Ancestor rice of Suriname Maroons traced back to its African origin
Maroons, the descendants of escaped African slaves who live in the interior of Suriname today, grow their own rice. In addition to many types of Asian white rice (Oryza sativa), they also cultivate a species with black grains (Oryza glaberrima). This 'blaka aleisi' is rarely eaten but instead offered to ancestors and used in spiritual herb baths.
|Suriname black rice grains derive from Africa [Credit: pixabay]|
Several Suriname black rice grains were cultivated into fully grown plants in the Hortus Botanicus in Amsterdam. An international team of scientists, led by Tinde van Andel (Wageningen University & Research and Naturalis) and Eric Schranz (Wageningen University & Research), compared the DNA of these plants grown in Amsterdam with over one hundred varieties of Oryza glaberrima from across West Africa, from Senegal to Chad. The Suriname black rice was shown to be similar to a specific type of black rice that derived from the fields of Mande-speaking farmers in Western Ivory Coast.
|Slave family in French Guiana by Giulio Ferrario, 'Le Costume Ancien et Moderne', |
Volume II published about 1820 [Credit: WikiCommons]
This combination of ethnobotanic, historic and genetic research can help trace the unwritten migration history of people and crops. It also shows that the history of Suriname can be found on the fields of the Maroons. The scientists believe that the white rice, bananas, beans and tubers grown on these farmlands today still have many more stories to tell.
Source: New York University [October 04, 2016]