There is an old saying that where ignorance is bliss, it is folly to be wise. This was the first thought that rushed through my mind after reading a Demerara Waves’ news release titled; ‘Kitty Seawall road best site for 1823 slave rebellion monument –sculptor’ (January 3). My second thought was more emotional and thus unprintable. In the release, Mr Ivor Thom, the sculptor, pontificates at a news conference that, “the land space was there (speaking about the seawall site), place for parking and everything was there, and more than anything else, the viewing was good…” The good gentleman went on: “We thought that that would have been the best place to put it, because it could be easily seen by persons traversing to and from East Coast Demerara from different directions.” Thom further went on to say that it was his opinion that the seawall site was the best of all the locations that were suggested.
Editor, something must be fundamentally wrong if we as a people and our government entrust the selection of the site of a monument of such great national significance to a sculptor. Ivor Thom may be a good sculptor, but Mr Thom does not speak for the African collective in this country. It is clear from his remarks that his focus was more in keeping with the visibility of his work, rather than the emotional and physical connection of the rebellion and its connection to the African people. Like Thom I too have an opinion, and I feel that the site of the 1823 monument must by necessity be at a location chosen by the descendants of that struggle. The area known as the Promenade Gardens and the Parade Ground was where the brutality and sadistic mentality of the colonial government was put on full display after the rebellion was put down. This is where a number of our African freedom fighters were hanged, ten of whom were later decapitated. This is where in African tradition and lore the spirits of our courageous ancestors still roam. What Mr Thom and Dr Anthony are about to do is not only unprecedented, but an affront to, and direct attack on, the historical accuracy of the African struggle for freedom in Guyana.
I am personally disappointed in the remarks made by Ivor Thom, remarks which clearly show that he is more interested in his design and showing it off, rather than with integrity and historical accuracy. We have several monuments in this and other countries that are not located on public thoroughfares; many lack adequate parking. Mr Thom once lived in Atlanta, Georgia and he knows that the Martin Luther King historical site is located on Auburn Avenue, a depressed section of the city with poor parking and limited land space, but the historical accuracy was maintained, because Dr King was born and lived on that street. The Babu John monument to President Cheddi Jagan was not built on the shoulder of the Corentyne Highway or the Georgetown Seawall; both sites would have given it more visibility. The Place of Heroes is in the Botanical Gardens at the area of the Seven Ponds, and the Monument to the Enmore martyrs is at Enmore. These sites were selected because of historical and emotional considerations, not commercial or popular appeal. Mr Thom and Dr Anthony must know that we distort our history when we make arbitrary decisions on important matters, without consulting the stakeholder, the direct descendants of the murdered slaves, and the historians.
It is clear once again that the Ramotar-led PPP/C government is a dictatorship, that sees consultation and negotiations with the people and their representatives as unnecessary. Why would the Government of Guyana build a monument to celebrate and remember the struggle of Africans at a place where the Africans have said they don’t want it? Why would a government administration (in a plural society) that garners its support primarily from Indians, feel it is has the right to decide where to put a monument to an African slave rebellion without consulting with the African people and their organizations and their leaders. Why would the PPP government proceed to build the 1823 monument at the seawall site, knowing full well that it will cause controversy and become another symbol of racial disunity?
Editor there is talk that the African organizations will build a monument to the 1823 Rebellion at the Parade Ground site. For it was at the Parade Ground that many brave slaves were executed for fighting for their freedom from the inhumane and unjust system of slavery. It is also clear that the PPP regime with Mr Thom’s blessing will go ahead with the building of this divisive monument. It is a pity that Thom, whom I know personally, and who does not live in Guyana allowed himself to be used by the PPP.