Uitvlugt is a West Coast Demerara village located in Region Three about 20 minutes away from Vreed-en-Hoop. The community is bordered by the villages of Stewartville and Zeeburg to the north.
The name derives from the Dutch, and the area was once a vast sugar plantation. Today it is home to almost 2000 people from various ethnic backgrounds, and unlike other West Coast villages there are over seven churches located there. Villagers said the area is divided into various sections, the main ones being Uitvlugt Pasture, Uitvlugt Ocean View and the Housing Scheme.
On a visit to the area Stabroek News was greeted by many smiling faces and many of the older folks expressed their pride in being Uitvlugt residents.
This newspaper met Samuel Aaron, 69, who said he was satisfied living there. Aron was born in Uitvlugt, he said, and had never migrated from his natal village because he enjoyed his days there. Reminiscing he said that in the colonial days the area was divided into two sections: Letter A, which according to him housed people of Indian descent, and Letter B which housed those of African descent.
However, he explained, in spite of the constraints imposed by the racial barrier the people put aside their differences and gathered together during festive occasions such as Christmas and Phagwah. For his part, he told SN, he enjoyed the tantalising drumming at celebrations which made the people “shake and move their bodies.” He went on to say, “When de drum started to play de people used to dance on de head… de drums spoke a tune to we soul.”
Aaron added that in those days the villagers would gather during the month of June or July, to celebrate the independence of Ghana. On that occasion the people would be attired in African clothing reflecting the colours of the flag of Ghana. Many people, he said, waited impatiently for the celebrations to start, and when they did commence the villagers participated while some looked on at the various African rituals. “I was a little boy then, but I used to see the people dancing in circle and when de horn started to blow and the drums started to sound it was like rain pouring down on your soul.”
He recounted that “de people used to make a mad cow that behaved like a raging bull and when de heated up de place the people used to dance.”
According to him there was a burial ground for the slaves in an area called the ‘Uitvlugt Pasture’ because in the old days it was abandoned. There are many graves in the yards of the villagers, he said, and “One day a man was digging a pit in his yard and he see one so he had to close up back de hole.”
Aaron also remembered that in the days when there was no electricity in the area the people would hear mysterious noises in the streets at midnight. He strongly believed that because of
the rich history of the place “spirits walked the streets“ at midnight. On one occasion, he said, while returning from the cinema with his girlfriend, he was confronted by a white horse which disappeared suddenly in front of him. “In de nights we used to hear a horse galloping through the
streets, especially [around] midnight but people never saw it,” he related.
Aaron, a retired welder, is happy about how things have changed in his community. Nowadays there is electricity in every home, proper roads and potable water. Most of his days are now spent at home with his wife Venus, but in the afternoon, he does some gardening and chores around the yard to keep himself fit. “When I get bored every now and then I go to the corner to catch up with de older folks,” he said.
Venus, is a housewife and said that she enjoys being at home because she finds pleasure in “cooking up a storm“ and decorating her home. She said that the street where she lives is called the “Show-off Street,” and as the name suggests the people living there take care of their surroundings. Other residents however countered that the street was given the name because those living there enjoy competing among themselves. “If you paint you zinc sheet in red, is de whole place doing de
same; when you shopping you gotta do it in the night,” Mrs Aaron said, adding that she starts her daily activities at 5 in the morning, because this is the best time to “seek God.” After toiling in the house and getting the dinner ready for her husband and grandchildren she likes to spend her evenings watching the popular soap operas. “I don’t mix with a lot of people; I like to be in my house, but me and people don’t have problem because people here does live good with one another.”
When asked what she enjoys most about the area Mrs Aaron exclaimed, “I love the people… people look out for each other no one can’t come from another community and take advantage of you… I like the relaxing evenings that you can spend in your veranda taking in some cool, fresh sea breeze.” She also praised the youths, saying that they take correction easily. “When you call them and talk to them dey don’t answer back, but even if they grumble dey does do it behind your back.”
Today there are many youths living in the area and there are various activities in which they can participate. Residents said that there is an active basketball club and football club for the various age groups. When it comes to recreation, there is a large community centre and a basketball arena. On a less cheerful note, many of the villagers said that while there are many youths engaged in sports activities, there are others who loiter in the streets and are engaged in larceny. One resident said that there is a popular area called “the ghetto” where the young boys gather and “smoke de lil weed.”
According to the residents Uitvlugt Estate is the main employer in the community, however, there are also many self employed, a few of whom are involved in poultry rearing and cattle rearing. During this newspaper’s visit several women could be seen selling eatables of one kind or another along the roadside, such as cook-up rice, fried chicken, egg balls and other delicacies.
Ann Leitch, known to many of the villagers as ‘Sister Annie’ has been living happily in Uitvlugt for the past 54 years. She said that her days begin very early in the morning adding that it is a tradition to get chores done early. Leitch too observed that her community has been transformed over the years, recalling that in the old days she fetched water from the estate since there was no potable water in the houses. During the afternoon hours, if she is not at church Leitch can be seen selling food at her stall. She has been doing this for several years and it has maintained her. When asked what she likes most about her area she replied, “I like everything about here… cos I live here all my life.”
Cyytee Gill, who was also born in Uitvlugt, lent her voice as well to praise the transformation of the community, although she pointed out some of the negative factors too. Most of her days she said are spent at home since she resigned as a soldier. Like many other residents her day begins very early so that she can get her chores done, and in the afternoon she hangs out at her sister’s snackette where they catch up on their conversations. According to Gill one of the things that stands out about her community is the “people” and the “togetherness among the neighbours.”
At the more disheartening end of things, most of the villagers expressed their disgust at the noise nuisance which disturbs the tranquillity of the community. “Some morning as soon as they wake you does hear the latest Kartel music; sometimes some of them does play it late in de nights too,” one concerned resident said.
However, when desirous of cooling off after a hard day at work, most of the residents identified the Blue Moon Night Club as the main attraction.