foto: Sirano Zalman
TESSA LEUWSHA (Amsterdam, 1967) lives in Suriname, South-America, since 1996 and is a writer and documentary filmmaker. Besides that, she works as policy officer for culture and heritage at the Dutch embassy in Paramaribo. She studied Tourism Management and English language and literature in her town of birth Amsterdam.
She wrote the travel book Reishandboek Suriname (Elmar), that since 1997 has been published in several revised editions.
In 2002, she was awarded the incentive award as part of the Kwakoe Literature Prize for her story For William. Other stories appeared in the anthologies Waarover we niet moeten praten (2007) and Voor mij ben jij hier (2010).
Her debut novel de Parbo-blues (Augustus, Amsterdam-Antwerpen, 2005), a fictionalized biography of her father’s youth in Suriname and life as an immigrant in the Netherlands, was well received, nominated for the Dutch Women & Culture Award in 2006 and the Debutant Award 2006, and reissued in 2022.
Tessa Leuwsha’s second novel Solo, een liefde, (Augustus, 2009), about ambition in colonial Suriname and the longing for a better life, was reviewed positively by distinguished media in the Netherlands, such as NRC Handelsblad, the VPRO gids and HP/de Tijd. The novel was nominated for the Black Magic Woman Literature Award 2009.
In addition, the press in both the Netherlands and Suriname praised her non-fiction work Fansi's stilte, a grandmother and slavery (Atlas Contact, 2015). The work was reprinted several times and shortlisted for the Inktaap Literature Prize 2017. Leuwsha's is the director and scriptwriter of a documentary based on the book, to be released in a Dutch and English edition in 2023.
Tessa Leuwsha has written columns, articles and book reviews for various media in the Netherlands and Suriname and has participated in several international literary festivals, including the Winternachten festival and Writers Unlimited in The Hague, and the festivals Werelden in ontmoeting and Boekids in Paramaribo. She gives lectures on request in both countries, such as Wij hebben helden, wij bestaan! (We have heroes, we exist!) for the University of Amsterdam in cooperation with the public library Amsteram. She also wrote an introduction to the canonized work We slaves of Suriname (1934) by Anton de Kom, translated into English (We slaves of Suriname) and German.
In 2018 she realized her first long documentary Frits de Gids (director, scenario) focusing on changing man-woman relationships in a traditional Marroon village in the interior of Suriname. The documentary premiered in Paramaribo and showed also in several art house cinemas in the Netherlands. See link for trailer.
In 2020 Plantage Wildlust appeared, Tessa Leuwsha's fourth new novel. In the book she explores harsh life on a plantation in Suriname at the beginning of the twentieth century when indentured labor was introduced. Through different characters Tessa Leuwsha delivers a gripping story where love and hate come close together. Plantage Wildlust received positive reviews. Staccato Films International obtained the film rights. Students of two British Universities, the University of Sheffield and University College London embarked on a collaborative project to translate an excerpt of the novel into English. The Low Countries published the translation.
In De wilde vaart, op zoek naar de veerkracht van Suriname, Tessa Leuwsha's latest work (2022), due to the Covid-pandemic, she and her husband embark on a boat trip along the Surinamese rivers. They are in search of the resilience of the Surinamese people and their own strength, despite colonialism and its long term effect.
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.