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Open Access The explorer as hero: ‘Le Fidèle Apatou’ in the French wilderness

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The explorer as hero: ‘Le Fidèle Apatou’ in the French wilderness

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image of New West Indian Guide / Nieuwe West-Indische Gids

Reconstructs the life story and activities of the Aluku Maroon Captain Apatu in French Guiana. Author describes how Apatu aligned with and aided French explorer Jules Cerveaux in exploring the Amazon region in the late 1870s, and maintained contacts with other French colonial figures. Partly because his role and achievements in colonial expansion were valued by the French, Apatu became an important intermediary between the French and the Aluku Maroons. Author further outlines how Apatu due to these French contacts, and also a journey to Paris, adapted to and assimilated French culture, although he maintained his sense of Aluku identity. He sketches the context of the French-Aluku contacts through Apatu, discussing how Apatu's political position and ambitions sometimes met with distrust and tensions with fellow-Aluku. He further indicates that Aluku alliance with the French probably was intended as a protection against intrusions of the rivaling Ndyuka Maroons. Apatu maintained his important position and function as intermediary between French and other whites on the one hand, and the Aluku on the other up to his death in 1908. Author pays particular attention to how Apatu, and after him other Aluku, absorbed "Frenchness" while maintaining an Aluku identity. This, he argues, has remained relevant up to the present, in light of assimilation policies by the French in French Guiana, increasingly affecting the Aluku since the 1970s and threatening their Maroon culture.

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