Shades of A “Bad John” Government?
The lead component of today’s written conversation here is actually not mine. It belongs to two Guyanese ladies who, though they might not be fans of each other, are amongst the country’s more accomplished, creative communicators. In a variety of media.
Even the caption is from Paloma Mohammed’s Tribute, “Fire one for Farro”.
The other lady of the written word is Parvati Persaud-Edwards. Today my own emphasis is on Parvati the Creative writer. Not the more political/biographer “loyalist” she sometimes seems to be.
Frankly Speaking, it was Parvati Persaud-Edwards’ glowing tribute to the late Ivan Forrester in the Sunday Chronicle which evoked a reasonable amount of personal shame in me and motivated this offering. Indifference, losing touch, or the routine daily struggle for a working-class existence, caused me not to know that Ivan “Farro” Forrester – one of our poor but accomplished poets, artists, writers, hinterland (amateur) anthropologists – passed away a few weeks ago.
I felt empty on reading Persaud- Edwards on Sunday. I confess that I did not know that Farro was even still alive! A rootsy but creative intellectual from Josiah’s Cathedral of the Forests had inherited our society’s ignorant disdain as he, his mortal self, passed on in, and into, oblivion. But wait! Not his life’s contributions not his innate literary and artistic genius. We still can recapture all that. But why am I going on about all this? Soon come…
Through the eyes and words of the two ladies of literature, I with their explicit permission, pay this brief tribute to Farro. (There are many interested who don’t get the Sunday Chronicle.)
Parvati – On Forrester
Persaud –Edwards waxed emotional with me on the phone, this past Tuesday. As in her Chronicle tribute, she spoke of Farro- The Brother of Her Heart, his life in the Bush, his excellent unique expressionist painting and poetry from the river and forests, his liquor and eccentricities but most of all, his humanity towards her throughout his life.
Two excerpts from Parvati: “Ivan Forrester (Farro) and I had so much in common that I do not know where to begin to tell this story. We were both artists and creative writers, with poetry being our medium of choice. And his famous anthology, ‘A Voice from Cuffy’s Grave’, always held me in thrall, especially his epic tribute to that majestic river. And that was another shared love: Mother Nature and the wilds.
I did not attend Farro’s funeral, because I am not given to keeping quiet in the face of hypocrisy, and the false praises and platitudes that were sure to have been heaped on Farro may have made … me lose my famous temper and tell some persons what I really thought of them.
Farro was more than an exceptionally gifted artist and writer. Many of the artifacts on display in the anthropological museum were discovered by Farro; but the credit was stolen by someone else. And that is another trait I share with Farro: We let others rob us of the credit for our achievements without complaining. So Farro has died in anonymity, as I will one day; but as long as someone can find joy in reading ‘A Voice from Cuffy’s Grave’ , or enjoy the amazing hinterland experience as depicted on his many canvases, he will remain alive. And his voice will forever thunder to the cadences of the birdsong in flight in Guyana’s rainforests, the real home of his heart.”
Paloma – On the Poet, Farro…
In truth and fact I had never bothered to enquire why notes on Forrester had been passed to me a few weeks ago. They came from Dr James Rose, but were compiled by “young” Dr Paloma Mohammed. (Poor indifferent me…)
Those notes touched on Ivan’s biography- his birth at Manchester, Corentyne, the Berbice Village of Phillip Moore; his forays into the heartland as a meteorological field assistant – the sojourn of his soul where he communed with nature and produced his best work in paint and poetry.
An excerpt from Paloma’s notes: “His sojourn in the interior of Guyana fed his artistic thirst as he produced excellent paintings including ‘Light on Terrain’ (1966) and ‘Mazaruni’ (1973). In fact many of his poems were about nature and the powerful connection he seemed to have to it … Maybe because he was also a visual artist he found the rare space between the mind’s eye and the poet’s tongue that makes great art so magnificent. This is why I call him “the greatest of Guyana’s nature artists” for he was not only poet but visual artist.
Of all the poems he had ever written his “The Man, The River and The Wind” has had the most profound influence on me and my life. In this poem the poet engages the elements and compares the life of man to a struggle between these elements which he often loses. His own life seems to have been marred by small tragedies. I have surmised from one of his poems that he may have lost a good friend “Agrippa” in a boat accident in the interior of Guyana and so he may not have ever fully recovered”.
Dr Paloma Mohammed – the Poet – also wrote” “Every time a poet dies, I think there should be thunder, but only the silent tear, the mite – ignoble goodbye…”
Appeal … Action?
Forrester’s death in anonymity tinged with poverty, is a stark reminder to me to ask those organizations and “associations” which represent local artists, artistes and creative minds, to really organize and plan for the future, even as they take care of the present.
Economic challenges in this Blighted Land – politically blighted, I mean – prevent genuine committed representative bodies from mobilizing and building enterprises of comfort and hope. I’m impressed by the efforts of the ex-soldiers even as I despair for any calypso association. Sculptors, artists, singers, musicians, et al, fashion groups; come up with a directory of needy creative people. Counsel those who fritter away earnings and invite downfall upon themselves – only to “buse de govament”. My street-smart knowledge tells me whether Billy Moore, Family Teach, Terrence Ali or Billy Wade self-destructed, but that is another issue.
And what should be the role of Government and its Ministry of Culture?
Well, when genuine deserving cases of the struggling artist are identified a welfare fund, a state pension or a subsidized cottage on allocated land should be made available promptly.
Millions wasted on hinterland roads or buildings in the Capital could be diverted for this.
Why, I’m trying to produce my “unsung heroes” biographies and am made to beg! Farro’s passing has inspired me to keep going. And I’ll cherish the memory of Henry Josiah and Farro discussing poetry in a most seedy rum-shop on South Road; or Martin Carter in another – White Star in Alberttown. Pure genius and muses at play!
Government as “Bad-John”
When I was growing – up in Alberttown – read fifty-five, sixty years ago – the really bad guys, the violent, unruly characters were described by the adults as “Bad Johns”.
I’ll have to return to this, even as the Opposition tries to confront it. But this one-year government frequently reminds me of the Bad Johns of my childhood. Look how it often ignores reason, compromise or sharing!
The President himself declares his position not to recognize any Opposition-Majority-Only Bill passed. The government is determined to govern, so all or any projects must not be subject to effective scrutiny. The Linden Agreements taking months to be implemented. (Y’all wait, or riot again nuh!)
No compromise with Georgetown’s City Hall (which has not distinguished itself); talk til y’all blue the Marriott will be built; the Chronicle continues to be exclusive, especially on Sundays; the Public Service Union is routinely ignored and Dr Luncheon invites an Opposition “Rumble”. Bad-John behaviour at its best! Take care other jealous Bad-Johns don’t start to emulate in the best way they know how. Or will the Big Bad John prevail, never-the-less? What a blight!
*1) Just as I was getting started to enquire about the Brazil-Guyana cable (for e-governance) and the
High Street/Princes Street white elephant, someone updated on the latter million-dollar waste.
*2) “This is a kick-back society”, the businesswoman explained.
*3) Is it true? Will President Ramotar offer public servants his first Christmas package?
`Til next week!