When the village of Katoka was smaller in population, I observed how my village elders came together to help each other in building their houses or in farming generally. The Macushi term for that ‘self- help’ is Mayu. Other Amerindians groups called it slightly different names, such as ‘Matruman’ or ‘Mashramani.’ It is after the latter that the national celebration of our carnival (Mashramani) was called, which began first in Linden.
Anyway, the wife of the host would make Palakale prior to the date of the Mayu. When the men came, the host would give them a few rounds of fermented Palakale. They would then proceed to do their task for a couple of hours, depending on what the task/work might be.
Sometimes women would be part of this also, but they would do less tasked work, for example, weeding amongst the cassava sticks. Well, organized Mayu would involve a lot of food and drink. When the men returned, their wives would join them in the celebration of a hard day’s work. The celebration would entail eating, drinking, socializing and dancing.
When I moved to Yupukari, I observed that practice also, as well as elsewhere as I grew older and travelled. At Yupukari, however, I observed true self-help, when every Monday was designated community self-help. Every adult − man and woman − would show up in the centre of the village and the Chief would direct them to the task that needed to be done.
They mostly did weeding around the village so as to keep the village clean and beautiful. I began to help the villagers as a teenager, either after I completed high school or whilst attending college whenever I was back home on holiday.
It was at Yupukari this year on February 23, 2009, that teachers, parents and librarians of the Rupununi Learners Foundation, (www.Rupununilearners.org) after brainstorming ideas, made preparations, and for the very first time, staged a very impressive Mashramani [photo sent]. Dressed in their choice of costume they paraded around the school’s athletic ground which sits in the middle of the village. At the end of the parade there were skits done by selected children.
On the eve of the 23rd, the villagers came out in the middle of the village to a bonfire where they paid respect to their past Chiefs, relatives and friends who had gone ahead of them to the spiritual realm. They then had story-telling and singing to usher in Republic Day.
The organizers − teachers, parents and the librarians will form a cultural committee to better their effort for next year.