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Cynthia McLeod

Cynthia McLeod - Serge Ligtenberg
Cynthia McLeod - Serge Ligtenberg

(Suriname, 1936) is the daughter of Johan Ferrier, the first President of Suriname. She married the diplomat Donald McLeod and made her literary debut after age 50 with Hoe duur was de suiker? (Sugar at What Cost?, 1987), which turned her into Suriname's best-known writer overnight. The novel was made into a film in 2013 by Jean van de Velde. She followed up this historical novel about 18th-century sugar cultivation with a number of other historical novels that bring to life the plantation era, such as Vaarwel Merodia (Goodbye Merodia) and Tweemaal Mariënburg (Two Times Marienburg). She also wrote a study on Elisabeth Samson, who managed to gain her freedom and acquire great wealth as a black woman during slavery's heyday. This project led McLeod to the novel De vrije negerin Elisabeth. Gevangene van kleur (The Free Negress Elisabeth: Prisoner of colour, 2000). In 2005 ...die revolutie niet begrepen... (...revolution not understood...) was published, a novel about the military coup of 25 February 1981 and subsequent dramatic developments. Her novel Tutuba came out in 2013, about a girl who survived the sinking of the slave ship Leusden.

(WU 15 GR)

Archive available for: Cynthia McLeod

  • Winternachten 2015

    Tutuba - A Meet & Greet with Cynthia McLeod

    With: Bromelia, Cynthia McLeod, Nolly Kawina

    An Afro-Surinamese afternoon at the Vaillant Theatre in the heart of The Hague's Schilderswijk neighbourhood. Writer Cynthia McLeod takes you into the history of Suriname and the Netherlands, to the 1737 disaster of the slave ship Leusden. She reads from her novel Tutuba, which tells the story of the girl who survived. You will have every opportunity to talk to the writer. Of course there will also be singing and dancing and tasty Afro-Surinamese food.

    This programme has been put together by Ricardo Lemmer of the Mosaic Foundation in collaboration with the Vaillant Theatre and Writers Unlimited.

  • Winternachten 2015

    VPRO's OVT Live

    With: Bas Heijne, Cynthia McLeod, De Règâhs, Elsbeth Etty, Mathijs Deen, Nelleke Noordervliet, Paul Scheffer, Paul van der Gaag, Reggie Baay, Stefan Hertmans, Ton van de Langkruis

    One of the most popular programmes on Radio 1 is VPRO's OVT (Simple Past Tense). Every Sunday the contemporary relevance of history takes centre stage.

    It has become a tradition for OVT's radio professionals to relocate to The Hague during the festival in order to broadcast live from the cozy lobby of Theater aan het Spui. The public is most welcome; admission and coffee are free. The programme includes a spoken commentary by Nelleke Noordervliet, an interview with Bas Heijne on Couperus, and a focus on writer Reggie Baay and his just-published book Daar werd wat gruwelijks verricht (Something Terrible Happened There), about the hidden history of slavery in the Dutch East Indies. With live music by the The Hague band De Règâhs. Don't forget to reserve your spot via the blue link above. Programme in Dutch.

  • Winternachten 2015

    World Stories at Theater Dakota

    With: Abdelkader Benali, Anton Goudsmit, Cynthia McLeod, Francis Broekhuijsen

    There's nothing better than telling one another stories. Stories from near and far, by Hague Highschool students, by participants in the Dakota Theatre's story contest, by the public, and by writers. "At Home" is this year's theme.

    Students of the Hague Highschool write stories under the guidance of drama teacher Martine Zeeman. Two writer guests of the festival also participate: Cynthia McLeod of Suriname, and Abdelkader Benali. Guitarist Anton Goudsmit provides music. Do you have a five-minute story that fits the bill? You don't even need to write it down, just tell it. You can register at the Dakota Theatre. Join us! In Dutch.

  • Winternachten 2015 – SATURDAY NIGHT UNLIMITED

    The Text of My Life: Cynthia McLeod

    In the Filmhuis Studio the festival's guest writers present their favourite literary texts and explain why a particular poem, novel excerpt, or song lyric influenced their life and work. Which memory, what feeling does this text call up for them? A continuous interview programme, in which the audience also talks with the writers. Hosted by Wim Brands and Fidan Ekiz. In Dutch.

  • Winternachten 2015 – FRIDAY NIGHT UNLIMITED

    The Film Choices of Cynthia McLeod

    Cynthia McLeod picks excerpts from her favorite movies and tells film journalist Bert Jansma why they are so important to her. With scenes from Gone With the Wind (1939), the story of spirited Scarlett O'Hara and the American Civil War—and the occasion for the first Oscar won by a black actress (Hattie McDaniel as Mammy), and To Kill a Mockingbird (1962), in which lawyer Gregory Peck defends a young black man in the segregated Alabama of the 1930s.

  • Winternachten 2015 – SATURDAY NIGHT UNLIMITED

    This is Our Way — Public Discussion

    This is our way, and that is their way... How do you deal with one another in an environment where so many cultures live side by side? What language do you speak? What do you do on one another's holidays? In the Netherlands we can't quite figure it out. Tonight three writers—two of them from countries with long histories of multiculturalism—provide ideas for dos and don'ts. No laws, just manners. The public will discuss these ideas. Do we adopt them or not? In Dutch.

  • Winternachten 2015 – FRIDAY NIGHT UNLIMITED

    Documentary: Misi met een missie - plus a talk with Cynthia McLeod and director Wilma Ligthart

    In this documentary, director Wilma Ligthart accompanies the royally distinguished Surinamese writer Cynthia McLeod to places that play a role in her life and work. After the screening, film journalist Bert Jansma speaks with both women. The public will have the opportunity to ask questions as well.

  • Writers Series

    Cynthia McLeod and Michiel van Kempen

    With: Cynthia McLeod, Mathijs Deen, Michiel van Kempen

    On Friday evening July 5, Writers Unlimited The Series presented a programme on the history of slavery in Suriname. With the Surinamese writer Cynthia McLeod and author and specialist on Surinamese literature Michiel van Kempen. Interview by Mathijs Deen. Dutch spoken. Central Library of The Hague, at the Spui. 

  • Winternachten 2010

    VPRO's OVT Live

    With: Cynthia McLeod, Gert Oostindie, Gilbert Wawoe, John Jansen van Galen, Mathijs Deen, Nelleke Noordervliet, Paul van der Gaag, Sams, Theo Para

    This year too VPRO's history programme OVT ends the festival in a live broadcast from café Dudok. The Surinamese writer Theo Para is a guest to talk about his book De Schreeuw van Bastion Veere (The Cry of Bastion Veere), dealing with the history of Surinam since the 1982 December murders. With music by singer and percussionist Victor Sams, who comes from St Eustatius.

  • Winternachten 2007

    Living together multi-coloured: the Antilles, Surinam, the Netherlands

    With: Changa Hickinson, Cynthia McLeod, John Jansen van Galen, Mito Croes, Ruben Severina, Sombra

    A debate. Creole, Hindostani or Javanese, Bakra, Makamba or Indian. How do the various population groups live together on the Antilles and in Surinam? Are there problems with integration or have the colour barriers been levelled? What is the difference with the Netherlands in comparison with these experienced multicultural societies?

    The Netherlands is struggling with multiculturality. While within the kingdom for centuries there has been practice with regard to the advantages and disadvantages of multi-ethnic society. In Surinam all the feast-days are celebrated by all the population groups jointly, all the languages are respected. But do the groups live together or rather do they live at cross-purposes? How tangible is the distinction made according to cultural origin on the Antilles? Can the societies in the Netherlands, Surinam and the Antilles learn from one another? Mito Croes from Aruba introduced the discussion with a sketch of the situation on his island. Writer Cynthia McLeod and poet Sombra from Surinam, poet Changa Hickinson form Sint-Maarten and journalist John Jansen van Galen from the Netherlands entered into a discussion with him and the audience. The discussion was hosted by Ruben Severnina. Dutch spoken.

  • Winternachten 2007 – WINTERNACHT 1

    The world goose board

    In a well or in jail? Miss one turn or tell your travel story. Adriaan van Dis, Cynthia McLeod, Reggie Baay and Thomas Rosenboom played the World Goose Board, a risky journey through the world, in search of the ideal destination. Dutch spoken.

    De earlier announced participation of Marjon van Royen had to be cancelled. As a correspondent for the Dutch media in Brazil, she must stay in this country to report on the landslide. Her place was taken by the Surinamese writer Cynthia McLeod.

  • Winternachten 2007 – WINTERNACHT 2

    Dictation Sranantongo

    Something new for the Netherlands! A public dictation for all those who speak Sranantongo. The lingua franca of Surinam has had an official spelling since the 1980s. But who masters it? We monitored the state of affairs: speakers of Sranantongo tested their knowledge. The best speller was singer Denise Jannah. She won the translation dictionary Sranan-Dutch/Dutch-Sranan. The dictation was compiled by Cynthia McLeod. She and Rabin Baldewsingh, alderman in The Hague, dictated the text. Writer Clark Accord, musician Ronald Snijders, singer and actor Juan Wells and actress Gerda Havertong were among the Surinamese/Dutch participants. Dutch/Sranantongo spoken.

  • Suriname 2006

    Gran Gala

    With: Astra Singh, Celestine Raalte, Cynthia McLeod, Diana Ferrus, Dominique Martin, Eddy van der Hilst, Els Beerten, Erich Zielinski, Ismene Krishnadath, Jeffrey Quartier, Manon Uphoff, Shahz, Sweet Melody, Tan Lioe Ie

    Een spetterend Gran Gala in Thalia, met de feestelijke bekendmaking van de winnaars van de schrijffestijnen, de wedstrijden die in het kader van het festival werden uitgeschreven. Onder meer voordrachten van werk van overleden dichters, kabra-gedichten, een soko-psalm van Switi Melodia en voordrachten van een reeks nationale en internationale auteurs. En alle bezoekers werden uitgenodigd om mee te doen met het dictee Sranantongo, dat onder leiding van Eddy van der Hilst en Cynthia McLeod gegeven werd.

  • Suriname 2004

    Writers debates

    With: Brigitte Brown, Cynthia McLeod, EKM Dido, Farah L, Gibi Bacilio, Guillaume Pool, Guyz Nextdoor, Ismene Krishnadath, Jit Narain, Ronald Giphart, Sombra, Verginia Ceder, Willie Alberga

    An evening's debating, readings and music. Various topics are debated, such as: which language should the writer choose? His or her mother tongue or the language of the largest reading public? Does the writer write for a specific group of readers? What is the role of the writers own cultural background, while writing within a multi cultural society? The debating panel consists of: Jit Narain, Guillaume Pool, Arlette Codfried, Ismene Krishnadath, Cynthia McLeod, Sombra, EKM Dido (South Africa) Sitok Srengenge (Indonesia), Gibi Bacilio (Curaçao), Ronald Giphart (The Netherlands) and panel leader Willie Alberga.
    Readings by Brigitte Brown and Virginia Alvarez and presented by Sombra.

  • Suriname 2004

    Writers lessons

    With: Cynthia McLeod, Joke van Leeuwen, Ronald Giphart

    In November 2003 and February 2004 the Dutch writer, illustrator and cabaret artist Joke van Leeuwen gave several workshops for Surinam authors and illustrators. This was a joint project from the Dutch Literary Production and Translation Fund and Writers group '77. Together with Joke van Leeuwen the aspirant writers present tonight the provisional results of these workshops. Joke van Leeuwen is accompanied by the writers Cynthia McLeod and Ronald Giphart. They show what can be done with a text from its very first version to the final result in book form.

  • Suriname 2004

    1001 identities - opening night

    With: Arlette Codfried, Cynthia McLeod, Dansgroep Tandava, Denise Jannah, EKM Dido, Fafiri Brothers, Frits Wols, Gibi Bacilio, Joke van Leeuwen, Rappa, Ronald Giphart, Sitok Srengenge

    The first night of the festival in Paramaribo offers a diverse program. Writers from five countries read from their novels and poetry. Hosted and presented by Arlette Codfried they talk about their own country and how people from different cultures live together there. Denise Jannah sings poems chosen from poets that represent the five different countries participating in this ffestival, amongst others from the winner of the State literature prize Orlando Emanuels. Cynthia McLeod, Rappa, Surianto and Frits Wols perform together with their foreign colleague writers Gibi Bacilio (Curaçao), EKM Dido (South Africa), Ronald Giphart (The Netherlands), Joke van Leeuwen (The Netherlands) and Sitok Srengenge (Indonesia). The dance group Tandava dances poems from Slory and Shrinivasi. The Fafiri Brothers will provide further musical accompaniment.

  • Suriname 2004

    District commissionership Nickerie - literary evening

    With: Arlette Codfried, Cynthia McLeod, Denise Jannah, EKM Dido, Gibi Bacilio, Rappa, Ronald Giphart, Sitok Srengenge

    An international program with readings by writers and poets and music, presented by Arlette Codfried. The Surinam authors Cynthia McLeod and Rappa perform together with poet/performer Gibi Bacilio from Curaçao, writer EKM Dido from Capetown, the Dutch best-selling author Ronald Giphart and one of the foremost poets from Indonesia, the Javanese Sitok Srengenge. Jazz-diva Denise Jannah presents a special program of her own, consisting of poems from five countries set to her own music.

  • Antillen 2003

    Krusa Laman - Curaçao - writers evening

    With: Barche Baromeo, Changa Hickinson, Cynthia McLeod, Denise Jannah, Frank Martinus Arion, Gibi Bacilio, Laura Quast, Lupe Reyes, Nelleke Noordervliet, Rayda Jacobs, Roland Colastica, Sitok Srengenge

    An evening with readings by writers and poets from South Africa, Suriname, the Netherlands, Indonesia, Curaçao and Sint Maarten. With a performance by the Surinamese jazz-singer Denise Jannah, accompanied by local musicians. Jannah sang poems from Suriname, the Antilles and South Africa, accompanied by the Curacaoan guitarist Pierre Dunker and percussionist Ernie Gregorio . The programme was presented by Roland Colastica.

  • Antillen 2003

    Krusa Laman - Curaçao - opening evening

    With: Cynthia McLeod, Denise Jannah, Frank Martinus Arion, Nelleke Noordervliet, Rayda Jacobs, Roland Colastica, Sitok Srengenge

    In co-operation with Teatro Luna Blou. Frank Martinus Arion, writer from Curaçao, lead a discussion on the theme 'from fact to fiction', with writers Cynthia McLeod (Suriname), Rayda Jacobs (South-Africa) and Nelleke Noordervliet (Netherlands). These writers, and the Indonesian Sitok Srengenge, read from their work. Also a performance of the Surinamese jazz-singer Denise Jannah, accompanied by the Curaçaoan guitarist Pierre Dunker and percussionist Ernie Gregorio. Jannah sang poems from Suriname, the Antilles, the Netherlands and South-Africa. Presented by Roland Colastica.

  • Antillen 2003

    Krusa Laman - Bonaire

    With: Bòi Antoin, Cecilia Everts, Changa Hickinson, Cynthia McLeod, Denise Jannah, Lupe Reyes, Nelleke Noordervliet, Rayda Jacobs, Roland Colastica, Sitok Srengenge

    An evening with readings by writers and poets from South Africa, Suriname, the Netherlands, Indonesia, Curaçao, Sint Maarten and Bonaire. With a performance by the Surinamese jazz-singer Denise Jannah, accompanied by local musicians. Jannah will sing poems from Suiname, the Antilles and South Africa. The programme was presented by Roland Colastica.

  • Antillen 2003

    Crusa Lama - Aruba

    With: Barche Baromeo, Changa Hickinson, Cynthia McLeod, Denise Jannah, Giolina Henriquez, Jacques Thönissen, Jossy Tromp, Nelleke Noordervliet, Rayda Jacobs, Roland Colastica, Sitok Srengenge

    An evening with readings by writers and poets from South Africa, Suriname, the Netherlands, Indonesia, Curaçao, Sint Maarten and Aruba. With a performance by the Surinamese jazz-singer Denise Jannah, accompanied by local musician Ivan Jansen. Jannah will sing poems from Suiname, the Antilles and South Africa. The programme was presented by Roland Colastica.

  • Antillen 2003

    Crossing the Seas - Sint Maarten

    With: Changa Hickinson, Cynthia McLeod, Denise Jannah, Frank Martinus Arion, Ian Valz, Joy Reiph-Arnell, Lyzanne Charles, Nelleke Noordervliet, Rayda Jacobs, Sitok Srengenge

    An evening with readings by writers and poets from South Africa, Suriname, the Netherlands, Indonesia, Curaçao and Sint Maarten. With a performance by the Surinamese jazz-singer Denise Jannah, accompanied by Anastacia Larmonie. Jannah sang poems from Suiname, the Antilles and South Africa. The programme was presented by Joy Reiph-Arnell.

  • Winternachten 2003

    Copyright The Netherlands - debate

    With: Barryl Biekman, Bert Paasman, Cynthia McLeod, Edwin Marshall, Gibi Bacilio, Ruben Severina

    The National Monument for the Commemmoration of Slavery now stands in Amsterdam. Does the historic awareness of the Surinamese and Antillian community deserve a monument as well? What is the state of history-writing in the West-Indies. Is its source still Dutch? A debate with panel and audience chaired by Henri Vijber, with among others the Surinamese writer Cynthia McLeod and historian Edwin Marshall. The debate will be introduced by Barryl Biekman, chair of the National Platform for the history of Slavery. Dutch spoken.

  • Tournee NL 2003

    Winternachten Bijlmer

    With: Christine Otten, Cynthia McLeod, Gibi Bacilio, Marylin Simons, Nicole Terborg

    No better poet and performer than Gibi Bacilio from Curaçao. He performs together with the Surinamese writer Marylin Simons, winner of the Kwakoe literature prize, Cynthia McLeod from Suriname and the Dutch novelist and rapping poet Christine Otten. Moderated by Nicole Terborg. Dutch spoken. An evening organised in co-operation with Krater Theater Bijlmer (

    Tickets: 020 6952911

  • Zuid-Afrika 2002

    Cape Town Festival - Cape Town

    With: Cynthia McLeod, Denise Jannah, Frank Martinus Arion, Henk van Woerden, Michaël Zeeman, Seno Gumira Ajidarma

    The Cape Town Festival (16 to 24 March 2002) is an annual multidisciplinary festival. This year Winternachten took care of the literary programme: a two day festival called Trade Winds, a sumptuous literary feast with spoken word, music, and video (Passaatwinde - 'n vrolijke fees rondom die gesproke woord, musiek en video).

    The festival offerd - similar to theWinternachten festival in The Hague)-a parallel programme on three stages, withstand-up comedy, video, music, performing poets and discussions with writers. Michaël Zeeman presented a number of talks of the 'Winternachten-writers' with their South African collegues. Henk van Woerden and André Brink discussed 'rewriting history'; Cynthia McLeod met her fellow-writer E.K.M. Dido in a talk about'breaking down stereotypes'. Frank Martinus Arion discussed the subject of 'creolisation and hybridity' with Achmat Dangor andthe Indonesian writer Seno Gumira Ajidarma met his fellow jazzy writer Keorapetse Kgositsile, discussing writing on'jazz and struggle'.

    The VPRO documentary'Korreltjie Niks is my Dood' bySaskia van Schaik onthe South African poet Ingrid Jonker, had its South African premiere, with an introduction by its scenarist Henk van Woerden.

    Jazz singer Denise Jannah sang her poems set to music, accompanied by Cape Town based musicians. Other participating writers and performers were Gcina Mhlope, Jeremy Cronin, Gert Vlok-Nel, Loit Sôls & Jethro, Mark Lottering and Dianna Ferrus. The audience danced into the night withmusic by DJ Jools en DJ Mtone Edjabe.

  • Zuid-Afrika 2002

    Time of the Writer - Durban

    With: Cynthia McLeod, Denise Jannah, Frank Martinus Arion, Henk van Woerden, Michaël Zeeman, Seno Gumira Ajidarma

    In the festival Time of the Writer (11 to 16 March) in Durban Winternachten presented the evening programme 'Rewriting History - the Dutch Connection'.

    Michaël Zeeman moderated the conversation with the four writers, who share the theme of 'rewriting history'. Jazz singer Denise Jannah performed with South African musicians. She sang love-poems frombSurinamese, Dutch, Afrikaans and Antillian literature, selected for her by the Dutch poetbGerrit Komrij. The South-African writer Nadine Gordimer also performed in this programme, reading from her literary work.

    In this week the four writers, Michaël Zeemanand singer Denise Jannah also gave workshops and readings at universities, schools for journalism and secondary schools in the city and in the townships. They also gave workshops foraspirant writers, and took part in a conference for writers and publishers. Denise Jannah gavea workshop with a youth choir, and presented the results in the festival.

    Winternachten-photographer Serge Ligtenberg joined the group to Durban to teach two young students of photography the skill of theatre photography.

  • Winternachten 2002

    Wingewest van het geweten 2

    With: André Brink, Cynthia McLeod, Frank Martinus Arion, Henk Schulte Nordholt, Henk van Woerden, Michaël Zeeman

    In 1998 Winternachten organized a panel-discussion with the same title. During that meeting writers Frank Martinus Arion and Adriaan van Dis formed a committee for the erection of a national slavery-monument. In june 2002 the monument will be unveiled. Time for a second panel-discussion with the writers involved. For whom will this monument be? Do the Dutch have any idea of their history of slave-trading? Is this only a monument for the descendants of the slaves, now living in The Netherlands. A dicussion on historic awareness and the influence of colonial history on the national identity of the Surinamese, Antillians, Indonesians, South-Africans and the Dutch. With writers taking part from the different countries, and the audience participating in the discussion. Moderator was Michaël Zeeman. Dutch spoken.

  • Winternachten 2002 – Winternacht 2

    Love Makes History

    Illegal love affairs are of all times. Relationships between black and white during the era of slavery and colonialism, relationships with prostitutes, adultery - Surinam literature has a rich history of love. In this program, three Surinam authors discussed these matters. They all have their own way of processing history into 'faction': Cynthia McLeod, John H. de Bye and Clark Accord. Dutch spoken.

  • Winternachten 1998

    East- and West-Indian Winternight

    With: Aart van Zoest, Arahmaiani, Arthur Japin, Astrid Roemer, Basha Faber, Coen Pronk, Cynthia McLeod, Frank Martinus Arion, Gamelan Ensemble Widosari, Grupo Zamanakitoki, Helga Ruebsamen, Michaël Zeeman, Monique Hoogmoed, Paula Gomes, Paulette Smit, Radhar Panca Dahana, Rudy Kousbroek, Shrinivási, Toeti Heraty, Warih Wisatsana

    The third edition of the Indische Winternacht, this time from the East and West-Indiest. Apart form artists from Indonesia and The Netherlands, now also writers, musicans and story-tellers from Suriname and the Netherlands Antilles were invited.
    Michaël Zeeman and Aart van Zoest interviewed the participating writers after their performance. They were introduced by Nelleke Noordervliet.
    In the theatre programme: gamelan-music by Ensemble Widosari, stories by Coen Pronk, Moniek Hoogmoed and Paulette Smit and music by Eric Calmes and his Antillian-Dutch band Grupo Zamanakitoki.
    In the film programme unique movies from the Dutch archives were shown: the first documentaries on the Dutch East-Indies, made in the beginning of the 20th century by J.C. Lammers, commissioned by the Colonial Institute. Furthermore the film Faya Lobbi , the classic documentary on Suriname from 1960 by Herman van der Horst, and Ava en Gabriel , the Antilliaanse movie from 1990 by Felix de Rooy and Norman de Palm.