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Monday, June 05, 2006

The Arts of Guyana

A multi-cultural Caribbean adventure

Joe Cabongo, 1967-81 by Philip Moore. Acrylic on plyboard, collection of the National Art Gallery, Castellani House.

Exhibit at Inter-American Development Bank (IDB), Washington, pays tribute to Guyanese artists living and working in Guyana.

AN EXHIBITION of utilitarian utensils made by Guyanese Amerindians, paintings, sculptures, leather and fibre objects by contemporary Guyanese artists from different ethnic backgrounds, opened to the public at the gallery of the IDB Cultural Centre, Washington DC, on Thursday.

More than 50 works by the Amerindian population have been selected, as well as paintings and sculptures from private and public collections such as the Walter Roth Museum of Anthropology, Castellani House, the Museum of African Heritage, the Roots and culture Gallery, the Burrowes School of Art, and the Faculty of Arts of the University of Guyana.

The exhibit titled `The Arts of Guyana: A Multicultural Caribbean Adventure’ pays tribute to Guyanese artists and culture and runs until August 11.

“The exhibition recognises the cultural contributions made, from pre-Columbian times to the present, by so many men and women of varied ethnic and cultural backgrounds, including regional indigenous Americans, Africans, Indians and Europeans. Their combined influence, at different times in history, has made culture part of a sustained effort to advance development in the country. This exhibition acknowledges their effort, and gives the IDB an opportunity to join in the 2006 celebrations of Guyana’s 40th year of independence an the commemoration of Caribbean American Heritage Month, which was declared for June by the US Congress,” Mirna Lievano de Marques, IDB External Relations Advisor.

The curator of the exhibition is Felix Angel, the IDB Cultural Centre General Coordinator and Curator, who is assisted by Elfrieda Bissember, Curator and Director of the National Gallery of Guyana, Castellani House., and Gerard Perreira, Assistant Director of the Walter Roth Museum, in Georgetown.

The IDB said it is fully aware of the challenges posed to the Caribbean nations by a constantly changing economic, political and social environment, each year more globalised than before. “But it is also aware of their accomplishments and potential, and of the role that culture plays in defining and clarifying them, as it does in the construction process of any great nation,” a release from the IDB Cultural Centre said.

Kings of the South, 2002-2004 by Winslow Craig. Samaan wood.

Angel stated in his introduction of the exhibition that it has been organised with the intention of showing the “multicultural composition of Guyanese society today, to give credit to the many people who have participated in the cultural definition of its nationhood as represented by architecture, and to recognise those contemporary artists who continue to work in the country, no matter how difficult the practice of the arts may be.”

The exhibition includes a number of objects created and manufactured by the descendants of the original inhabitants, and seeks to highlight their aesthetic and visual aspects.

“The catalogue includes a marginal reference to the architectural legacy of Guyana, one of the richest in the Caribbean. Examples of Christian, Hindu and Muslim faiths, and Indian, Middle Eastern, and European cultures abound. Residential architecture is particularly important. Many old houses have been taken over by insurance companies and other business, preserving them for future generations, while making convenient use of them due to their strategic urban location. Most of them bear the Demerara window, a trademark feature of Guyanese colonial architecture. Among the most impressive buildings is the residence of the Prime Minister, and the Guyana National Gallery, which bears the name of Caesar Castellani (who designed it), the famous architect of many structures built in the city of Georgetown during the 19th century. Although fire and the elements have damaged and destroyed many wooden structures over time, Guyana’s remaining examples of colonial Caribbean architecture are unique,” the release said.

It added that Guyana’s artistic Diaspora is spread all over the world, and previous exhibits in Washington have given ample testimony of this fact, featuring the work of many artists, some of whom live in the United States. However, the current display is intentionally focused on artists currently living in Guyana. A component to the exhibition in the form of the work of Stanley Greaves, Patrick Barrington, Hubert Moshett and Ronald Savory, has been added to “give an indication, nothing more, that some art pioneers existed at the time of emancipation from England, helping to establish a perspective for those deprived visions when narrating the `official’ history of the arts in the country…”

Among the outstanding pieces on display are Winston Strick’s leather sculptures, one of which was recently acquired by the Inter-American Development Bank; the paintings by Carl Anderson; and the paintings, sculptures and reliefs of Philip Moore, one of the most intriguing and multi-faceted artists of the entire Caribbean who is still living and working in Guyana. The exhibition also includes fibre work of three “much younger, promising students at the Art Faculty of the University of Guyana, Carlesta Sutton, Stacia Pitt and Brian George.

The IDB Cultural Centre has extended its gratitude to all those who have made the exhibition possible including Keith Booker of the Ministry of Culture, Youth and Sport; the Ministry of Tourism; Tamika Boatswain, National Museum; Dr. James Rose, National Trust; Dr. Desrey Fox and Gerard Perreira, Walter Roth Museum; Chairman and Management Committee of the National Gallery; Tota Mangar, University of Guyana, Faculty of Arts; June Dubisette, National Archives; Kathleen Thompson, Burrowes School of Art; R. Williams, Roots and Culture Gallery; Jenny Daly, Museum of African Heritage; Anna Correia, Women’s Artists Association; Patsy Ann Ramussen, Smithsonian Institution; Desmond Alli, artist; Winslow Craig, artist; and Carl Anderson, artist. Special thanks to the IDB Representative in Guyana, Sergio Varas-Olea, and Marco Nicola, Deputy Representative.

Pictures: Signs of the Zodiac, 1993, by Winston Strick.. Leather, with aluminum and galvanised wire, collection of the Roots and Culture Gallery.

Guyana Chronicle

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