From Bahia to Brooklyn

Status: Completed
In a long journey from Bahia to Brooklyn, New York, Nina Jurna visits Brazil, Suriname, Trinidad & Tobago, Curaçao, the Dominican Republic, and Jamaica, ending in the rich Caribbean culture of New York. With increasing amazement but also recognition, Jurna, herself with partial Surinamese roots, listens to unknown or silenced stories of residents. They have been brought together in the Caribbean from continents like Europe, Asia, and Africa through colonialism, slavery, and indentured labor. How does this influence the current society, and what remains of the original indigenous population?

Nina Jurna takes us to the Caribbean as a continent within a continent that gave rise to new genres of music such as samba, calypso, salsa, and reggae. New Creole languages like Papiamentu and the new religion of Rastafarians. Activists of black emancipation like Marcus Garvey, Malcolm X, Kareem Abdul-Jabbar, and Cicely Tyson. Writers who received the Nobel Prize like V.S. Naipaul, Derek Walcott, and Gabriel García Márquez. And superstars like Rihanna, Nicki Minaj and jazz saxophonist Sonny Rollins, who were all born in the Caribbean or raised there.

Nina Jurna investigates the impact of this mix of people and cultures on life on the islands: the Caribbean culture as a fusion of Arawak, European, African, and Indian elements, and much more. You can see this cultural diversity reflected everywhere: in religion, skin color, music, and cuisine. All of these are expressions of both a poignant and interesting history that leads to a fascinating present in New York, the ultimate place where the diaspora gathers. While making the series, Jurna starts to experience the journey through the Caribbean more and more as an exploration of her own roots.

“For me, making this series is a way to tell a larger story about the Caribbean region. What is the impact and lasting effect of the colonial past on this region and its people? What new identities have emerged here and how does the new, young generation see themselves?

I find it remarkable that a history of uprooting and oppression can also lead to strength, creativity, and be a source of renewal. This is something that I also experience in the Caribbean: the tremendous diversity, the unique mix, and what that can bring forth in terms of cultural expressions. During the making of this series, I got closer to the people of the region but also closer to my own roots and the stories that connect the people in this region, in the diaspora, and myself.

– Nina Jurna


Presenter Nina Jurna
Director Martijn Blekendaal
Final editing Hans Simonse, Sherman de Jesus
Research Adelheid Kapteijn, Debora Noordwijk, Ilja Willems, Frederique Melman
Camera Pim Hawinkels, Pierre Rezus, Rogier Timmermans
Sound Benny Jansen, Sander den Broeder
Original score composed and produced by Randal Corsen
Broadcaster VPRO

Based on an idea by Sherman De Jesus & Cécile van Eijk. From Bahia to Brooklyn is a Memphis Features co-production with VPRO.