There is an urgent need for a separate Ministry of Culture

Dear Editor,

The investment in an 1823 monument is under any normal circumstances supposed to embody the tragedy of the Demerara Slave rebellion of 1823. But we do not exist in normalcy; the nation is occupied by the obsolete political colonization of the PPP. I have publically insisted that the Ministry of Culture and that of Sport should be under separate direction because currently there is no functioning Culture Ministry peopled by a management that has a clue through practice in any area of the arts.

Stabroek News of Dec 18, 2012 carried the response of Minister Frank Anthony in Parliament on the bizarre decision to place the 1823 monument at a site completely irrelevant to the known history of that struggle. The lines of communication between organizations in this country also practised by the ministries in the event of collaborations are through letters of invitation, public visits, phone calls when trusted familiarity exists, not public advertisements in the media. This of course was not a competition announcement or an invitation to tender, but rather a public interest matter where organizations should have been engaged using the existing protocols long practised by the office of the same Minister. The Minister’s decision not to contact any of the Afro-Guyanese organizations can only be construed as being intended to interfere with and detract from what his government had consecrated in 2000 at the same historic Parade Ground. The question is, why this act of public deceit? One must ponder whether there is a fear that the presence of an 1823 monument would eclipse other monuments in close proximity, which is erroneous because when the executions of martyrdom were carried out in l823, as the informative editorial on December 9, in Stabroek News implied, the Parade Ground also incorporated the site of the present Promenade Gardens; there are prints to verify that.

The Minister must produce his so-called committee to justify to the nation (was Dr James Rose part of this committee) their agreement with this ridiculous decision. I would really like to know if Dr Rose was part of this decision; I know him well and it would be most strange for him to have gone along with this fiasco. If he did then he must wake up and explain.

I am not on the internet, but a colleague of mine brought a printout purposing to have been produced by a usual character, close to an organization I am part off, whose constant perfidious eruptions are now common to us in that organization. This commentator had inserted the very insidious reference on ‘Kofi’ that the Minister blurted out in Parliament in his deceptive defence: “But Kofi could have been placed in Berbice and no one in Georgetown would have seen it.”  The commentator like the Minister has no deep understanding of the cultural and historical sensitivities active in this matter, except that the Minister to his credit publicly, has always proclaimed his passion in the area of sports, and not in culture. Fact: There is no Kofi statue in Guyana or anywhere, and when the image of our national hero is erected it will be in the Ancient County. ‘The 1763 Monument’ referred to as Kofi (Coffy) was erected to coincide with the declaration of Guyana as a Republic in 1970. The values of the 1763 Revolution are expressed at the base of the monument by the mystical artist who conceived it, the late Brother Philip Moore. This is a monument that captures and fuses the iconography and the consciousness of that political state of evolution, from Revolution to Republican status. The 1763 monument is not a statue of Kofi as the Minister and the commentator have wrongly assumed.

Philip Moore had emerged as the leading post-independence artist because his style and philosophy went in new directions of artistic expression and thinking. When he passed on last year (2012) it was expected that his remains would be interred at the Seven Ponds with other stalwarts who shaped Guyana after 1966. The ministry played the usual PPP politics of stagnant spite and forced Philip’s burial to be at his home village at Manchester, West Coast Berbice. Had the same logic been applied to the 1823 monument then two locations would have been debated: (1) Bachelor’s Adventure on the East Coast, where the 1823 confrontation occurred or (2) the Parade Ground where the executions were carried out, and the martyrdom created. But political schizophrenia became manifest, imposing its contrariness to all, against what should have been patriotically obvious.

The artist whose talents have created the 1823 monument, Ivor Thom, is a colleague of mine and I’m disturbed that his work must be overshadowed by the arrogance, deception or insensitiveness to what is involved here from the ministry’s side. But he will understand that there are higher principles involved that cannot be simplified and some time in the future it will be relocated to Parade Ground. As of now there is no national 1823 monument. I reiterate to our decision-makers in Parliament that there is urgent need for a separate Ministry of Culture peopled by minds capable of understanding and working in the interest of preserving and promoting our cultural heritage in a responsible way.

Yours faithfully,
Barrington Braithwaite

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