photo: VPRO

Nina Jurna presents the television series ‘From Bahia to Brooklyn’. The series, which is being broadcasted in Holland, is about cultural renovation and connection in the Caribbean. Jurna travels to seven countries and islands to look at the effects of slavery past. She came back enriched by the experience.

Jurna has been a correspondent from Latin America for NOS television and the newspaper NRC for years. She has been living in Brazil for the last ten years. So she is used to lots of traveling. But this series of travels to Brazil, Trinidad, Jamaica, Curaçao, Surinam, the Dominican Republic, and Brooklyn, has really moved her. Especially the part about Curaçao.

Little Caribbean

The series takes off in Bahia, the most African part of Brazil, and ends in Brooklyn, in Little Caribbean. Jurna: “There you see what happens when there is no sea in between. I talk to a man you’d be convinced is Afro-American, but then he says: My parents are from Jamaica. A second man joins us and asks. Where do you think I’m from? We both guess Afro-American: No. my parents are pure Trinidadian.”

You feel automatically included there. Someone said: “We have a shared history, the whips connect us all. We share the same pain.” And when I got to all those places I saw that was true. Also someone from the Dominican Republic, and there they don’t easily connect with their African roots, more so with Spain.

Grandma, speak Papiamentu

Especially the part about Curaçao touched her in an emotional way. Jurna: “I’d never been this close to that time (slavery time red). With Rose-Mary Allen, the anthropologist I listened to interviews on tape, made in 1970 with people who were one hundred years old at that time.”

Jurna: “People whose parents had been enslaved. I went about with Gibi Basilio who told me the story of Tula and of the walls erected by the enslaved people. He wants to show that slavery was also a time of resistance and not just victimhood.

We went to Arte di Palabra ( Words Art), a spoken word show where young people performed. And those young people are so conscious and woke. One girl said: Papiamentu is my language and she corrected her grandma who wanted to speak in Dutch because that was what she was taught in school. “No granny, speak Papiamentu.”

Only in Jamaica did we see a man put bleaching cream on himself. He said that he wanted to stand out as an artist. He said he had overcome our slavery past. He said: “Everyone here is black. This way I get noticed and the women love it.” But bleach was sold out there.

One big family

And it all comes together in Little Caribbean, in Brooklyn. There you feel as if you automatically belong. We eat sandwiches from St Vincent and coconut from Guyana, it is a kind of island hopping. And you know that because of the colonial system, a ticket to Europe is way cheaper than one to another Caribbean island.

In my everyday job the struggle from the people against an elite, always the descendants of plantation owners, is a recurring theme. So the root of the past is always playing a role. This time we went looking for what connects us. And what I found is one big family, with shared  roots.”