I think we can all agree that 2015 has been a year of sweeping change. The government has changed after 23 years, and efforts are being made to “restore Georgetown to its former glory”.
In fact, the change has even been extended to the Guyana Chronicle with its recent facelift. Hooray for change, right? Well, maybe not so fast.
In the midst of celebrating the neat queues in the bus parks; the brightly coloured waste receptacles that you can’t possibly miss; and the open spaces now available to the public, let us take a moment to consider the root cause that has led to such a breakdown in the first place, and how it has affected our position regionally.
While all of this change is happening, there remains a few core issues that, in my opinion, persist and have contributed to Guyana’s exclusion from any serious regional arts and culture discourse. Now, I am by no means an expert on anything that is not related to the actual making of art, but I have been exposed to regional models and networks that have found ways to sustain themselves, and gain momentum as well as international support over time. And from my observation, there has been very little to no participation from Guyana, for whatever reason. This is the part where everyone will have a theory, and they may or may not be legitimate, but I’m writing to share opinion on the matter.
IN THE DARK
Before casting aspersions, I think it is crucial to examine the role we, as Guyanese, have played in effectively shutting ourselves out of those conversations. After all, we cannot, in all seriousness, expect to be included in those dialogues alongside countries that are leaps and bounds ahead of us, when we are still working in the dark. This might seem like a harsh critique of the work that has been done up to this point, but I’m not discrediting any of it; nor am I looking for a person or group of persons to blame. What I’m saying is that as a country that was once at the helm of arts and culture within the region, there is absolutely no reason why we should be so far behind in 2015, given all the resources we have at our disposal.
How can it be that since 1972 when we hosted the very first CARIFESTA, Guyana is still struggling to present a cohesive or at least uniquely identifiable cultural image that is not desperately trying to mimic the Americans or Jamaicans? How is it that we have managed to slip so far down the ladder that Guyanese would prefer to spend US$2000 playing Mas in Trinidad than pay a mere fraction of the cost to celebrate our own Mashramani at home? What this points to, in my opinion, is years of systematic conditioning and the belief that anything from “outside” is better and therefore more worthy of our support, be it financial or otherwise. And although this belief is rampant across the Caribbean, Guyana seems to have been especially stricken with a terrible case of it. But I digress.
In next week’s conclusion to this article, I will be highlighting and discussing areas that can work to strengthen the way we engage with each other, as well as our Caribbean neighbours, with regard to the arts and culture. While I don’t feel like the list will contain any groundbreaking ideas, it is straightforward and timely. The bottom line is that there are simple things that can be done, but are very often overlooked in the chaos of trying to create change.
These are things that are applicable to everyone: Artists, entrepreneurs and government workers. So, rather than each person trying to recreate the wheel, let us work as a collective to build an image that every Guyanese can be proud of. It is time that we re-establish our position regionally, and show everyone how much we’ve grown since 1972.
Dominique Hunter is an independent visual artist who recently graduated from the Barbados Community College with a Bachelor of Fine Art (First Class Honours).
This article was first published in the Pepperpot magazine of the Sunday Chronicle newspaper on December 13, 2015. Click on the link to be redirected to their website: http://guyanachronicle.com/raising-the-standard-part-i/