Twenty-five-year-old Naomi Samuels of Santa Aratack Mission, Region Three beat nine other contestants to take the crown in the Amerindian Heritage Pageant 2011 hosted on Saturday night.
Samuels and the others vied for the crown before a packed audience at the National Cultural Centre including Prime Minister Samuels Hinds, Minister of Amerindian Affairs Pauline Sukhai, Minister of Labour Manzoor Nadir and Minister of Local Government and Regional Development Norman Whittaker.
According to a Govern-ment Information Agency (GINA) press release the pageant was the fusion of a diverse number of cultures that is the Amerindian way of life.
“As we meet to enjoy the Amerindian Heritage Pageant, remember this is not a beauty pageant,” Sukhai told the audience at opening of the contest, “but a pageant that seeks to transfer the knowledge and the information of the rich diverse culture of the ten regions.”
GINA said the delegates fulfilled this charge during every segment of the contest. They sang, recited poetry and performed dances depicting the Amerindian way of life. Notable pieces were performed by Region One’s representative Treasure Alana James whose dance showcased the process of making cassava bread. The message of the importance of transformation and empowerment that technology could bring to indigenous communities was a common thread in the talent pieces. Performances from the Regions Two, Five and Six contestants: Ahide Pearson, Devika Lopes and Neisha Vantrompe depicted the changes they believe can be achieved through Presi-dent Bharrat Jagdeo’s, One Laptop per Family (OLPF) initiative.
The contestants also spotlighted their cultural diversity with a display of their varied traditional wear created with the use of products found in the Amerindian communities. Region Seven’s Joyce Paul won the prize for the Best Traditional Wear with a costume depicting the lifestyle of persons in her region’s jungle by air, land and water. “The outfit comprised earrings created from anaconda skin, features and shells and a bracelet made of gold from the region, buck beads and feathers,” GINA said.
The contestants shone in the evening wear category; however, it was the platform interview segment that determined the winner. Samuels deftly handled the two-part question, based on her platform – cervical cancer. In response to the questions about why the platform was important to her as an Amerindian woman and, if there was significant education in her region about the disease she said that cervical cancer was important to her because of the prevalence of the disease among Amerin-dian women.
She then advocated for women in the audience to get tested as, “‘Prevention is better than cure.” She also noted that there is not sufficient education relating to cervical cancer available in her community though she noted that the West Demerara and Leonora hospitals have begun to place priority on educating and testing women for the disease. Samuels was crowned queen, while James was named the runner-up followed by Lopes and Annece Hicks of Region Ten.
At the close of the pageant, Sukhai said this year it “excelled in terms of standards.” She noted that the show “showcased the Amer-indian culture in its finest,” and that the girls had performed well. She extended felicitations to Samuels, but recognized the performance of the other contestants, noting that though she noted that “all the girls were winners in their own right.”
GINA said Samuels also had the best outfit, winning a victory for local designer Sonia Noel. She also won a trophy courtesy of the Trophy Stall; a pair of gold earrings courtesy of Kings Jewellery World, a bouquet, a beauty hamper valued $25,000 compliments of Great Glam Fashion, a laptop courtesy of the Ministry of Tourism, Industry and Commerce, and an all-expense-paid trip to Trinidad and Tobago to be part of the Caribbean Next Top Model pageant.
A number of other prizes were handed out during the night including Most Elegant, won by James; Most Disciplined, won by Paul and Miss Photogenic won by Hicks. The pageant is part of a series of events held in observance of Amerindian Heritage Month.