Jul 28, 2013 News
By Rehanna Ramsay
The 1763 monument, popularly known as “Cuffy”, and situated at Square of the Revolution, Georgetown, stands 15 feet tall and weighs two and a half tons.
The statue was erected by renowned local artist Dr Phillip Alphonso Moore (now deceased) in 1976 and was unveiled on May23 that same year by Guyana’s late Prime Minister, Linden Forbes Burnham.
The statue sits on a plinth, and showcases a fountain that creates a picturesque effect. Five plaques surround the plinth, each representative of an aspect of revolution from slavery.
The plaques represent seeking inspiration, uniting the people, destroying the enemies, ‘control and praise’ and thanksgiving.
But what’s so special about this statue as we observe 175 years since the abolition of slavery? What are some ideals that can be drawn from our ancestors, in particular Cuffy?
How is this symbol relevant to modern Guyanese of African ancestry and to the wider society?
Two hundred and fifty years after the fact, the legend of Cuffy continues to impress, inspire and impact the lives of locals and tourists alike.
“Cuffy is a spirited monument …it was inspired from a dream the original artist Dr Phillip Alphonso Moore had. The sculpture embodies who we are as a people; he represents our struggles, resilience, defiance, and resistance against every form of slavery. A symbol of struggle and freedom …Cuffy is testament to unity in action,” Dr David Hinds of the Caribbean and African Diaspora studies said.
The enslaved Akan Akomfo and Kofi Badu, aka “Cuffy” – from Ghana, West Africa, (the African State that will be featured during this year’s emancipation celebrations), were brought to the Dutch colony of Berbice, in Guiana.
In 1762, slaves on plantation Magdalenburg on the Canje River rebelled and protested harsh, inhumane treatment by colonial rulers. Cuffy, a house slave for a barrel maker at Lilienburg, another plantation on Canje, led an uprising of approximately 3,833 slaves on February 23, 1763.
Cuffy is said to have organized them into a military unit. The revolution lasted until 1764 and although Cuffy had a sad end, he is still remembered as a national hero. The Berbice rebellion led the way for several other revolts across the country, the Caribbean and North America.
Modern Day Slaves
Although slavery was abolished nearly two centuries ago, the struggle of the African people continues.
Today they face a different adversity, and struggle, a struggle for ethical unity as well psychological and systematic independence.
According to Dr Hinds, the African descendants continue to struggle although physical slavery no longer exists … “Although Africans survived as a people we are severely damaged.”
Dr Hinds said that the ideals of white imperialists continue to exist among African descendants, bringing division just as in olden days where the house slaves were given certain privileges over field slaves.
“The idea of racism that dark skinned people are inferior to light skinned people came from slavery …the system was designed to make us think and act that way.”
Dr Hinds also agreed that the issue is widespread, hence the systematic practices of racism in modern societies. Many believe that although it is no longer common for racism to be practiced openly, it is subtle.
Dr Hinds believes that these are some of the issues that need to be addressed. Many times young people of African descent often face stereotypical characterization of crime and negativity.
“Society today, in several cases an African is presumed guilty until found innocent while others are presumed innocent until proven guilty.”
Dr Hinds will host discussions on the theme: “The state of African Guyanese…A time for renewal and empowerment.”
The forum will be held on August 4, 2013 at the headquarters of the African Cultural Development Association (ACDA).
Dr Hinds said that the 1763 monument “depicts Africa’s response to slavery …it shows that the human spirit finds a way to overcome …We first have to unshackle ourselves from the ideals that we have been enslaved because we are not slaves.”
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