• Tomasz Tomaszewski

    Sugar Town

  • Carl De Keyzer

    Guided By Sugar

  • James Whitlow Delano

    Looking back without Nostalgia

  • Ed Kashi

    The Emerald Desert

  • Ed Kashi


The Sweet and Sour Story of Sugar

Sugar in a globalized world

With The Sweet and Sour Story of Sugar Noorderlicht goes further in the direction begun in its Global Detail (2003) photo festival. The process of globalization, as radical as it is elusive, is once again the subject for an exhibition and a photo book. This time however Noorderlicht wants to go into greater depth by approaching the operation of the ‘global economy’ from the perspective of just one product. In The Sweet and Sour Story of Sugar, sugar is the starting point for an investigation of the forces of globalization. It is a story which forces one to look beyond boundaries of space and time, at a product that is simultaneously ordinary, and boundless.

The Sweet and Sour Story of Sugar is a comparative investigation in which the process of globalization is examined from the perspective of four different countries. It is one story, but seen through Brazilian, Surinamese, Indonesian and Dutch eyes. In the past colonialism linked the four countries with one another, The Netherlands being the centre to which the sugar came from its overseas possessions and from which it was sold onward. Now, at the beginning of the 21st century, each of the countries has moved in a different direction. Sugar production in Brazil rises year by year, while The Netherlands' own sugar sector is in danger. The plantations in Suriname have lain fallow for many years. Indonesia is struggling to produce enough sugar to keep up with consumption. The new era has brought new winners and losers.

The story behind a package of sugar

Noorderlicht seeks to bring various lines together in this project. It intends to see globalization through the eyes of the slave and the slave dealer, through the eyes of the colony and the colonial power, and through the eyes of the winners and the losers in today's sugar market. We do this in order to create a complex and colourful picture of a process that can have an immense impact on the individual level, while operating outside of our sight. Behind the normal and innocent appearance of a kilo package of sugar in the local supermarket a rich and multifaceted story lies hidden: the sweet and sour story of sugar.

View also


We are working together with the following archives in The Netherlands and other countries on the content of the open source:


International presentation



  • Fort Zeelandia, Paramaribo: 5 - 14 July 2013
  • Museum Mariënburg, Mariënburg: 17 - 23 July 2013
  • Tembe Art Studio, Moengo: 26 - 28 July

The Netherlands


  • Sao Paulo: Oct 2013


For more information, please contact the projectleader Sjors Swierstra, sjors@noorderlicht.com.

Stay up to date with the latest news about the project on the special Sugerpage on Facebook!

Participating photographers




All photograpers also worked on an assignment in the Netherlands, except for Carl de Keyzer. He photographed the European Commission in Brussels, Belgium.

In the media

Radio Netherlands Worldwide 

On 8 May 2012 the Radio Netherlands Worldwide website published an article on the project in English, Bahasa, Papiemento and Brazilian.


During August and September 2012, CNN-photo made six articles about the project, presenting photographs by each participating photographer, complete with interviews about their work.