Apr 16, 2019 News
Masquerade groups already directly under the supervision of the Ministry of Culture Youth and Sport are calling on the Culture Director, and the Ministry, to have legislation in place to ensure masquerade groups that fail to come under the ministry’s umbrella are penalized for unlawful public appearances.
This plea by several masquerade groups from the East Coast of Demerara comes on the heels of a recent incident where a ‘so-called masquerade group’ from the West Demerara District took to the streets, prancing for cash, creating a traffic congestion for over two hours much to the dismay and anger of drivers and other commuters. The group at that time that was said to be ‘celebrating the death’ of a popular masquerader, had not received permission, nor had its members consulted with the Culture Ministry, according to Culture Director Tamika Boatswain.
Representatives of masquerade groups from Mahaicony, Mahaica, Victoria, and Berbice in separate interviews all declared that “it’s high time” the Culture Ministry does something about groups popping up all over, adorning themselves with costumes and doing as they please. Masqueraders from Victoria Village, East Coast Demerara and West Coast Berbice are particularly angry with the recent ‘faulty group from the Westside’, claiming that this group is ‘duttying de waters fuh everybody’.
Those from Victoria are particularly displeased since they claim to have kept within their traditional operations, and have always consulted with the Culture Ministry with regard to all aspects of their operations. They have informed that groups are just appearing across the length and breadth of Guyana, and some of them may not have ever once seen the environs of the Culture Ministry’s Main Street, Georgetown compound.
When Culture Director Boatswain was contacted for a comment yesterday, she noted that the calls for such legislation by masquerade groups will have to be tabled at a ministerial level, and the implementation of the desired legislation will have to be discussed professionally.
She expressed the desire that groups across Guyana should always approach the Ministry before embarking on any personal ventures and should always keep such operations (especially if its street appearances) within the confines of the law, and should at no time ignite chaos with regards to traffic congestion.
She also expressed the need for groups to stick with the traditional concept behind masquerade and not use it only as a ‘money making mechanism’. Masquerade bands are expected to acquire an endorsement from the Culture Ministry, but many today are ignoring this process.
The Department of Tourism within the Ministry of Business, will be hosting its first Masquerade Consultation today at Moray House, Camp and Quamina Streets, Georgetown.
The Department’s objective for this consultation is to understand the challenges and propose the most viable solutions that will aid in the sustainability of this very unique aspect of the nation’s culture that makes up its rich cultural heritage. Further, following several examples in the Caribbean, Minister Dominic Gaskin has indicated an interest in the development of a cultural tourism product based on the masquerade. This venture will be staged also to map out the next steps and ways the Culture Ministry can give support to the masquerade tradition in order that it could be part of Guyana’s cultural tourism product
Over the years, the traditional masquerade art form has dwindled from a traditional cultural showcase to a money-making avenue, where dancers just mainly prance along the roadways, offering lacklustre performances, and demanding monies from often infuriated drivers, many times blocking their paths until the drivers give in.
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