Kabakaburi – Amerindian Heritage Festival 2010
Kabakaburi celebrated its village heritage September 24, last, with activities ranging from boat races to lavish consumption of ‘local’ or piwari, casiri or fly traditional beverages of the Amerindians.
The village was originally founded by the Anglican Missionary, Fr William Brett, in 1845, and the original settlement built on the remnants of the Dutch Fort Durban on the Arpiarco River. This important historical and cultural site now hosts a ranger station for the Guyana Forestry Commission.
According to village traditions, a cholera outbreak decimated most of the Fort Durban population and thus Kabakaburi was relocated to its present location.
Amerindian Heritage festivals were intended to exhibit indigenous elements that were foundational and helped to shape and guide a particular way of life for Guyana’s Amerindians.
What needs to be articulated at the official level is whether these attributes are being preserved and sustained.
At Kabakaburi some of these were present – the food and the beverages, and music but not much else. Gone were the days of Tony D’Oliveira and the traditional musicians who would provide live performances for the community of Kabakaburi.
At the festival, music was played using either CDs or audio formats of DVDs. To the credit of the community and its organisers traditional music was used for the most part of the day, with the more modern though foreign genres played pretty much later in the evening.
The performances of the various dance forms such as the Galeron (which is a Spanish tradition), and the traditional Mari-Mari and Matapei Dances were very much in evident.
Ubiquitous were the composition of the dancers and what was noticeable were those who partook in the traditional dances were 90 per cent and more old members of the community.
There was not too much interest on the part of the youths of Kabakaburi to be immersed in their own culture, but then Amerindian culture, like every other culture in Guyana is under attack and those value systems are eroding daily; so a truer statement ought to read that perhaps there is no one who possesses that capacity to inform the present generation of their own historical heritage and culture.
Within the village of Kabakaburi are other important sites such as the Shell Mound (excavated by Dr Denis Williams), the burial site of Sibecho (who later became Cornelius after converting to Christianity), the last Piaiman or Shaman of the Kabakaburi Arawaks and of course the Fort Durban heritage site.
But perhaps the most important institution to be found in Kabakaburi is Canon John Peter Bennett, 96, the first Arawak Anglican Priest and author of the only Arawak – English Dictionary.
Kabakaburi represents a platform from which Arawak culture can be revived and sustained but requires management at the institutional level.
The coming together of the community at Heritage is not only a positive and welcome response, but also a manifestation of the cognitive and collective self; not only should they be encouraged but the expected interventions will only strengthen the community’s cultural heritage thus give true and genuine meaning to their identity.