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Javanese in diaspora

Arrival of Javanese in Paramaribo, 1923





Timeframe: from 1890

Number of interviews: 57


Website: javanen-in-diaspora



Until 1939, approximately 33,000 Javanese in Suriname transferred. After their contract period, the majority settled in Suriname. Only a minority returned to Indonesia. The most described return is the organized repatriation in 1954 of about 1000 people to Indonesia. This consisted of Javanese ex-contract workers and their (grand) children born in Suriname. Against better judgment, they did not end up in Java, but in Tongar, a town in West Sumatra. Most of them did not stay long. Their search for a better life brought them to other places in Indonesia: Pekanbaru, Padang, Medan, Jambi, Jakarta, but also back to Suriname.


Much less known is the group migration in 1953 of several dozen Javanese to neighboring French Guiana. Presumably even more individuals left for French Guiana in groups until the late 1960s. During Suriname’s internal war, Javanese, especially from Moengo and Albina, also fled to French Guiana. According to 2005 French population data, some 1,900 Javanese currently live in French Guiana.


The most recent extensive land relocation of Javanese Surinamese took place before the independence of Suriname in 1975, this time from Suriname to the Netherlands. Under the spell of political leaders who believed that independence would not benefit the position of the Javanese, some 22,000 Javanese left for the Netherlands. Among them were also those who had previously tried in Indonesia and in French Guiana.


This multiple migration of the Surinamese Javanese, is the subject of the life story project Javanese Migration and Heritage in Suriname, Indonesia and the Netherlands. In order to get a clear picture of the multiple migrations and the personal experiences of the Javanese migrants, an oral history project was set up around migration and heritage formation among the Javanese in Suriname, Indonesia and the Netherlands.


The Royal Institute for Language, Agriculture and Ethnology (KITLV) and the Foundation for the Commemoration of Javanese Immigration (STICHJI) collaborated on this project.

The interviews can be listened to on the website of Javanese in Diaspora, the metadata and summaries of the interviews are stored in EASY.