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Sunday, April 09, 2006


Preserving our literary heritage

By Petamber Persaud

THE JOURNEY started on March 2004.

The sixth stage of THE JOURNEY was successfully executed on March 2006, marking the second anniversary of the event.

Any literary affair in Guyana that notches up any inkling of a landmark is worthy of note, especially in the light of numerous related activities including open mic poetry, local book publishing, local periodicals and writers’ organisations ignobly going under. Literary matters are so beset by innumerable challenges that as each day passes, it becomes more and more difficult to recover lost ground. The present situation is a shameful paradox; entities to benefit most from a literate workforce seemed least interested in this resource.

A landmark measured in time especially in a volatile society would definitely qualify THE JOURNEY for considerable attention. Too much water has passed under the bridge since March 2004 including the devastating Great Flood of the 2005.

THE JOURNEY is an ongoing series of literature programmes designed to go where other related undertakings have failed to venture. To appreciate this, a listing of the objectives of THE JOURNEY would show how useful is this venture to society.

The intent of the journey is to sensitise more Guyanese (and non-Guyanese) as to the massive output in the field of literature by our writers, both local and overseas, to expose literature to more persons especially our young people, to foster an interaction between those who know and those willing to learn about literature, to raise the level of appreciation for such matters, to restore a reading culture by putting the joy back into reading, to offer another, and eventually a permanent, venue for oral performance, to encourage more writers to write and to publish, and to encourage scholarship and more research in our literature.

The Chairperson and the Management Committee of the National Art Gallery, Castellani House, initiated the production of THE JOURNEY. Having presented literary events previously, the idea was to continue the interest formed by the popular evening of poetry series hosted by Edward Glover, former British High Commissioner to Guyana. This series of literature programmes is staged under the auspices of Castellani House, Vlissengen Road and Homestretch Avenue, and is coordinated by this writer.

Castellani House was built in the years 1879 to 1882. The National Art Gallery was opened in May 1993. Within the first ten years of its existence, it had presented more than sixty art exhibitions and some forty-five other events in its related arts programme.

THE JOURNEY has covered much ground and achieved quite a lot in a short period. The event has facilitated over one hundred individual and group performances of prose, poetry and drama. Selected pieces included works of Guyanese and writers from around the world. Presentations came from a cross section of Guyanese, both local and overseas, and from non-Guyanese. The performances by youths from schools in Georgetown including students of Monar Educational Institute met with overwhelming appreciation.

In part one, we went to the beginning of our (Guyanese) literary heritage, the oral literature of our indigenous peoples, moving into the printed word, from the first published poem in the early 17th century to the first published anthology, covering a period of 100 years.

In part two of The Journey, we sampled various genres of writing, prose, poetry, song, the essay, the novel, and the letter. We also celebrated the works of past Guyanese writers and honoured a couple of living resident authors.

In part three, we celebrated living women writers while giving emerging writers a chance, another occasion to showcase their own fare.

Both groups of writers need our support especially our women writers who face numerous challenges both as women and as writers.

In part four, we celebrated our literary heritage that was captured in anthologies; anthologies serve to shape a nation’s literature.

In part five, it was ‘school days are happy, happy days’, going way back to Jack and Jill, ‘all the world’s a stage’, moving to present day and long overdue inclusion of Guyanese writings on the CXC syllabus.

And in part six, it was literature in translation (from foreign languages) and Guyanese creolese. Although it’s a sampling of different cultures, the themes explored by dissimilar writers are universal ones encompassing issues of identity, alienation, integration and freedom. Some selections included ‘Won Bon’ by Robin Dobru from Suriname, ‘The Book of Sand’ by Jorge Luis Borges

from Argentina, ‘There are those who….’ by Joseph Polius from Martinique, ‘Outside the Marriage Bureau’ by He Hiaohu from China, ‘AmeRican’ by Tato Laviera from Puerto Rico, ‘Don’t delve too deeply’ by Alberto Moravia

from Italy, ‘Sell me?’ by Nicolas Guillen from Cuba, and ‘Bourgeois King’ by Ruben Dario from Nicaragua. ‘Laas Lick’ by this writer, performed by Travis Chase ended the programme.

While the emphasis of these events is on Guyanese literature, we do not diminish the import of world literature, making conscious efforts to locate our literature against the backdrop of great literatures of the world.

Plans for part seven of THE JOURNEY which is slated for late August 2006 are underway but it’s not too late to get onboard. The theme for this outing would be ‘winners’ row’ featuring writers who have won prizes internationally including the Nobel Prize for Literature and locally including selections from winners of the Guyana Prize for Literature and The Guyana Annual.

Posted by jebratt :: Sunday, April 09, 2006 :: 0 comments

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