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Surinamese Mining Town Comes to Life in Interactive Dutch Documentary
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Director’s residence Casa Blanca in Moengo (1947). Photo by Willem van de Poll, Nationaal Archief via Wikimedia Commons
Director’s residence Casa Blanca in Moengo (1947). Photo by Willem van de Poll, Nationaal Archief via Wikimedia Commons Director’s residence Casa Blanca in Moengo (1947). Photo by Willem van de Poll, Nationaal Archief via Wikimedia Commons
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Surinamese Mining Town Comes to Life in Interactive Dutch Documentary

Dutch artist Magda Augusteijn created an innovative web documentary about the history of the former mining town Moengo in Suriname.

In January DutchCulture published Turn and Face the Strange, an overview of outstanding international cultural exchange practices that took place in 2020. The overview contains examples of good practices during the past pandemic year in the 23 focus countries of the International Cultural Policy framework 2021-2024, capturing the state of play at the various embassies and consulates of the Netherlands.

This time we spotlight artist and film maker Magda Augusteijn’s documentary Casa Blanca, which she made in close collaboration with editor and film maker Sam Jones and narrator Furgill Raafenberg.

Mining town

Casa Blanca tells the story of the inhabitants of the former mining town of Moengo, about a hundred kilometres East of Paramaribo, Suriname. The Maroon community currently living in Moengo, descend from enslaved people who once fled the plantations nearby and settled on the hills close to the river Cottica. In 1915, the American company Alcoa discovered a high amount of bauxite in the surroundings, which resulted in large-scale mining practices, of which the Americans and Dutch took advantage of.

The title of the project derives from the beautiful Casa Blanca building, built in 1927 as a director’s residence for the mining company, later used as a staff club, and currently abandoned and dilapidated. The white building also forms the central node in this interactive audio-visual work. Locals and former residents of Moengo, from Suriname and the Netherlands, share sweet memories, harsh realities, and dreams for the future around this place.

Moving Moengo

This production wasn’t the first trip to Moengo for Augusteijn. In 2017 she took part in an artist in residence programme in Suriname. She noticed how many different population groups and communities live close together but do not interact much in their social and cultural lives. Augusteijn decided to take a closer look into the differences, similarities and the purposes and meanings of the prevalent rituals in the area of Moengo. The research, in collaboration with anthropologist Tina Lenz and students from the Nola Hatterman Art Academy Paramaribo, resulted in the film Moving Moengo.

An exciting new form

Augusteijn’s return to Suriname in 2019, thus made further research and the exciting form of an interactive web documentary possible, which was launched in November 2020. The 24 short videos, starring former workers from the mining company and the Casa Blanca staff club and visual artist Marcel Pinas, plus additional online features offer a broad and vivid image of the history of Moengo, Casa Blanca and their protagonists. The interactive documentary Casa Blanca is still and cost-free available online, in a lower resolution suitable for slow internet connections.

This article first appeared on the website of DutchCulture.

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