The Caribbean has lost a cultural ambassador

Dear Editor,
I received the news of Sir Ian’s passing with mixed emotions. I was glad that his suffering was over but very sad to lose a friend. I had known Ian for a number of years and our common interest was the theatre. He came from a background that is considered, in some ways, old fashioned today. He believed in taking time with whatever creative responsibility God birthed into his care and he would never release a work of art he was labouring over, unless he had poured all his insight, energy and creativity into it. Even though theatre is reputed to be ‘group art,’ Ian carefully distinguished between where his personal responsibility began and ended and where the larger theatrical support system’s involvement began. I admired him for the cool, devoted and unassuming way in which he approached his projects. I can see him smiling now, and I can hear him stuttering to me, after discussing an idea he was anxiously working on some years ago, “Kw…Kw..Kwesi, this one will be good.”

Beneath his smile, he was serious about what he saw in his future and he possessed a will that was blessed with the courage and tenacity to go for it.  As I reflect on our friendship, I am constantly realizing all that his name has come to mean to me over the years. To me the name, Ian Valz, means talent that is recognized, valued and trusted by the one to whom God has released it. It means recognizing and using every opportunity so that that talent can flourish. It means receiving privileges and converting them into inspiration for others.  It means occasions, achievements, victories and a life well lived. These are rich elements in human character that bring value and meaning to memories.

We who have left Guyana are sometimes accused of not being patriotic. We are sometimes deemed to be without care and concern for the nation’s cause.  As I think of Sir Ian’s accomplishments, I can easily see past such narrow-minded assertions.

There are some of us who are destined to stay at home to keep the proverbial fires of the homeland burning. There are others who are destined to leave so that the fires can be lit on other shores.

Regardless of where God is using us, we are no less Guyanese. We are working for the same purpose. In fulfilling our destiny the name of our country and its reputation for producing good citizens is made known.

Guyana, then, is proudly being recognized for her contribution to that larger fabric of human existence in all areas of the globe. Ian’s life has confirmed this in a remarkable way.  He did not only represent Guyana at an international cultural level, he also represented the English and Dutch speaking Caribbean.

When he came to the USA to promote his film we spoke about his plans for the future.

As usual, he was all upbeat and optimistic, yet humble. He was naturally grounded and willing to remain so, because he realized that his inspiration came from the common people of the Caribbean communities. It was their stories he wanted to tell.

It was for them that he worked, wrote and entertained.

Though his life was relatively short, he will live on. A man cannot die once he becomes a cherished thought, inspiration or an idea that represents something of value. He will keep on living in every heart and through every situation that invokes a memory of his accomplishments and his name.

My prayer goes up for the comfort of his family, fans and the entire Caribbean arts community. Guyana has lost a son. The Caribbean has lost a Cultural Ambassador.

Yours faithfully,
Pastor Kwesi Oginga

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