Wednesday, November 2, 2011

Suriname: Restoration at Jodensavanne Celebrates a Milestone

Jodensavanne, Suriname. Local residents have been trained in restoration techniques. Photo collage courtesy of the Jodensavanne Foundation (2011).

Suriname: Restoration at Jodensavanne Celebrates a Milestone

(ISJM) Harrold A. Sijlbing - Chairman of the Jodensavanne Foundation writes to International Survey of Jewish Monuments that the "Foundation has realized an important goal in preserving the national Jewish heritage in Suriname" in the completion of restoration of four historic grave monuments in the Jewish cemetery and the remnants of the 1685 Beracha VeSalom synagogue.

Jodensavanne, Suriname. The process of restoring graves in the cemetery. Photo collage courtesy of the Jodensavanne Foundation (2011).

According to Sijbing, "the project was carried out by REMAS, a Surinamese construction company specialized in historic restoration, under KDV’s leading architect Phiillip Dikland and funded by the Embassy of the Netherlands as part of the “shared heritage” program." Jodensavanne is located on the Suriname River, about thirty kilometers from Paramaribo (also the site of synagogues and Jewish cemeteries). The settlement, one of the oldest Jewish settlements in the Western Hemisphere, was surrounded by Sephardi Jewish owned sugar plantations. After its abandonment, it was overrun by jungle vegetation.

According to the Foundation's website, "the local indigenous community of mixed Arowak and Carib background, living in the village of Redi Doti, is co-manager of the monumental sites that are located in their ancestral territories. They fully contribute to the protection of the monuments and manage the buffer zones." A ceremony marking the completion of this phase of work took place this past September 13 (2011). In attendance were the Foundation board, the Redi Doti village council, representatives of the Ministry of ATM, the Dutch Embassy and construction workers.

Jodensavanne, Suriname. Above: Redi Doti village chief Lesley Artist speaks at the restoration celebration. Below: Mr. Petri of the Dutch embassy hands out certificates of appreciation. Photo courtesy of the Jodensavanne Foundation (2011).

The use of historically correct mortars and materials was an important aspect of the project in order to secure the original design integrity. A special element of the completion ceremony was the certification of four young villagers of the neighboring indigenous settlement of Redi Doti, who were trained by historic masonry specialist Henry Lo Kioen Shioe of SAO.

The Foundation has plans for a number of projects in the near future including the publication of a Jodensavanne Guide Book and the improvement in the training of local guides. The central subject in this action plan is to finalize the World Heritage Site nomination to be submitted to the UNESCO World Heritage Committee by end of the year.

Jodensavanne, Suriname. The conserved synagogue ruins. Photo courtesy of the Jodensavanne Foundation (2011).

Beginning the 1995s, American architect Rachel Frankel began studying the remains of Jodensavanne leading to the continuing development of conservation, interpretation and presentation programs for the site. In the late 1990s the entire complex was placed on the World Monuments Fund Watch List, and gradually local organizations have rallied to the preservation and presentation of the site. Largely as a result of Frankel's work and the WMF listing, the Stichting Jodensavanne, Jodensavanne Foundation (JSF), which had been founded in 1971 was re-activated in 1998 and was granted the legal rights by the Government of Suriname to manage the monumental property.

The vision of the Jodensavanne Foundation is to:
• protect and preserve the universally unique remains of Jodensavanne and Cassipora, including the Beraha VeShalom synagogue, the Cassipora Cemetery, the Jodensavanne Cemetery and the so-called African (or Creole) Cemetery;

• conserve the environmental and historic serenity of the sites;

• stimulate and implement research and documentation of the archeological sites and remains, including the former town plan and adjacent historical spots;

• enhance strong partnerships with local, national and international communities and organizations to facilitate sustainable management of the sites;

• build awareness and understanding; encourage appreciation, education and promotion, and facilitate access to the cultural heritage, in order to be a unique and enjoyable experience to all.
For more on the site and recent research see my previous post: Publication: "Monumental" Book about Suriname Jewish Cemeteries., and the Jodensavanne Foundation website.

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