Elfriede Baarn-Dijksteel, known as the “Kulturu Mama” of NAKS, was a real source of Afro-Surinamese cultural inspiration to many people. Her very strong poems and odo (Afro-Surinamese proverbs) have inspired many – especially young persons- to become culturally involved cultural performers.
She was poet, writer of theatre productions, organizer of cultural shows and theatre director. For many decades she has been active in the education sector and fulfilled many management and policy-related functions in Surinamese education and culture sector.
Mrs. Baarn-Dijksteel who became a NAKS member in 1969, was NAKS Chair for more than ten years, until February 2010, when she deceased. Fred Fitz-James, prominent activist for Afro-Surinamese culture in Rotterdam, the Netherlands stated: “She has added more dynamic to NAKS as she was always actively encouraging youngsters to develop and perform their talents and capacities.” She has contributed to a good cooperative relationship between Afro-Surinamese groups and organizations in Suriname and The Netherlands.
In order to document the legacy of Mrs. Baarn-Dijksteel, NAKS has launched a poetry book “Jenge”, a documentary video about her life and work in 2011, a year after her decease. In addition the Jenge show (also on video) was produced in commemoration of her contribution to Surinamese culture. The videos are available on you tube while the book is available at the NAKS office.
She has been able to promote the diversity of Suriname’s culture in a balanced way, both in Suriname and abroad. In 2008, the President of Suriname granted her the gold medal of the Order of Honor of the Yellow Star, as an acknowledgement of her untiring efforts to develop and promote the Afro-Surinamese culture.
On 13 August the monument on her grave was unveiled. This monument is located at the cemetery of Hodi Mihi Cras Tibi in Paramaribo, designed by the artists Marcel Pinas and Rinaldo Klas, both born in villages along the Cottica River, where Mrs. Elfriede Baarn’s family was born. One of her well-known proverbs is in scripted in this monument “mi na frudu, mi e go mi e kon; noti no e kibri gi mi”: I am like the tide: I come and go; nothing can hide from me”).
“Elder, nationalist, culture specialist, theater maker, poet, messenger, advisor, teacher, mother, sister, wife, dya dya uma. Know yourself, stand proudly in the legacy of your ancestors, shine your light to empower and develop our collective human community”. That was her message. Let her legacy and magnitude of her spirit live on in you.