"Napopha"

Author: 
Steven Leeflang
Date: 
Saturday, March 28, 2015

March 27, 2015: By the final day of the Children’s Book Festival in Paramaribo, approximately 900 students had made virtual journeys to Suriname’s deep rainforest interior with ACT.

Wuta and Xengay Sabajo at the festival. Click to enlarge

The Trio word “napopha,” meaning “thank you,” was frequently heard at the ACT booth, especially toward the traditional knowledge-keeper and healer Wuta from the indigenous village of Kwamalasamutu.  ACT flew Wuta, an active participants in the Shamans and Apprentices Program, to Paramaribo to participate in the festival.

Clothed in indigenous garb, he was an extraordinary sight at the event, and many visitors took photos with him. Wuta was very patient with all the attention and took his time telling stories in Sranan (the lingua franca of Suriname). His audiences appeared fascinated by his presentations, as well as the traditional songs Wuta played on his native flute.

Wuta narrates. Click to enlarge

“I am happy that the children come here to learn,” Wuta said. “Often, when parents or elders share knowledge, children do not want to listen. I can still remember my mother trying to teach me things and how often I didn’t pay attention. Now that I am a 60-year-old grandfather, I know how difficult I must have been. As a young Indian with few possibilities in the village, you can end up going in many different directions. I am happy that I turned out well and that I can share my knowledge with children now.”

Wuta has a seemingly encyclopedia knowledge of ecology and his culture. From the age of 15, he built traditional boats and homes. Through his partnership with ACT, Wuta said he is able to better transmit his knowledge and to learn skills that will help protect the land for future generations.

The festival. Click to enlarge

“Since 2003, I have participated in many ACT trainings that gave me possibilities,” he said. “For example, I learned to work with a GPS (Global Positioning System). This is important to demarcate our lands.”

The information gathered by Wuta and ACT’s other indigenous partners is essential to both preserving local culture and securing land rights for indigenous communities in Suriname.

Dutch version can be read on the ACT Suriname website.