By Kiana Wilburg
The African heritage and the significant contributions made to Guyana’s cultural fabric was honoured and remembered in grand style yesterday at the National Park.
Guyanese from all walks of life gathered to reflect on the turbulent past of Africans and celebrate 176 years of freedom on Emancipation Day 2014.
The occasion not only served as a platform for citizens and tourists to reflect on the struggles of this ethnic group but also on how much has been achieved.
While it served to deepen consciousness about the African legacy it also evoked for some, a greater sense of appreciation for the inputs made to Guyana’s development culturally, socially and even politically.
The occasion was a most special time which saw all ethnic groups at the Park where many of the contributions of the Africans were on display. From daring, colourful African prints to delicious cuisine, Guyanese reveled in all that satisfied their senses.
Families, government officials, members of the political opposition, tourists from neighbouring Caricom countries, Trinidad and Tobago and Suriname joined to celebrate the occasion.
Many were decked out in extravagant, traditional African outfits, but the heat from the blazing sun left some with no choice but to take off as much as they possibly could.
Some families were dressed alike which onlookers found to be “rather charming.” The National Park in essence was decorated in many African inspired decorations, and most who attended made an effort to represent the holiday through their attire.
Significantly, there were many booths this year with more delicious African delicacies as opposed to last year. This is according to some of the faithful followers of this event.
Most booths showcased an array of cook-up rice, Met-em-gee, and Conkie.
On the eastern side of the National Park , some booths had a display of striking locally made African prints that came in the form of attires for the entire family. Some stalls surely got in on generous sales yesterday. There was one booth which showcased information about slavery and pertinent facts about plantations back in the 18th century in Guyana. This attracted many viewers. There were other stalls which showcased African art and craft. There were also bold, colourful paintings which seemed to be inspired by some aspects of the African folklore like the “Witch doctor.”
On the lawns in the rear of the Park, a talent show called, Centre stage was a main attraction. There were several local singers along with a “raunchy” African inspired fashion show. This was certainly one of the high points of the show.
While some were glued to the talent show, many flocked the centre of the National Park which saw a spectacular cultural presentation. There were several African songs and dances and even poetry from various groups. The young and the aged had an opportunity to showcase their talent and contribute towards a worthwhile show.
Of the many performances, the Whaul Sisters most certainly entertained the audience. According to some, the singers resurrected a special feeling that connected with African ancestry. The young women performed their renditions in African dialects. The selections included, The Click Song and ‘Patta Patta’, both of which are classics by the late Mariam Makeba.
This publication interviewed several persons who attended the grand event.
One happy couple said, “It is good when our people can come together on this day and just celebrate all that happened. We have a very rich history as Africans and I do hope that we can continue to move forward as one people. It is good to see how even the other races can come to this special celebration and share in our moments. I want to thank them for sharing and appreciating our contributions. I feel happy that they can join us and again I say, this is what we need, peace, love and unity.”
One of the women who had a craft stall said, “Oh well I am very pleased with the celebrations this year. I think we are moving from strength to strength each year and I want to thank the Ministry of Culture and ACDA and all those who helped to make this event a success. I had no problems in getting to set up my little stall with my art and craft here. I am pleased with how everything is done because things just seem more organized this year and that shows that the Ministry is improving every year.”
One grandmother who was accompanied by her “lover” asserted, “Well my child, I have been following this emancipation celebration for years now and I can say for certain that we have grown and it is really something that even the government officials can come together on this day and show their appreciation for all that the Africans have contributed to this nation. We as Africans have come through a lot. We have a very sad past but look at all the things we have been able to achieve as a people. That is the principle we need to keep in mind when we go astray; if we stay together and help each other, we can go a far way and our history has proven that, we just need to stick to it.”
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