THE ANNUAL FOLK FESTIVAL SEASONS HAVE PROVIDED THE PLATFORMS TO SHOWCASE, TO CELEBRATE, AND TO DOCUMENT THIS HERITAGE

THE REPORT CARD

Dr. Vibert Cambridge, President, Guyana Cultural Association of New York, Inc.

gca-15th-anniversary-celebrations

The past 15 years have been a marvelous experiment in cooperation. Inspired by the spirit of Wordsworth McAndrew, A.A., our mission has been: “to document, showcase and celebrate the multiple roots of Guyana’s cultural heritage.”   The annual Folk Festival seasons have provided the platforms to showcase, to celebrate, and to document this heritage.

As the late Godfrey Chin said more than a decade ago, our mission is to “Preserve, Promote and Propagate.”

Our work has constantly reaffirmed McAndrew’s conclusion that within our folk heritage—that rich depository of lived experience and contemporary creativity– lie the resources and experiences needed to build interethnic trust and authentic identity in Guyana.

Our work has been guided by the belief that the sustained, systematic, and innovative exploration of Guyana’s multi-ethnic folk heritage will reveal the common threads that connect us. Our experience suggests that the processes of collaborative exploration of our multi-ethnic heritage can establish and deepen interethnic trust. Without interethnic trust, there can be no sustainable development in Guyana.

Permit me to add some detail to our work over the past 15 years.

Our work at preservation is best seen in our efforts to encourage and to support original research on Guyanese cultural heritage:

  • GCA encouraged and supported Rohan Sagar’s exploration of Guyana’s musicscape. His 2012 M.A. thesis, ‘Ethnic Conversations in Sonic Spaces’ is anchored on a needed musicological survey of Guyana’s musical landscape. His work provides a valuable snapshot of the presence and current state of the musical traditions associated with our Indigenous, European, African, Asian, and Caribbean musical heritages. Sagar’s work is of value to the current conversation on music education in Guyana.
  • GCA’s “Kweh Kweh Nights” provided an opportunity for Gillian Richards Greaves, then a doctoral student in anthropology and ethnomusicology at Indiana University, to study Kweh Kweh in the diaspora.   Dr. Greave’s pioneering dissertation was titled: AFRICAN GUYANESE KWEH-KWEH RITUAL PERFORMANCE: TRICULTURALISM, REDIASPORIZATION, AND THE NEGOTIATION OF IDENTITIES IN GUYANA AND NEW YORK. Dr. Gillian Richards-Greeves is currently a tenure-track Assistant Professor in the Archeology and Anthropology at Coastal Carolina University, South Carolina.
  • In December 2012, based on the recommendations of Dr. Juliet Emanuel, GCA in partnership with Guyana’s Ministry of Culture, Youth, and Sport organized the Masquerade Lives symposium in Georgetown, Guyana. The goal was to increase awareness and appreciation of the art form and to launch efforts to revitalize. This ongoing effort has resulted in:
    • The Masquerade mural in Georgetown. This mural was initiated by Errol Doris and executed by students at the E.R. Burrowes School of Art.
    • The annual Masquerade Flounce Off event. These events have provided opportunities for Linda Griffith and Andrea Mentore to “map” the state of masquerade in Guyana. Currently, Essequibo is said to have the most active bands in Guyana. Demerara’s bands are concentrated on the East Coast, West Demerara, and Linden. The team had not encountered any masquerade bands in Berbice.
    • Since the premiering of Derry Etkins’ Masquerade Sweet Suite at the 2012 Masquerade Lives symposium, a community of Guyanese musicians have been incorporating masquerade aesthetics in their new compositions. Among the composers, arrangers, and ensembles experimenting are Derry Etkins, Andrea Mentore, Teacher Raghu, and the Georgetown Jazz Ensemble.
    • The 2012 symposium revealed that there was widespread concern about the state of Guyanese masquerade costumes and the impending loss of the masquerade flute as an instrument in bands. In December of 2014, as a result, GCA in partnership in MCYS, organized costume and music workshops in Georgetown.
    • Since 2012, Dr. Paloma Mohamed has been conducting research of masquerade “toasts.”
    • The Masquerade Lives project has striven to ensure that events presented in Guyana are recorded. The video records of the 2012 Masquerade Lives symposium and the 2014 workshops have been deposited at the National Archives and the Learning Channel
    • In December 2016, the Masquerade Lives project expects to organize a Masquerade Jamboree in Georgetown. It is anticipatedthat the Dr. Juliet Emanuel’s children’s book on masquerade will be launched.

Promotion

The annual symposia have been a key vehicle for sharing new knowledge about Guyana’s heritage. The first symposium was held in 2002 at Union United Methodist Church in Brooklyn. Since then, GCA has held an annual symposium in Brooklyn or Georgetown, Guyana. Each symposium is typically a day-long event that focuses on some aspect of Guyanese heritage and creativity through research reports, creative works, performances, and dialogue. We have looked at music, Identity, language, literature, dance, Mittelholzer, and village life.

The theme for our 2013 symposium was “Who are We? Imagining Guyana Beyond Indian and African Politics of Race.” Participants agreed there was a general lack of knowledge of: (a) Guyana’s common, collective multi-ethnic history and (b) the communally owned reservoir of knowledge and wisdom generated from the many human encounters, interactions, and exchanges that have taken place in the Guyana space over more than 7,000 years.

This cultural deficit contributes to:

  • The perpetuation of racist myths and stereotypes that nourish and reinforce ethnic mistrust;
  • A lack of appreciation of Guyana’s geographic scope and the diversity of its natural resources;
  • The inability to distill and to apply the spiritual and philosophical wisdom born of our common heritage;
  • Maladaptive behaviors, especially the practices of physical, psychological, and legal domination in governance and inter-personal relationships;
  • This undermines our ability to develop and to implement an equitable and sustainable national development strategy.

These conclusions have led to our current work—the “We Bridgin …” initiative. “We Bridgin” is a collaborative trust-building approach involving multiple partners in Guyana, New York, and the wider Guyanese diaspora.

Propagation

For this task, our emphasis has been on the promotion of contemporary creativity. We do this in several ways. One is the annual Folk Festival season—the Awards Ceremony, Symposia, Kwe Kwe Night, the MoBraff Performing Arts Season, the Visual Arts exhibitions, the film and video festival, the Literary Hang, and Family Fun Day. Our newly launched Guyana Arts and Cultural Center, along with the annual Guyana Folk Magazine, the monthly online magazine, and our website have been other channels for encouraging and promoting Guyana creativity.

  •  Since 2012, Dr. Paloma Mohamed has been conducting research of masquerade “toasts.”
  • The Masquerade Lives project has striven to ensure that events presented in Guyana are recorded. The video records of the 2012 Masquerade Lives symposium and the 2014 workshops have been deposited at the National Archives and the Learning Channel
  • In December 2016, the Masquerade Lives project expects to organize a Masquerade Jamboree in Georgetown. It is anticipatedthat the Dr. Juliet Emanuel’s children’s book on masquerade will be launched.

 

What do we do next?

There is sometimes a natural impatience within our community about our pace and the methods to achieve our goals. But as Henry Muttoo reminded us recently, “Impatience asks for the impossible, wants to reach the goal without the means of getting there.” (Hegel via Henry Muttoo).   Our way forward is going to be determined by the means at our disposal. As an organization we have experienced the benefit of collaboration and partnerships. Moving forward we will give priority to:

  • Strengthening and encouraging the processes of collaborative exploration through the We Bridging effort. We look forward to consolidating our work with partners in New York and Guyana, especially BAC, MYCS, and the University of Guyana.
  • Generating content for use in a Guyanese Life Long Learning environment.
  • Encouraging research and documentation on the Guyanese presence in New York during the 20th century.
  • We will continue to advocate for creative arts education in Guyana.

As we move forward conscious of our responsibilities, we in turn ask you for your continued support especially our upcoming fund-raising initiatives. Again, thank you for being with us, we look forward to your ongoing support.