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Stones Have Laws

Lonnie van Brummelen & Siebren de Haan 2019

Lonnie van Brummelen and Siebren de Haan collaborated intensely with Surinamese forest people to find out more about their extended political system, in which ancestors, gods and things have a say, too.

Different European powers explored and conquered the territory that is nowadays known as Suriname before it came under Dutch colonial rule in the 17th century. A substantial part of the country's current population has African roots. Their ancestors were shipped across the Atlantic to work on the colony's sugar, cacao, coffee and tobacco fields as slaves. Some of these enslaved Africans were able to free themselves. They fled into a natural environment that was unfamiliar to them. Here, they met indigenous people who taught them how to survive in the rainforest.

Combining their African knowledge with indigenous skills these Maroons developed a way of life in which non-human things such as stones and rivers are respected as spirited beings with their own rules and needs. What does it entail in practice when also non-human persons participate in the process of decision taking?

Based on the stories that their collaborators were willing to share with them, the artists composed a scenario. In the film, Maroons present the scenes before the camera, while abundant vegetation, crockets, streaming waters, and rock formations perform as fellow actors. Village elders, but also younger men and women explicate in detail how they live with the forest. They demonstrate the procedures to consult ancestors, gods and forest spirits. But the film also tells another tale, one of ongoing exploitation and struggle. In the time of slavery, the Maroons battled fiercely against the Dutch colonial rule. In current days, their offspring is confronted with multinational firms who capitalize on the natural resources on their ancestral grounds.

From time to time, we hear the forest people debate their participation in the film project. What stories can be shared with outsiders? What should remain secret? And what to do with the paperwork that was handed to them, requesting them to follow the protocols of the film industry and sign over their rights?


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Lonnie van Brummelen & Siebren de Haan work together since 2002, producing film installations, sculpture and collages that explore cultural and geopolitical landscapes such as Europe’s borders (Grossraum, 2005), sites of resource production and global trade (Monument of Sugar – how to use artistic means to elude trade barriers, 2007; Episode of the Sea, 2014), and the (non) sites of cultural heritage (Monument to Another Man's Fatherland, 2008, View from the Acropolis, 2012 and subi dura a rudibus, 2010). Most of their projects involve extensive fieldwork and long-term collaborations.

Van Brummelen is a PhD candidate at University of Amsterdam and HKU with the research ‘Drifting Studio Practice – return of the making in the thinking’ (facilitated by ASCA (Amsterdam School for Cultural Analysis).

Lonnie van Brummelen and Siebren de Haan live and work in Amsterdam, the Netherlands.

De andere films:

Beyond Index

Gerald van der Kaap (Interakt) 2017

C'est Déja L'été

Martijn Maria Smits (De Productie) 2010

History's Future

Fiona Tan (Family Affair Films) 2016


Metahaven/Rob Schröder (Dutch Mountain) 2018

Silent Ones

Ricky Rijneke (Rotterdam Films) 2013


Erik van Lieshout (Popov Film) 2013


Dick Tuinder (Column Film) 2009


Sonja Wyss (SNG Film) 2008

In productie:

Stones Have Laws

Lonnie van Brummelen & Siebren de Haan 2019


Melvin Moti (Key Film) 2019


Janis Rafa (SNG Film) 2019

Nummer achttien

Guido van der Werve (Smarthouse Films) 2017

The Last Ride of the Wolves

Alberto De Michele (Halal) 2019