is a uniquely rich
folk. Images of Holland flow through its veins and yet that which
was left by the Portuguese and Spanish is rich; the African ele-
ment also adds a special flavour to the folk culture.
This folk in the form of the 22 strong Grupo Folkloriko
Antiyano will be presented at CARIFESTA.
One significant thing about this folk-art from the Nether-
lands Antilles is the fact that it is in many ways quite different
from that of Surinam. And this can be understood, since the two
territories, inspite of the fact that they are both Dutch, have
had a completely different history and geography.
In Surinam the Djukcs were able to escape into the dense
hinterland and evolve a unique life style in the jungles of
Brokopondo, 5Sramacca and Marowijn-a but the tiny islands of the
Nethorlands Antilles have no plcc to hide runaways.
In Surinam the culture has elements of Hindustani, Javanese,
Japanese, Djukas and other African peoples in addition to the
cultural heritage of the indigenous Amcrindians and Dutch. In the
SNetherlands Antilles there is a different blending with strong ele-
ments of the Portuguese, Spanish, Dutch and African.
The people of the Netherlands Antilles speak Papiamento,.
a Ianguage that is made up of Dutch, Portuguese, Spanish, French,
and English and is said to be the only of its kind in the world.
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A number of books written in the Papiamento language will
be exhibited at the C.RIFESTA Book Exhibition.
The folksongs and dances of these Popiamento speaking
people will no doubt find a special place in the exciting C.-RIFESTA
Their song and dance, like those of all the 30 countries
coming to C.'.RIFESTA, will tell of special grassroots things,
ThEy will tell tales of folk figures like Black Harry, a
converted slave of the early 19th Century, who preached with such
fervour in St. Eustatius (one of the six islands of the Netherlands
Antilles) that he turned the very heart of many a savage sea dog,
made women cry with guilt and even caused the prominent white ladies
of that time to di-guise themselves as slaves to hear him preach.
According to the natives and the archives Black Harry was
discovered and a law was immediately passed forbidding white men
to pray in company with his darker brother and vice versa.
Such offenders were to be flogged, imprisoned or banished
and their goods confiscated.
Black Harry was found guilty, flogged and banished from
the Dutch territories forever. The sad story of Black Harry has
been woven into the folk of the Nethcrlands Antilles enriching it
.in a special way.
The.popiamentc songs will also capture the beauty of the
people and their quiet island bathed by the trade winds and washed
in the blue Caribbean (open rusting door de blouwe Caribi sche
zee omspoeld eiland) as said in Dutch.
They will tell of the battles that were fought with the
grim guns of the West Indian Company. These guns are today still
posted on the Fortress of St. Michael and pointing to Spanish
These songs will no doubt stir up images of the ruthless
chess games played by the Colonial powers of former centuries in
which the Island territories were the pawns to take, exchange, move,
defeat or destroy at 1%t1.
The culture of the people of the Netherlands Antilles is
m6ulded in their history. Anr' the history is truly colourful, in
fact one of the most colourful in the entire Caribbean and Latin
American area. Even...3/
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Even before November 11, 1493 when Christopher Colombus
on his second voyage discovered the first cone-shaped island, of
the Netherlands Antilles and named it after Saint Martin, the Is-
lands were scenes cf interested happenings.
For the Corib Indions, who E1ad there before Colombus come,
no doubt, on regular occasions went out on their savage man-eating.
excursions to bring back slave wives from the camps of the Arawaks,
Teinoes etc. and ments heads as trophies.
It was they who called St. Maarten, Qualichi "Land of Women"
and Sualouign "Land of Salt".
Colombus on discovering these Cnribs when he landed on St.
Maarten referred to them as being heroicc, martial and warlike
savages who practised cannibalism".
Their weapons were bows and arrows, stone hatchets and
spears. They hod very little regard for their women folk whom they
forced to carry out all the hard manual work including the planting
and reaping of crops.
The Caribs soon disappeared from the islands and their
place was takan by people from the lands of Europe and Africa. But
it was not until the 1930's that the present cultural form of the
Netherlands Antilles took shape. In the thirties oil taken from
Venezueloa's Mrprocaibo Lake was carried to Aruba and Curacao to be
The oil brought people from hundreds of places and nation-
alities to the Dutch Antilles. Each of these people brought their
bhts of culture with them. Over night the cultural scene was changed
and enriched. The historic and cultural aspect of the land and
peoples of the Netherlands Antilles is truly colourful. The Islands -
with salt that settles on the beaches, clings to trees, fill caves -
have undergone inordinate changes in their chequered history since
With much raising and lowering of National Flogs....their
experiences have been colourful and hectic throughout the centuries
from the period of colonization under the Dutch West Indian Company
in the 17th Century to the Island autonomy of 1951.
They passed through an important and flourishing period of
Dutch mercantilism and the famed Golden Rock days of St. Eustatius.
They have undergone rmids by privateers and buccaneers;
ware and depredations....have suffered hurricane destruction and
drought....have survived slavery and its abolition. The resulting
culture from this turbulent evolutionary process comes to C.'RIFESTA
proud and free and holds a special place cf 5s own since the Dutch
influence on the lands and peoples of the Caribbean and Latin
Americon scene is unique.
The Netherlands .Antilles at CARIFESTA is another example
of the bridging of barriers and cementing of cultures among the
many peoples of the Caribbean and Latin America.