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MPC Students Immerse in Cultural Heritage: Learning the Ponum Dance and the significance of the traditional coal pot at NIA.

mpc01042024PHILIPSBURG:--- In a vibrant cultural exchange, 32 Milton Peters College (MPC)students have engaged in an enriching journey into the art of the Ponum dance. Facilitated by esteemed National Institute of Arts (NIA) instructors, this initiative aims to familiarize the young generation with the Ponum dance. This is our national dance, danced by slaves who freed themselves by escaping to the French side in 1848 when France had already abolished slavery. The vocational PBP-PKL students were challenged to deliver six of the very energetic dance movements while shouting “brim, shoot, Ponum, Ponum, Ponum, Ponum.”
They explained that intensive research by Carolyn Jenkins and Clara Reyes was needed to document all the movements from the stories of our older heads. Nowadays, they have passed, and this is their legacy that lives on. It is vital to NIA that more young people become interested in preserving this dance for St. Martin.
Besides learning the Ponum Dance moves, the students were informed by Dr. Jay Haviser of Sint Maarten Archaeological Center, SIMARC, about using the traditional ceramic coal pot. Replaced by cast iron versions, the ceramic coal pot embodies a cultural heritage deeply intertwined with communal gatherings, culinary rituals, and familial bonds. It was used to cook meals such as corn and potatoes and to heat the iron. Jay Haviser showed the students various models and how they were used.
The two activities are essential ingredients of NIA's “Break Free Ceramic Project” and Stichting Voortgezet Onderwijs van de Bovenwindse Eilanden (SVOBE). Inspired by the Ponum and the coal pot, the students will now construct a ceramic object that pays homage to the traditional coal pot or to the emotions and movements that express the joy of breaking free after emancipation. The artifacts will be displayed in June during a festive exhibition at NIA as a runner-up for Emancipation Day on July 1st. This project is funded by Prins Bernhard Cultuur Fonds Caribisch Gebied (PBCCG) and the DNB-Fonds.

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