Collection Research | The technique and/as experience of Afro-Surinamese costume

RESEARCH ASSOCIATE RESEARCH | Jane Stjeward-Schubert, Ella Broek, Michelle Piergoelam

This research is embedded in the collaborative project Tailors and Wearers, initiated by koto and angisa expert Jane Stjeward-Schubert, anthropologist Ella Broek, and photographer Michelle Piergoelam.

Rather than seeing dress as a neutral instrument to convey identity, this research examines its transformative quality from a phenomenological perspective and looks at how embodied sartorial practices are involved in the construction of subjectivity/identity. Central to this research is the kotomisi, a woman dressed in Afro-Surinamese costume, of which the koto (the name of the skirt as well as the entire costume) and angisa (folded headgear) are important parts. It considers, for example, the weight of an angisa folded with three cloths or the skid resistance of a starched skirt. Following the idea that the body is the primary site for experiencing and becoming to know the world, this research focuses on bodily sensations and experiences on the one hand and on how craft is used to create a certain mood for the wearer, on the other.

Jane Stjeward-Schubert

Jane Stjeward-Schubert (Paramaribo, 1955) is a koto and angisa expert and hatmaker. She inherited her interest in fashion and clothing from her mother who was a home seamstress. Her love for Surinamese cultural heritage and her fashion background created a drive to preserve and share with others everything she knows about the koto and angisa.  Jane Stjeward-Schubert obtained her HBO diploma in Social Work from SOSA in 1994. She is now retired and until recently worked as a coordinator in terminal care. Jane has learned the craft of the Afro-Surinamese traditional clothing via different workgroups as well as from experts in both Suriname and the Netherlands. She followed various courses in the field of hat making and tailor-made ladies clothing. As a member of So Mi Tan and the working group Sisi, she designed and released her own collection of angisas.


Ella Broek

Ella Broek (Ottoland, 1980) is a dressmaker and anthropologist. Her interest lies at the intersection of social sciences and cultural heritage studies and the multidisciplinary field of fashion where craft, design and theory come together. Within this larger focus, her current work looks into the dynamic relationship between clothing and the body as primary subject, and discusses and investigates clothing (and what clothing can do) within different cultural traditions. Ella Broek obtained her MSc in Social and Cultural Anthropology at VU University Amsterdam in 2016. Before that she obtained her diplomas at the MTS Fashion and Clothing and the Willem de Kooning Academy.


Michelle Piergoelam

Michelle Piergoelam (Rotterdam, 1997) is an art photographer who recently graduated from the Royal Academy of Art in The Hague. She creates stories based on cultural myths, dreams and memories. She consciously draws from native legends and geography, building on the importance of preserving and sharing in the diversity of history and anthropology. These images bear witness to the human condition and our innate desire to tell stories. Despite her Surinamese background, she initially knew little about the country, and so her curiosity to learn more about it drew her attention towards discovering the historical narratives for herself. She then became more conscious of the significance of telling cultural stories.  For her most recent project, The untangled tales, she was nominated for Blurring the Lines 2020, the Kassel Dummy Award 2020 and received second prize for the 2020 Zilveren Camera Prize for Storytelling.