St. Maarten writer/poet Camille E. Baly.
AMSTERDAM–St. Maarten will have the honour of carrying two street names in Amsterdam: writer/poet Camille E. Baly and slave Quashiba. They were selected as part of the initiative to name 27 streets in the new neighbourhood Centrumeiland after persons from the former Netherlands Antilles, Suriname and Indonesia who were critical of Dutch colonialism and slavery.
Known activists like Louis Doedel from Suriname and Roestam Effendi from Indonesia are among the 27 names, but also writers of critical thinking from the former Netherlands Antilles have been selected, such as Frank Martinus Arion, Boeli van Leeuwen, Tip Marugg, Cola Debrot and Nydia Ecury, and Julius Koenders from Suriname.
Camille Baly Street will pay tribute to the St. Maarten writer, poet and recitalist who lived from 1936 to 2012. In his work, Baly made much use of the oral history of the Windward Islands. He was the head of the Cultural Department for many years.
Quashiba is less known. While living in slavery in St. Maarten, she managed to escape by boat to Anguilla in 1835 with five other slaves, including her two children Sammy and Jane. Five years later, Quashiba’s partner, Matthew Stancliff, courageously sailed back to St. Maarten to get Quashiba’s sister Minny and her children, so they too could live in freedom. Quashiba and her family are symbols in the fight for freedom, and thus it was decided to honour her through Quashiba Street.
Two other slaves were selected to have streets named after them: Virginia Dementricia, later Virginia Gaai, and Virginie van Gameren. Gaai is a symbol of resistance in Aruba. She was born in slavery in1842 and died after 1867. She revolted against her owners and was punished many times with physical punishment, hard labour and jail time. Virginia will have both a street and an adjacent patio named after her.
Van Gameren was born in slavery in Curaçao, but neither her birthdate nor the date of her death was recorded. She was owned by Governor of the colony Curaçao Van Raders whose daughter took her to the Netherlands in 1842. When the governor tried to put her back in slavery in Suriname, she started a procedure, claiming that based on an older law she was a free person because she had been in the Netherlands. In 1852, she and her daughters were declared free.
The other Dutch Caribbean persons who will have streets named after them are all writers. Frank Martinus Arion, who passed away in Curaçao in 2015, was a great promoter of Papiamentu, and wrote the famous book Double Play. He returned his royal decoration in 2008 because, in his opinion, the Netherlands was recolonising the Netherlands Antilles.
Pierre Lauffer, who died in Curaçao in 1981, is called by many Curaçao’s national poet. As a writer, poet and cultural activist he fought for the continued existence of the Papiamentu language, Curaçao folklore and history. The Pierre Lauffer culture prize was named after him.
Cola Debrot, besides being a writer, was also a medical doctor, wrote the famous book My Black Sister and has several other titles to his name. He was active in Curaçao’s cultural community, and became Minister Plenipotentiary of the Netherlands Antilles in 1952 and Governor of the Netherlands Antilles in 1962. The Cola Debrot writer’s prize was named after him.
Boeli van Leeuwen (Curaçao 1922-2007) was a writer and poet, studied law, worked as a pro-deo lawyer for the poor, and published about 10 books, including the famous A Stranger on Earth, The Sign of Jonah and many others. He received the Cola Debrot Prize in 1983 and two years later a general culture prize was established in his name.
Tip Marugg (Curaçao 1923-2006) also was a writer and poet. He wrote several well-known books, including Weekend Pilgrimage. He was nominated for the Dutch AKO Literature Prize and received the Cola Debrot Prize in 1989.
Nydia Ecury, born in Aruba in 1926 and passed away in Curaçao in 2012, was a teacher, writer, translator and actress. She published several collections of poems and played in the famous Antillean movie Almacito di Desolato. She received the Pierre Lauffer Prize in 1995 and the Cola Debrot Prize in 2007. She was the sister of the famous resistance fighter and war hero Boy Ecury. A street and an adjacent patio will be named after her.
The naming of the streets of the new neighbourhood Centrumeiland in IJburg after fighters against Dutch domination in the former colonies and critical writers was initially announced by Amsterdam Mayor Femke Halsema during the annual Emancipation Day observance at Oosterpark in Amsterdam on July 1, 2019. “We want Amsterdam to become everyone’s city, a city in which we share, analyse and repent our history; a city of equal and truly free people,” she said on that occasion.