10 November 2023 until 7 July 2024

I WIll Fight

Anton de Kom and the Surinamese Student Union

Today, the Surinamese writer and freedom fighter Anton de Kom is an integral part of history. His notorious 1934 book We Slaves of Suriname fell into oblivion over time. In the 1960s, Rubia Zschuschen, a student and member of the Suriname Student Union, discovered De Kom's text on freedom and justice for all Surinamese in the Leiden university library. The Suriname Student Union would embrace this work, which describes Suriname's history for the first time from the colonized, and make it widely accessible. From November 10, 2023 through July 7, 2024, at Museum De Lakenhal, the Surinamese Student Union will tell this story, unknown to many.

Omslag van de eerste gestencilde editie Anton de Koms Wij slaven van Suriname
Omslag van de eerste gestencilde editie Anton de Koms Wij slaven van Suriname Leiden: Surinaamse Studenten Unie, 1969

Critical Voice

The discovery of the first edition of We Slaves of Suriname came as a godsend to the Suriname students: in it they recognized their own ideas about Suriname and its history. A few years earlier they had united in the Suriname Student Union, which was a protest group against colonialism and fought against any form of domination. To this end, they took to the barricades: they demonstrated, gave politically inspired performances and even published an opinion magazine.

Impressed by Anton de Kom

In their struggle, the students used We Slaves of Suriname to make the consequences of Dutch colonialism in Suriname more visible and discussable. After unsuccessful attempts to get the work reprinted, they decided to make a looted print of it, put the book on stencil and distributed it so that many could read the text. Then they also published a selection of his poems in the poetry collection I Will Fight. In doing so, they were at the forefront of De Kom's revaluation as a writer and freedom fighter.

Influence on history

With its struggle for freedom, the Suriname Student Union made an important contribution to the awareness of a young generation of ambitious Surinamese. They wanted to contribute to the development of Suriname after their studies in Leiden or elsewhere in the Netherlands. Some of them became active in Surinamese politics, others chose a future in the Netherlands and did something for their native country from there. For each of them their Leiden years were the seed of their further political and social life.

Exhibition in Museum De Lakenhal

From November 10, 2023 through July 7, 2024, the Surinamese Student Union in Museum De Lakenhal tells this story that is still unknown to many. The exhibition features historical objects and two short films by filmmaker Emma Lesuis, in which former members of the Suriname Student Union speak. Artist Hedy Tjin is creating colorful murals of prominent figures from this history especially for this exhibition.

The exhibition I Will Fight - Anton de Kom and the Surinamese Student Union is a collaboration with the Surinamese Student Union and the Leiden University Libraries and came about thanks to Henna Goudzand Nahar's research into the Surinamese Student Union and looting prints.

Wandschildering van Anton de Kom door Hedy Tjin


University Libraries Leiden | Former members of the Suriname Student Union | The Black Archives Amsterdam | Vfonds | Municipality of Leiden | Cultuurfonds Zuid-Holland | Mondriaan Fonds