photo: Sirano Zalman
TESSA LEUWSHA born in Amsterdam, lives and works in Suriname, South-America, since 1996 and is a writer and documentary maker. She studied Tourism Management and English Language and Literature.
Tessa Leuwsha wrote the travel guide Reishandboek Suriname (publisher Elmar) which has appeared in various revised editions since 1997. In 2002, her story For William was awarded the encouragement prize of the Kwakoe Literature Prize. Other stories appeared in the collections Waarover wij niet moeten praten (2007) and Voor mij ben jij hier (2010).
Her novel debut, de Parbo-blues (published by Augustus, 2005), a fictionalized biography of her father's childhood in Suriname and his life as an immigrant in the Netherlands, was received with praise. De Parbo-blues was nominated for the Vrouw&Kultuur Debuutprijs 2006 and the DebutantenPrijs 2006.
In April 2009 her second novel Solo, een liefde (Solo, a love, Augustus, 2009) was published, about ambition in colonial Suriname and the desire for a better life. Solo, een liefde received good reviews in, among other media, NRC Handelsblad, the VPRO guide and HP/de Tijd and was nominated for the Black Magic Woman Literature Prize 2009.
Her non-fiction work Fansi's stilte, een grootmoeder en de slavernij (Fansi’s silence, a grandmother and slavery, published by Atlas Contact, 2015), was positively discussed by various media in the Netherlands and Suriname. The book has been published in several reprints and was nominated for the Inktaap Literatuurprijs 2017.
In 2020, Plantage Wildlust (Plantation Wildlust) appeared, in which she describes life on a Surinamese plantation at the beginning of the 20th century, during the period of contract labor, through various characters. A Dutch couple travels to Suriname to take over the management of a plantation but encounters resistance from the black supervisor, who holds the real power. The compelling story shows complex human relationships and it is not always clear who is the victim.
In 2021, Leuwsha was a guest author at Sheffield University and University College London in the United Kingdom. Together with Dutch students and literary translator Jonathan Reeder, a large excerpt of Plantage Wildlust was translated into English. The Low Countries
Leuwsha wrote an introduction to the 16th edition of the well-known book Wij slaven van Suriname (We slaves of Suriname,1934) by resistance hero Anton de Kom. The book together with the introductions was translated into English and German.
De wilde vaart, op zoek naar de veerkracht van Suriname (The wild voyage), tells in text and images about a boat trip in which Leuwsha and her husband travel the Surinamese waters in search of their own core and the resilience of a people.
Tessa Leuwsha writes columns and articles for de Volkskrant, De Groene Amsterdammer, HP/De Tijd and de Ware Tijd-Literair, and a weekly column for Libelle magazine. Leuwsha participated in various international literature festivals, including the Winternachtenfestival and Writers Unlimited in The Hague, and the festivals Boekids and Werelden in ontmoeting in Paramaribo. She gives lectures in both countries on request.
In 2018 her first documentary Frits de Gids (Frits the Guide, director and script) was released, in which changing male-female relationships in a traditional Maroon village in the interior of Suriname are central. The documentary premiered in Paramaribo and was then screened in various film houses in the Netherlands.
Mother Suriname-Mama Sranan, Tessa Leuwsha's second documentary (direction and screenplay), has been selected for the prestigious International Documentary Film Festival (IDFA). With unique archival material, she tells the life story of her grandmother Fansi, an Afro-Surinamese washerwoman, who fights to give her children a better life at a time when Suriname is developing towards independence. Inspired by her book Fansi's silence.
Nominated for IDFA Best Dutch Film Award Nomination 2023 and IDFA Sound & Vision IDFA ReFrame Award Nomination 2023. Read more.
The Foundation High Dive Creation of which Tessa Leuwsha is chairperson promotes literature among young people in Suriname. In the interior of Suriname, in the village Dan, together with the Danpaati River Lodge the foundation has realized a community center for children, where they can enjoy books, instruments and audiovisual material.
Community center in the village Dan, Upper Suriname region, where Tessa Leuwsha, through the foundation High Dive Creation of which she is chairperson, has installed a library for children and adults.