Jan 08, 2017 News
Chief Executive Officer (CEO) of The National Trust of Guyana, Ms. Nirvana Persaud, on Friday,
said that The Trust plays a pivotal role in ensuring that the country’s national patrimony is preserved and in fostering an appreciation for the nation’s heritage.
“We really feel that monuments are a symbol of your identity, who you are…they are a part of us, as a people, and, therefore, you should be proud to really care for them,” she said. Ms. Persaud has worked at The Trust in various capacities since 2003 and has served as CEO since 2010.
The National Trust is a state agency established by law, under The National Trust Act of 1972 “to make provision for the preservation of monuments, sites, places and objects of historic interest or national importance”. Its main responsibility is the preservation of all monuments of Guyana, which under the Act includes “any building, structure or object or other work of man…” Its mandate also includes research and documentation, public awareness and heritage education, administration and conducting works under the routine government capital projects.
While this agency aims to undertake maintenance and preservation work on as many historical sites as possible, Ms. Persaud noted that it is not practicable for the agency alone to complete this all at the same time, as over 400 sites and “things of national interest” have been documented on the Monument Register, and there are still more that are yet to be discovered.
Last year, under its capital work programme, The Trust completed major works on the Damon Monument located in Anna Regina, Essequibo Coast; the Enmore Martyrs’ Monument, at Enmore, East Coast Demerara; Hog Island, the largest island in the Essequibo River and Fort Zeelandia, located on Fort Island, Essequibo River.
The Trust also maintains the forts, which are gazetted properties, the Hog Island Windmill, which is Dutch in origin and is the only type of structure of this nature that can be found in Guyana, along with many of the commemorative monuments such as the 1763 Monument and the Non-Aligned Monument. The Trust also contributes to the preservation of other historical and cultural structures such as St. George’s Cathedral in the capital city and St. Peter’s Anglican Church on Leguan Island.
Currently, The Trust collaborates closely with municipal, local and regional authorities across the country to support the maintenance of some sites, such as The Damon Monument. It also liaises with them to obtain more information on undocumented historical sites or artefacts, which are then added to the Monument Register. The agency also plans to decentralise some of its services in order to fulfil its national mandate.
“Our Agency can only do so much, so we are trying to ensure that we strengthen partnerships and even foster new networks and linkages with local authorities across the board; municipalities, NDCs, RDCs… community organisations, because they are the real custodians of our heritage and within their respective jurisdictions, though we have the national mandate to ensure that it is cared for in a particular way and to ensure that it’s there for long-term survival, that is our primary role,” Ms. Persaud said.
The CEO also noted that the national monuments are protected by law, and any person found defacing them and/or removing any part of them could be charged. To this end, advisories have been mounted at several monument sites informing the public of how to care for and/or appreciate the monument.
The Trust also offers a number of research services, and has embarked on several programmes to better promote its work. Several of these programmes target school children as it views them as the segment of the population that is best poised to advance its mandate.
“If they really understand, care, value [national heritage] and they can impart that to even their peers or the adults… the same way that you would care for your property, your home, your items, your valuables, is the same way you should exercise care for our monuments,” Ms. Persaud said.
In this vein, The Trust has partnered with schools, from the primary to the tertiary level, hosted exhibitions, community outreach exercises, lectures, interviews, radio programmes, created a website and produced and disseminated several publications, many free of cost.
Every year, since July 2011, The Trust has partnered with the Mangrove Association, the Botanical Gardens and the Protected Areas Commission to host a two-week programme for children ages eight to 11 years. During the session, the children are exposed to various aspects of heritage, both cultural and natural; they are taken on tours of heritage sites in the city and are encouraged to make suggestions, and create artwork, depicting how the environs of the monuments can be enhanced to foster more interest from the public and attract more visitors. These works of art are mounted in The Trust’s Gallery, which is located in its head office, and they are displayed in important exhibitions that it hosts.
Ms. Persaud also said that the programme started with 30 children and due to the overwhelming response from the public it has gradually increased its target. In 2016, it targeted 40 children, yet many more turned up to register for the programme, which presented a major challenge due to its limited office space. Meanwhile, the CEO disclosed that The Trust is also exploring the possibility of hosting this same programme in Berbice and Linden this year. Another aim of this programme, she said, is to inspire children and young people to consider careers in the heritage sector, particularly in areas such as craftsmanship, producing fretwork and other architectural features.
The Trust also offers a mini library and archival/research service free of cost to the public. The library stores information on Guyana’s historic sites on a database that is frequently updated. Ms. Persaud said several students from the University of Guyana and from foreign universities access this service.
The CEO noted that The Trust’s work to preserve Guyana’s national patrimony continues to be recognised internationally. Last year, the agency won the International Green Apple Award for The Built Environment and Architectural Heritage South America: Gold Winner, from ‘The Green Organisation’. The Green Organisation, which is based in the United Kingdom, is described as an “international, independent, non-profit, non-political, non-activist environment group, dedicated to recognising, rewarding and promoting environmental best practices around the world”. In November 2016, The Trust also won the Green World Award 2016 from the same organisation.
In addition, The Trust also hosted the first International Heritage Preservation Conference in partnership with the United States-based World Monuments Fund in 2014. The Fund sponsored the conference and helped to get the City Hall listed as a “site at risk” globally in order to garner local and international support to save the building. A “watch day” was also hosted in this endeavour. Ms. Persaud said that it is important to note that Guyana competed with 200 other sites for this listing, which subsequently led to the European Union providing funding for the City Hall restoration plan.
The agency was also bestowed with the Heritage Protection Award in 2013, from the Caribbean Tourism Organisation.
The Trust is expected to take up residence at Kamana Court in the building known as ‘Red House’ on High Street, Kingston, which will allow for more accessible premises for the public. (MOTP Feature)
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