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Rite of Passage

August 27, 2012

Last week was a busy one – in a good way. My organization was a partner for a week-long training session for young entrepreneurs. I was at the sessions to observe, because we hope to develop a program where we can continue to mentor these young entrepreneurs so they are able to really launch their businesses. I was really impressed at their motivation and ideas.

At the party

Yesterday, a friend and I had planned to get together. The past month has gone quickly, and I realized I had not seen her in a while. When we talked about what we were going to do, she told me “my boyfriend’s niece is having a party for a rite of passage and you are welcome to come.”

A party for a culturally significant rite of passage? And I can take photos? Count me in!

It is a rite of passage where a young woman first develops breasts – she is given what is called a kojo. It’s like a mini pangi – they get full pangis when they start to menstruate. I am mixing languages because I don’t know what a kojo is in Dutch or Sranan Tongo – that is what it is called in Saramaccan.

Yep, I live in a multicultural country!

The young lady who received kojo

So the young lady is given a number of kojo, which she fashions into a kind of dress, and is shown around, and everyone dances with her. She chooses which pattern she wants for the cloth and everyone wears it (well, except me – I didn’t know until the last minute! But I wore the colors in it).

This was unusual because usually these parties are held in villages in the interior. This one was held in the city because of a relative from Amsterdam who wanted it here – more’s the benefit for me, because I got to be part of it! There was a lot of music, dancing, and plenty of food and drink.

I consider myself very lucky to have been included. Because I live in the city rather than the interior, I did not think I would be able to be part of these types of events – and feel especially lucky because it is a former PCV who remained in Paramaribo to work whose family it was, to my connection to the young woman was tenuous at best. How kind of them to welcome me (though they spoke Saramaccan to me…I had to say “I am learning to speak Dutch” in Dutch but they kept speaking Saramaccan. It happens).

The young woman did not wear that dress the whole time, but had two more wardrobe changes during her party. Not sure if this is typical or unusual (I’m still new here!) but she looked lovely in all of the outfits.

Rites of passage. We often hear of those that involve trauma but I like the idea of this one – celebrating the development of a girl into womanhood. Too bad we don’t celebrate things like this more often.


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