Part of the Soualichi Stories’ season three team, from left: Claudette Forsythe-Labega, Ralph Cantave, Jose Sommers, Kevin ‘Suppa’ Petrona and Julia Grigg during one of their planning sessions.
PHILIPSBURG--Foresee Foundation announced on Sunday that it has secured funding for its third season of “Soualichi Stories”, which has the subtitle, “Keeping Oral History Alive”.
The money for Foresee’s project comes from the two million euros in funding that the Dutch government granted to the Dutch Cultural Participation Fund for the Memorial Year of Slavery, which runs from July 1, 2023, to July 1, 2024. The Cultural Participation Fund is tasked to allocate portions of the funds to organisations or individuals who will facilitate social or cultural activities to commemorate the slavery past and broaden the shared knowledge about this history. Foresee is among the first in the Dutch Caribbean to receive this funding.
Soualichi Stories is an initiative of Foresee Foundation to preserve and pass on knowledge, insight and history through the unique lens of Caribbean culture and heritage.
“These captivating stories weave together the rich tapestry of the Caribbean Sea, connecting generations and reaching far beyond the islands to Europe and the rest of the world,” said Foresee in a press release. “The name Soualichi beautifully captures the essence of this project – a fusion of ‘Soualiga – Land of Salt’ and ‘Oualichi – Land of Brave and Beautiful Women’. Thus, Soualichi Stories represent a treasure trove of salty, rich, courageous and beautiful tales passed down through generations via oral history and tradition.”
“Being part of this project was an opportunity I couldn't turn down,” said Soualichi Stories Coordinator Kevin “Suppa” Petrona, who fell in love with the concept when he was first approached in 2020.
“When we started with the idea of Soualichi Stories back in 2020, we knew we had to commit to this important project that chronicles our histories,” said Foresee Foundation Director Jose Sommers.
Now with this secured funding, Foresee said its Soualichi Stories project will expand its reach to other target groups – including school children, youth and seniors – to foster awareness, reflection and appreciation for the region’s heritage and global linkages.
According to Foresee, the response to Soualichi Stories has been overwhelming, with listeners sharing anecdotes and how the tales brought back cherished memories.
“Stories like ‘One Tete Lokay’, ‘Legends of the Walking People’, ‘Salt Pond Goddess’, ‘Why Crab Get Crack on its Back’ and the several ‘Anansi stories’ have provided valuable history lessons and life lessons to the audience. Poems like ‘Ah Say Come’ brought back so many forgotten memories and reasons why we still say and do some of the things to this day,” it was stated in the press release.
To ensure broader accessibility, the first two seasons of Soualichi Stories will soon be available in a free e-book format, said Foresee. The e-book will encompass both audio and visual versions of the stories, featuring animations, drawings/paintings or live-action representations. Additionally, the e-book will include lesson plans, interactive activities and games to allow readers to delve deeper into the captivating narratives.
Although not a cultural entity, Foresee Foundation has previously partnered with other local organisations to undertake several culturally related projects.
“This grant application to the Memorial Year of Slavery History Fund reflects our deep commitment to connecting with our ancestors and shared Caribbean history. The project’s goal is to preserve the intangible cultural heritage of St. Maarten, and it has already resulted in 20 compelling stories to be compiled into an interactive educational e-book. The upcoming season aims to expand the distribution of these materials.
“The main goal of Soualichi Stories is to bridge the gap between older and newer generations by reviving the art of storytelling and poetry. Embracing technology, the project successfully reaches a wider audience, combining tradition with modernity,” said Foresee.
Foresee Foundation extends its gratitude to the Cultural Participation Fund for the Memorial Year of Slavery for its support in bringing Soualichi Stories’ third season to life. The foundation also thanks the Prince Bernhard Cultural Fund and the St. Maarten National Commission for the United Nations Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organization (UNESCO) for funding Soualichi Stories’ first and second seasons, respectively.
Foresee Foundation is a St. Maarten-based organisation dedicated to supporting educational institutions and community organisations across various sectors, including culture.