Wetenschap - 31 augustus 1995

Redi Doti: red earth in a green city

Redi Doti: red earth in a green city

For more than thirty years the Surinam Association (Surinaamse Vereniging) Redi Doti has been the place where people from Surinam living in Wageningen get together. As the three board members Damien Quintius, Dionne Irving and Miew-Woen Sjauw-En-Wa explain, Redi Doti is definitely more than just a place where Caribbean dance-evenings or other socio-cultural activities are organised from time to time.


In 1963 a group of students from Surinam won a scholarship to study forestry in Wageningen. This group founded the Surinam Association and named it after an Indian village Redi Doti (literally meaning Red Earth). In that same year concessions were given to several timber companies in the area around the village, making the region economically important for Surinam. At that time Surinam was still a Dutch colony, and since there were no possibilities to follow higher agricultural education in Surinam, Wageningen was a logical destination for those wishing to pursue this goal.

Quintius, The main reason for founding Redi Doti at that time was to be able to closely follow the developments in Surinam society and discuss these developments among the members in a structural way. Students have the responsibility to at least have thought about the problems they will encounter in their professional life when they go back to Surinam." Sjauw-En-Wa adds that, It is important to realize that most Surinam students still return to Surinam after finishing their study. During their stay here they feel the need to exchange views about general and current issues concerning Surinam." This is one of the original articles of the association, and it is still an important and valid objective. Every Tuesday interested members get together to discuss a particular subject. This may vary from rethinking and redefining development to deforestation, which is a hot item at the moment. The latter issue has been a major topic of debate during the Tuesday evening sessions f
or the past two years.

The Surinam government is trying to reach an agreement with a consortium of foreign timber companies concerning the exploitation of 30 million hectares of tropical rain forest. Quintius continues, Two years ago, when the government started the negotiations, we managed to react very quickly, issuing a leaflet providing information, thus contributing to and stimulating the discussion. Sensitive to the worldwide discussion and critique, the Surinam Government is now trying to establish a control mechanism in order to prevent an ecological disaster. In the course of September we plan to co-organize a public event around this issue but since the dates and specific details are not fixed yet this will be made public at a later stage."

Independence

Surinam gained independence on November 25 in 1975. This led to a shift in the composition of Redi Doti's membership. At this time and again in 1980, when the military coup d'etat took place, many people migrated to the Netherlands from Surinam. More and more non-students became members of the Association. During the 1980's Redi Doti adjusted the statutes of the association accordingly. Quintius, We moved away slightly from the University, and Redi Doti now falls under the regulations of the Municipality of Wageningen which cover minority groups. This means that we not only have to look after our member's interests but also after the interests of the Surinam community in Wageningen as a whole. It is true to say that we have partly become an immigrant organization as well. We carefully monitor changes in immigration policy and react if necessary."

Furthermore, we show people who have recently arrived from Surinam the ropes here in Wageningen. That is not an institutional service, but something we always automatically do both for students as well as for non-students. Redi Doti tries to provide a place were people can feel at home and can still be part of Surinam culture." The ratio between student and non-student members is now approximately fifty-fifty, the student members still being the ones most active in Redi Doti. Sjauw-En-Wa continues, This is mainly due to the fact that students can plan their agendas more flexibly since they have more spare time. Besides, it is important for young people to improve their social and organisational skills".

Consciousness raising

Providing Dutch society with information on recent developments in Surinam is also an important objective of Redi Doti. There is a library which is open to the public and they often participate in the regularly organized information markets in Wageningen, such as the one held each year on May 5th. The gathered board members admit that, apart from these activities, not much action has been undertaken in the past few years to reach the general public in Wageningen. However, the socio-cultural activities organized by the Association also form a part of this objective," as Dionne points out. We regularly host Open House days and celebrate Surinam feast-days including Independence Day and Keti Koti or emancipation day: on July 1st each year Surinam celebrates the date that slavery was abolished. It is important to note that the Surinam culture consists of different sub-cultures and we try to show this in all its diversity. Finally, on November 18th we are planning a
major event to celebrate the twentieth anniversary of Surinam's independence. On these occasions everybody is most welcome to drop by at Redi Doti, Veerstraat 97."

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