Johanna Schouten-Elsenhout

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Johanna Schouten-Elsenhout
Schouten Elsenhout3.jpg
Born11 July 1910
Died23 July 1992

Johanna Schouten-Elsenhout (11 July 1910 – 23 July 1992) was a Surinamese poet and an eminent community leader who fought for acknowledgement of Sranan and of the Afro-Surinamese culture.[1]

Life[edit]

Schouten-Elsenhout was born in Paramaribo in 1910. She is known for poetry that is written without verses.[clarification needed] The poems are written in Sranan Tongo and they contain no punctuation. These love poems include lesbian love which is not taboo in the Afro-creole culture.[2] It is said that she had been composing and writing down proverbial phrases for a long time before she and others recognised that she was composing poetry. She has been called the Grandma Moses of Sranan.[3]

In 1987 she was awarded the Knight of the Order of the Yellow Star.

Erwin de Vries, the Surinam sculptor in Paramaribo, made a bronze bust commissioned by the National Women's Movement, de Nationale Vrouwen Beweging (NVB) for the commemoration of the poet's one hundredth birthday.

Work[edit]

In 1963 Johanna published her first poetry book called Tide ete (Done Today/ Vandaag nog). In 1965 her second book was published: Awese (Healing Spirit). An Awese is a healing spirit in Winti, the Afro-Surinam religion. Both books are "milestones in the emancipation of the language and culture of the Creole peoples of Surinam and of the Surinam Women's Rights movement."[4] In 2010 a reprint was published to commemorate her one hundredth birthday with translations by D. France Oliveira.

About the creole language Sranantongo Johanna Schouten-Elsenhout said;[4] "Your language is your culture and that is the most precious possession of a human being. If you have lost it, then you have lost your life force, your kra. Your kra is your own personality. You may be poor, but you have a precious spirit that holds you up." One of Schouten-Elsenhout's most famous poem is Uma (Woman) of which the first lines are:

Noti no hei so

Lek’ a sten

D’ e bari

In’ dyugudyugu f’ a dei

(Uma/Woman) "Nothing is so glorious/ As a voice/ That calls out/ In the chaos of a day." According to Oerdigitaalvrouwenblad, a Dutch literary publication (Feminist, anti-racist), Hillary Clinton read this poem in 1999 at the UNESCO Conference in The Hague, The Netherlands.[4]

References[edit]

  1. ^ "Search Results Johanna Schouten-Elsenhout | blog". werkgroepcaraibischeletteren.nl. Retrieved 2016-02-16.
  2. ^ Selwyn R. Cudjoe, ed. (1990). Caribbean Women Writers: Essays from the First International Conference (1 ed.). Wellesley, Mass.: Calaloux Publications. p. 364. ISBN 0870237322.
  3. ^ Arnold, ed. by A. James (1997). A history of literature in the Caribbean. Amsterdam: Benjamins. ISBN 9027234442.CS1 maint: Extra text: authors list (link)
  4. ^ a b c "Liefde voor de moedertaal | Oerdigitaalvrouwenblad". www.oerdigitaalvrouwenblad.com. Retrieved 2016-02-16.