Location: Pikin Slee, Suriname
In 2003 woodcarvers of the Saramacca maroon village of Pikin Slee on the Suriname River initiated the Totomboti foundation, named after the Amazon woodpecker. Armed with creativity and entrepreneurial spirit, Totomboti has evolved into a unique movement to cultivate the forest and the Saramaccan culture. Totomboti uses the maroon’s century old craftsmanship and forestry knowledge as a tool to create local employment, social cohesion and restore the nature-based philosophy that has been at the core of Maroon cultural identity. As said in their tongue; A busu no musu habi en keba— There should be no end to the rainforest.
The woodcarvers’ most visible activities are woodcarvings sprinkled throughout the village that blend the old and the new into enchanting art works. Forestry activities include replanting (especially of species used for carving) and selective tree cutting. An agriculture project has introduced a consistent supply of fresh vegetables to the village, adding important nutritional value to the traditional diet of the villagers, while expanding income opportunities. What’s more, many of the artisans are herbalists who provide medical services to villagers and tourists.
Totomboti has also established Suriname’s first Maroon Museum which hosts a range of social activities and cultural demonstrations. This compound is home to a botanical garden that serves as a forest pharmacy, research and documentation centre, and learning ground for tourist and village youngsters. The woodcarvers of Pikin Slee are special. These men have not received formal education, yet their library is the rainforest. They have now constructed an on-site guest house to host visitors, researchers and supporters.
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