Saramaka - Settlements

Traditional villages, which average 100 to 200 residents, consist of a core of matrilineal kin plus some wives and children of lineage men. Always located near a river, they are an irregular arrangement of small houses, open-sided structures, domesticated trees, an occasional chicken house, various shrines, and scattered patches of bushes. (The so-called transmigration villages, built to house the 6,000 Saramaka displaced by the hydroelectric project, range up to 2,000 people and are laid out in a grid pattern.) Horticultural camps, which include permanent houses and shrines, are located several hours by canoe from each village, and are exploited by small matrilineal groups of women. Many women have a house in their own village, another in their horticultural camp, and a third in their husband's village. Co-wives live in separate houses. Men divide their time among three or four houses, built at various times for themselves and for their wives. Saramaka houses are barely wide enough to tie a hammock and not much longer from front to back; with walls of planks and woven palm fronds and roofs of thatch or, increasingly, of corrugated iron, they are windowless but often have elaborately carved facades.

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