PROA: Your book on Maroon Arts shows how descendants of rebel slaves from diverse African origins living in Guiana and Suriname have kept alive pan-African aesthetic ideas while adapting them creatively to changing economic and social circumstances. It seems amazing that even facing much adversity (civil war, a plummeting economy, drugs, mining companies) they still care about artistic mastery. How do you explain it?
SALLY PRICE: People don’t lose their culture just because they hit hard times. Think about the descriptions we have of Africans suffering through the horrors of the Middle Passage and arriving in the Americas where one 18th-century writer observed: “todos os escravos são levados para o convés ... e seu cabelo é raspado em diferentes imagens de estrelas, meia-luas etc., o que eles geralmente fazem uns com os outros (sem dispor de lâminas), com a ajuda de uma garrafa quebrada e sem sabão.” [J.G. Stedman, quoted in S. Mintz and R. Price, O Nascimento da cultura Afro-Americana, Pallas Editora 1992, p. 72]. I would guess that equivalent examples could be found in the open-air camps where victims of the recent earthquake in Haiti don’t even have food to eat. People are surprisingly resilient in the face of adversity. It was, for example, around the time that their villages were being bombed in the civil war that Saramaka Maroon women developed openwork carving in calabashes
Interview with Sally Price