21 March 2010

Visits in Paramaribo

Left: Visit to the atelier of Paul Woei. Right: His poster that started our interest in the voyage of La Condamine.

15 and 16/3. Monday and Tuesday.  We had a very pleasant visit to the house of Paul woei. He told us how, together with art students, he had made the tourist poster that told us for the first time about La Condamine and had started our interest in him. He also told us that there was a kind of monument memorizing the determination by La Condamine of the position of Paramaribo during his short visit to the town. He thought we could get more information at the museum of the town.
It appeared that Paul Woei had been studying in Amsterdam in the early sixties and that we had common memories of a little restaurant behind the Binnen-Bantammerstraat, where you had to go down a small staircase to buy a nassi-goreng for 1 guilder.
We visited his atelier and drank Markusa-juice of fruits from his garden with his wife. We watched a beautiful video he had made himself of his visits to the people of the Upper Suriname river which he had also painted ("A Journey of Art in the Rainforest"). Then Dennis drove us to the Waterkant next to Fort Zeelandia to see the "monument" (see photograph). It was a copper circle in the pavement of the old quay ("aanlegsteiger") divided in 32 parts with a cross in the middle that seemed to indicate the 4 winds.
Left: Was this a circle that memorized La Condamine's determination of the position of Paramaribo's fort?
Right: In the back the presidential palace where a second "ijkroos" (for compass calibration) occurs on the terrace.
So, after a telephone call by Dennis' wife, Cindy, who seems to know everyone in Paramaribo, we went the next day to Mr. Bubberman, who worked in the museum and who was interested in La Condamine. He showed us old history books and old maps, but couldn't give us any confirmation about La Condamine's "monument". He advised to search in the journals of Mauricius, the governor that had invited La Condamine to come to Paramaribo. These were still present in the Dutch National Archive. 

Looking in history books and old maps with Mr. F.C. Bubberman in the museum.

Finally, after another telephone call by Cindy, we went to the architect Philip Dikland. He told us that the circle was a so-called "ijkroos" used for calibration of compasses and that there was another more intact circle on the terrace behind the presidential palace. The distance between the two circles could have served to calibrate the length of a measuring-chain. He didn't know whether the circles existed already in 1744, but he did know that La Condamine was helped by the local land surveyor named De Lancourt, when determining the position, probably at the present location of the statue of Lachmon. Such positions, however, were not used in the dutch maps of the time. Only in 1870 the map of Cateau shows the first position measurement. He gave me a beautiful article entitled "Landmeters in Suriname van 1667 tot en met 1861".

Philip Dikland: making maps of the plantations in Suriname, using a minute glass and a rowing boat to calculate distances.

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