Sarnámihuis is an online community of Indo-Surinamese in the Netherlands that focuses on culture and identity formation. The Indo-Surinamese community in Holland has established many social institutions that express their identity: religious institutions (mosques, mandirs), artistic institutions (dance, literature, music), scientific institutions (research), media (print, audio, video, internet) etc.
From 1873 till 1916 some 34.000 Indians from colonized India arrived in former Dutch colony of Suriname to work on the plantations that enslaved Africans had left. Some 5.500 died due to deprivation during indenture ship. Around 11.000 returned to India. There are now 155.000 Indo-Surinamese on a total population of 570.000.
Between 1965 and 1975 some 100.000 Surinamese left Suriname for Holland because of economic recession and fear of violence because of the polarized political situation on the eve of political independence in 1975. There is now a community of 350.000 Surinamese in Holland of which some 120.000 are of Indo-Surinamese descent.
Sarnámihuis is a non-profit foundation that is funded by income from activities and sometimes by grants and subsidies for specific activities. The foundation has a network of volunteers who carry out many of the activities.
Sarnámihuis has monthly newsletter that is mailed to its subscribers, a website, a facebook page and an instagram account.
Annual commemoration and events
A central event in the community is the annual commemoration of the start of indentureship. On June 5th 1873 the ship Lalla Rookh arrived with first group of indentured labourers. For decades this event was regarded as something worthwhile celebrating and thanking the Dutch colonizer for bringing Indians to Suriname. The critical historical research on indenture ship revealed that there nothing to thank the colonizer for. Indenture ship was a system of forced labour. There were forty uprising in Suriname on the plantation in the period 1873-1916 of which two were repressed with mass executions. Sarnámihuis takes the view that it is curious that other people celebrate the end of their oppression while the Indo Surinamese celebrated the start of their oppression as Indian Arrival Day. So they are changing this tradition by using the word commemoration instead of celebration. Every event of commemoration starts with one minute of silence for those who have been executed. The focus of the commemoration is the celebration of the struggle of our ancestors against colonialism and the sacrifices they have made to ensure a better future for their children.
Sarnámhuis has a strong presentation on internet, but bringing people together in events is also very important. Every year Sarnámihuis organizes edutainment events in which education and entertainment are combined in shows with music, dance, powerpoint presentations, discussions etc. The 5 juni commemoration is an important event.
Sarnámi is the language that has developed in the Indo-Surinamese community. Sarnámihuis has developed an online course in Sarnámi.
Research on indenture ship in Suriname is carried out with community academics: researchers who have an academic degree, but don’t work in the academia, yet they conduct scientific research and publish books. Their work are often more radical because they are based on archival sources that show the real horrific story of indenture ship
Sarnámihuis is working closely with community academics. Their work is the basis of how we look at the impact of indenture ship on identity formation.
Sarnámihuis has a working relationship with the publishing house Amrit Publishers, that publishes books by authors linked to Sarnámihuis. See https://www.amritpublishers.com/nl/.
Young Indo-Surinamese activists in the community of Sarnámihuis who are involved in social struggle against racism in Holland have established the Indian History Month inspired by the tradition of Black History Month since 2016. During a whole month there are online and offline activities about history, culture and identity formation. In general they are involved in struggle of representation in Holland.