More Information About Djukas
A. Hyatt Verrill.
New York Times; Sept. 11, 1927; pg. X14. Researched by Alan Schenker, digitized by Doug Frizzle Sept. 2011.
To the Editor of The New York Times:
I have been much interested in the articles on the Djukas of Dutch Guiana written by Dr. Morton C. Kahn, in The Times. I am particularly interested as I have visited these people and have collected material from them in the interests of the Museum of the American Indian, Heye Foundation of New York.
I wish, therefore, to call attention to one or two errors in the article. In the first place, Dr. Kahn's collection of utensils, &c, is not by any means the only one nor the first one in this country. The Museum of the American Indian has a very large and representative collection of utensils, weapons, art, clothing, ornaments, musical instruments, gods, &c, which I collected in 1924, and in addition has a smaller collection made a number of years ago. There are also several private collections made by members of the staff of the Aluminum Company of America.
Dr. Kahn states that the art of the Djukas is African art. One of the most remarkable features of the Djuka culture is the fact that instead of reflecting African culture or being strongly influenced by the arts and cultures of the neighboring aboriginal Indians, as might be expected, the Djuka culture is quite distinct from any other and their art possesses its own individuality. Even in their marriage, burial and other customs and in their religion the Djukas differ from other races.
Dr. Kahn speaks of the terror which his camera inspired and how difficult if not impossible it was to obtain photographs of the Djukas. My own experience has been that the Djukas, even in the more remote districts, are sufficiently sophisticated today to realize that photographs of themselves are worth paying for. While they will hide or raise strenuous objections if a camera is brought into action without payment being offered, I have yet to find a Djuka who will not face a camera in exchange for a guilder or its equivalent in trade.
Dr. Kahn also neglects to mention the Djukas' exceedingly interesting and unique social, political and funeral customs. The Djukas are divided into a number of distinct tribes or clans, each in many respects independent but all under the sovereignty of the Gran-graniman or king, who is recognized by the Dutch Government of Surinam as an independent potentate. He is regarded as the religious as well as temporal head of all the Djukas and is surrounded by mysticism and rarely is seen by his people.
On the occasion of the inauguration of the present Governor of Dutch Guiana the Gran-graniman journeyed to Paramaribo to take part in the ceremonies. And owing to the fact that he considered it would be unbecoming to permit his subjects to see his royal personage twice in one year, he was forced to return by a very circuitous route.
A. Hyatt Verrill.
New York, Sept. 6, 1927.