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'Faya Lobi' by Xavier Robles de Medina at Praz-Delavallade, Paris

Faya Lobi means fiery love, or love of fire. 

In Suriname, it is the Sranan given name for its national flower, the Ixori coccinea, a flowering plant of South-Indian, Bangladeshi, and Sri Lankan origins. Other names it is known by are jungle geranium, flame of the woods, or jungle flame. The faya lobi grows abundantly in Suriname, producing flowers all year, as it does in South Asia. In Suriname, faya lobi became a symbol for love, long lasting and ardent passion. All parts of the plant are used in Ayurveda for its extensive healing properties– a knowledge that was transferred to maroon and Amerindian communities once the plant was introduced and began thriving in South American soil. 

There is a fiery love that burns in the deep heart of the South American jungles. This fire is different from the fires that have burned down and deforested the Amazon– it exists intrinsically, and is passed down to those born in the lineage of resistance. In the northeast Amazon basin, a fiery love welcomed the Ndyuka, now descendants of marooned slaves who for four centuries continuously build resistance and sanctuaries. 

A fiery love– marooned, ancestral, anti-imperialist, courageous, slow burning, and resistant– ignited slave revolts and unified marooned communities all over the Caribbean and South America. It takes a fiery love to fight for your right to stand on the ground you were enslaved on. “Kissing the earth before rebellions was an oath; an act that maintained a social contract with the earth often to the point of death”. In A Billion Black Anthropocenes or None, Kathryn Yusoff, with wisdom from Sylvia Wynter, speaks of the marooned indigenization of the land in the Caribbean and the Americas– of “planting roots through maroonage and cultivation”– as a practice of black cultural resistance, one that “established kinship with the earth”, and dealt with in the land not as colonial territory but as a site for nurturing a bond that is equally balanced between humanity and the earth. 

A fiery love– young, revolutionary, resistant, urgent, educated, communal, organized, and united– was living in the bodies of fifteen men who opposed the military dictatorship of Suriname in the 1980s. On December 7, 8 and 9, 1982 in Paramaribo, Suriname, these fifteen men were captured by the militarized forces of the dictatorship, and taken to Fort Zeelandia in Paramaribo, where they were tortured and killed for opposing the military regime. 

A fiery hate built Fort Zeelandia– originally assembled in wood by French colonists in 1640, it was later reinforced in stone by the Dutch after they regained Paramaribo in 1667. The fort, constructed in a strategic location, a sharp bend in the Suriname River, lost its value in military strategy by the early 1700s, when conflict and ambushes from other militarized colonial powers targeted plantations instead of shores. Fort Zeelandia quickly became neglected, its many water infiltrations made it impossible to even store gunpowder, the canons it housed were too small to be functional, and its watch-house collapsed– reports say it rapidly degenerated into a garbage dump. The Dutch considered tearing down the fort, but the demolition proved to be too expensive, as many buildings, now demolished, were built leaning against its external walls; its use as a storage closet continued. In the 19th century, Fort Zeelandia was repurposed as a prison– with ample maintenance difficulties, due to lack of division in its internal spaces. In 1968, as restorations in the fort began it was decided it was to be converted into a museum. In the 1980s, the fort was appropriated by the Surinamese military dictatorship to serve as a prison for political prisoners. Presently, the fort houses the Surinaams Museum, an ethnographic history museum and archive of the fort and its surrounding areas. 

A statue of Queen Wilhelmina of the Netherlands stands in front of Fort Zeelandia; in 1975, she was moved away where she used to stand in front of the Governor’s Palace (now the Presidential Palace), and was replaced with a sculpture of Jopie Pengel by Stuart Robles de Medina. In the archive of the Surinaams Museum exists a photograph of Stuart and a colleague guiding the rope-bound sculpture of Queen Wilhelmina down into her present resting place. The Queen and Fort Zeelandia mark the land– here lies the brutal failure of empire. Violent structures we deem to be permanent are often rotting and fragile inside, and they can be easily torn down, moved away from the center, if we mobilize and tend to our fiery love. 

It takes love to excavate our history with kindness. To transform our relationship with a ground that has witnessed so much violence. To kiss the earth and swear devotion to a longevity that lasts beyond our lifetime. 

With a fiery love, Paula Pinho Martins Nacif 

“Taking down our critique, our own positions, our fortifications, is self-defense alloyed with self-preservation. That takedown comes in movement, as a shawl, the armor of flight. We run looking for a weapon and keep running looking to drop it. And we can drop it, because however armed, however hard, the enemy we face is also illusory. (...) We owe it to each other to falsify the institution, to make politics incorrect, to give the lie to our own determination. We owe each other the indeterminate. We owe each other everything.” 

– Stefano Harney and Fred Moten, The Undercommons: Fugitive Planning & Black Study

1.2.20 – 23.5.20


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