Picture: Post stamp from the Republic of Suriname, 1976

Storytelling tradition

The rich Aukan storytelling tradition takes many different forms. The fositentoli (past tense stories) are set in history and are about the ancestors of the Aukan people. For example, they tell of the tricks the Europeans used to lure the ancestors of the Aukaners into the slave ships. These stories have a special, sacred power: you cannot understand the present without knowing the past. They are therefore never told in public, but are passed on in secret to chosen people.
Other stories do not have to be told by a special person. For example, there are mato (myths) that are not set in history, such as the one about Wataamama (Water Mother). She lives in the rivers far inland. She lures and grabs people, but sometimes sits on a rock and combs her hair with a golden comb. If she gets scared and forgets her golden comb, it can make you rich. After all, Wataamama would give a lot to get her comb back. There are also stories about Busimama, she lives in the forest. The stories about the clever spider Anansi (Anainsitoli) are mostly told to children. These stories occur both in the coastal area and inland.

Foto: Anansi in a fight with the tiger, by Noni Lichtveld.

Anansi Collectie van Diitabiki Museum Fositen Gudu
The stories are told in the evening, at a rest during the hunt, under the trees or by the river at the hottest time of the day. During special occasions, especially at a mourning ceremony, storytelling is combined with music and dance.

If you know a mato yourself, let us know and send an email to