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Javanese Surinamese

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Title: Javanese Surinamese  
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Subject: Asian Surinamese, Demographics of Suriname, Surinamese people, Ranomi Kromowidjojo, Indonesian diaspora
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Javanese Surinamese

Javanese Surinamese

Total population
ca. 74,000
Regions with significant populations
Commewijne · Lelydorp · Paramaribo
Dutch · Sranan Tongo · Javanese
Sunni Islam · Christianity · Kejawen

Javanese Surinamese are an ethnic group of Javanese descent in Suriname. They are present since the late 19th century, whose first members were selected by the Dutch colonizers from the former Dutch East Indies.

Contract labour

Javanese immigrants from the Dutch East Indies, picture taken between 1880-1900.

In 1890, the influential Netherlands Trading Society, owner of the plantation Mariënburg in Suriname, undertook a test to attract Javanese contract workers from the Dutch East Indies. Until then, primarily Hindustani contract workers from British India worked at the Suriname plantations as field and factory workers. On August 9 the first Javanese arrived in Paramaribo. The test was considered successful and by 1894 the colonial government took over the task of recruiting Javanese hands. They came in small groups from the Dutch East Indies to the Netherlands, and from there to Paramaribo. The transport of Javanese immigrants continued until 1914 (except 1894) in two stages through Amsterdam.

The workers came from villages in Central and East Java. Departure points were Batavia, Semarang and Tandjong Priok. The recruited workers and their families awaited their departure in a depot, where they were inspected and registered and where they signed their contract.

The immigrants were recruited to work on the plantations. The exception was a group in 1904, when 77 Javanese were recruited specifically to work at the Colonial Railways. From World War I Javanese also worked at the Suriname Bauxite Company in Moengo. Immigration continued until December 13, 1939. The outbreak of World War Two ended transplantation schemes.


A total of 32,965 Javanese immigrants went to Suriname. In 1954, 8,684 Javanese returned to Indonesia, with the rest remaining in Suriname. The census of 1972 counted 57,688 Javanese in Suriname, and in 2004 there were 71,879. In addition, in 2004 more than 60,000 people of mixed descent were recorded, with an unknown number of part Javanese descent.


In 1953 a large group of 300 families (1,200 people), led by Salikin Hardjo, went back to Indonesia on the ship Langkuas of the Royal Rotterdam Lloyd. They intended to settle in Java or Lampung, but their request was not approved by the Indonesian government, and instead they were sent to West Sumatra. They established the village of Tongass in Kabupaten Pasaman, north of Padang, clearing land and building new houses. They integrated smoothly with the Minangkabau community, despite the fact that most of the Javanese were Christian. Marriages with the mainly Muslim Minangkabau were common. The current generation is said to feel more Indonesian than Surinamese, but still maintains contacts with family and friends in Suriname and the Netherlands, sometimes traveling to those countries.


In the 1970s 20-25,000 Javanese Surinamese went to the Netherlands. They settled mainly in and around cities such as Groningen, Amsterdam, The Hague, Rotterdam and Zoetermeer. They are well integrated into Dutch society, but preserve their Javanese identity through associations and regularly organized meetings. Most still have relatives in Suriname and send packages and money, with many regularly visiting Suriname.

Notable people


  • Bersselaar, van den, D., H. Ketelaars, 1991, De komst van contractarbeiders uit Azië: Hindoestanen en Javanen in Suriname, Leiden, ISBN 90-5292-037-0
  • Breunissen, K., 2001, Ik heb Suriname altijd liefgehad: het leven van de Javaan Salikin Hardjo, Leiden, ISBN 90-6718-183-8
  • Bruin, de, H., 1990, Javanen in Suriname, Paramaribo
  • Derveld, F.E.R., 1982, Politieke mobilisatie en integratie van de Javanen in Suriname : Tamanredjo en de Surinaamse nationale politiek, Groningen: Bouma's boekhandel, ook verschenen als proefschrift Leiden, ISBN 90-6088-078-1
  • Grasveld, Fons en Klaas Breunissen, 1990, Ik ben een Javaan uit Suriname, Hilversum: Stichting Ideële Filmprodukties, ISBN 90-900360-0-8
  • Hardjomohamed, R., 1998, Javanese female immigrants in the historiography of Suriname, Suriname
  • Hoefte, R., 1990, De betovering verbroken: de migratie van Javanen naar Suriname en het rapport-Van Vleuten (1909), Dordrecht, ISBN 90-6765-458-2
  • Hoefte, R., 1998, In place of slavery: a social history of British Indian and Javanese laborers in Suriname, Gainesville, ISBN 0-8130-1625-8
  • Jorna, E., 1985, "Naar een land van melk en honing?": Javaanse emigratie naar Suriname 1890-1917, Leiden, doctoraalscriptie
  • Kempen, M. van, 2003, 'Javanen'. In: Een geschiedenis van de Surinaamse literatuur. Breda: De Geus, pp. 197–209. (overzicht van de Surinaams-Javaanse orale literatuur)
  • Mangoenkarso, P.P., 2002, De eerste 94 Javanen op plantage Mariënburg in Suriname, Rijswijk
  • Mitrassing, F.E.M., 1990, Etnologische trilogie: Suriname: Creolen, Hindostanen, Javanen: gedenkschriften, Paramaribo
  • Mulder, K., 1987, Reserve-arbeid in een reserve-kolonie: immigratie en kolonisatie van de Javanen in Suriname 1890-1950, Rotterdam, doctoraalscriptie.
  • Six-Oliemuller, B.J.F.G., 1998, Aziaten vergeleken: Hindoestanen en Javanen in Suriname, 1870-1875, Leiden, doctoraalscriptie
  • Suparlan, P., 1995, The Javanese in Suriname: ethnicity in an ethnically plural society, Tempe
  • Vruggink, Hein i.s.m. John Sarmo, 2001, Surinaams-Javaans - Nederlands Woordenboek, KITLV Uitgeverij, Leiden, ISBN 90-6718-152-8
  • Waal Malefijt, de, A., 1963, The Javanese of Surinam, Assen
  • Waal Malefijt, de, A., 1960, The Javanese population of Surinam, Colombia
  • Wengen, van, G.D., 1975, The cultural inheritance of the Javanese in Surinam, Leiden, ISBN 90-04-04365-9
  • Winden, van der, Y., 1978, Javanen in Suriname: bibliografie van publicaties verschenen over de Javaanse bevolkingsgroep in Suriname, Den Haag

Welcome to the international website of the Javanese Diaspora.==External links==

  • Database with records of persons in 1890-1930 as a contract worker from Java went to Suriname
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