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Published August 31, 2022 Updated November 03, 2022

Playing cards from Suriname

Playing cards reflecting the history and culture of Suriname, on the northeastern coast of South America.

1980 Suriname Vaco Press Graphic Industry Henna Brunings Monique Vergauwen Piem Reiziger Amerindian Ethnic & Indigenous Add to Collection
Suriname is a small country on the northeastern coast of South America

A very attractive pack of 54 cards reflecting the history and culture of Suriname. The court cards of the four suits portray the different cultures that now populate the country. The Diamond suit represent the Amerindians – the oldest inhabitants of the country; the Spades portray African negroes brought to Suriname as slaves, who were the ancestors of the Saramacca (formerly called "Bush Negroes"); Clubs depict the contract workers from India who were brought over to meet the shortage of labourers after the abolition of slavery; and the Hearts portray the Javanese who came from Indonesia to Suriname, adding one further element to the diversity of local cultures.

The court cards also incorporate aspects of culture, such as dress, musical instruments, and rituals. The reverse of the cards shows a stylized version of woodcarving of the Saramacca tribe and the ace of spades shows the coat-of-arms inside a spade symbol, superimposed upon a rough outline of the country. More detailed information is provided in an accompanying leaflet, written in English and Dutch (see below).

Playing cards reflecting the history and culture of Suriname published by Art Design, Paramaribo Playing cards reflecting the history and culture of Suriname published by Art Design, Paramaribo

Above: Playing cards reflecting the history and culture of Suriname, designed by Henna Brunings, Monique Vergauwen and Piem Reiziger. Printed by Vaco Press Graphic Industry and published by Art Design, in the capital Paramaribo. The reverse of the cards shows a stylized version of woodcarving of the Saramacca tribe. Undated.

Playing cards reflecting the history and culture of Suriname published by Art Design, Paramaribo
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By Peter Burnett

Member since July 27, 2022

I graduated in Russian and East European Studies from Birmingham University in 1969. It was as an undergraduate in Moscow in 1968 that I stumbled upon my first 3 packs of “unusual” playing cards which fired my curiosity and thence my life-long interest. I began researching and collecting cards in the early 1970s, since when I’ve acquired over 3,330 packs of non-standard cards, mainly from North America, UK and Western Europe, and of course from Russia and the former communist countries.

Russian Playing Cards

Following my retirement from the Bodleian Library in Dec. 2007 I took up a new role as Head of Library Development at the International Network for the Availability of Scientific Publications (INASP) to support library development in low-income countries. This work necessitated regular training visits to many sub-Saharan African countries and also further afield, to Vietnam, Nepal and Bangladesh – all of which provided rich opportunities to further expand my playing card collection.

Since 2019 I’ve been working part-time in the Bodleian Library where I’ve been cataloguing the bequest of the late Donald Welsh, founder of the English Playing Card Society.


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