I have to really be in a rush not to stop when passing around Main Street where those brothers carve and advertise their works. I’m automatically drawn to them; there is always something new, something fascinating and uplifting, something ethereal, positively odd and mesmerizing that keeps you transfixed.
One can end up standing there for quite some time with an inquisitive mind, just staring with rapt attention at those wooden objects, your head in a whirl: How did he come by this? How on earth was this formed? How did he manage to carve this knot? Many of these carvings are stunningly intriguing. Then, a thousand questions in your mind, you are drawn to one of the brothers working on a piece. He has a clumsy looking piece of stump that he seems to be effortlessly cutting, digging and shaping – please don’t ask what he is making; it is in the initial stage, and even when it appears to be far gone it still boggles the mind to figure out what on earth the finished product will look like. Every now and then the sculptor stops and looks up at you with sleepy eyes, sometimes smiles and grumbles to himself something you don’t understand; he knows that he has captivated you, but he doesn’t say much – these guys are remarkable.
I once saw a piece by a brother I know well and with whom I try to get into conversation whenever I make a stop. This piece was kind of heavenly; even the bottom resting on the ground was carved! You had to turn it up to see this; you wouldn’t have believed such a thing. It was a stupendous piece of art and in realizing my keen interest and look of amazement he took time out to explain what it was portraying and its significance in detail. His explanation was profound: it was a two-tier table that was depicting the geography of Guyana: its rivers, agriculture, minerals main races, industries and our resources. He further pointed to a broken chain-like connection between which were the hands of politicians preventing the people from coming together and realizing their true potential. I then used terminology I often hear politicians and political scientists using – socio-economic and political – which to my surprise, he found amusing and began laughing heartily as he asked rhetorically, “Is duh wha them does call it?”
The next time I visited him it was gone; he said he sold it cheaply because he was broke: “Me gat wife and pickney fuh mine yuh know.” Now that grand piece of artistry had to be conceptualized and intricately fashioned by sheer dexterity. It is hard to get an accurate understanding of it from what I’m saying, one needed to see it, but I honestly wished I had the money to own it. If these sculptors on Main Street do not work from inspiration then tell me who does?
In paying close attention to the many masterpieces I have seen, I have come to the conclusion that none of these brothers just picks up a block of wood and starts hacking away; there has to be some form of inspiration, something has got to take hold of them and transport them to a higher realm. Which reminds me of the late remarkable and versatile sculptor par excellence, Omawale Lumumba, who when he appeared in court charged for using cannabis sativa, said boldly to the magistrate: “Your Honour, I am the recipient of a National Award for works that were done under the influence of what I am now stand accused of.” It seems to me that this genre of artistry calls for some strange kind of approach which seeks to penetrate and bring out the fullness of life; a combining of the spiritual and physical, a pattern of behaviour in which the sculptor must shed all pretence and vanity.
It strikes me further that the people who indulged in this art form are mainly of a particular type: These men’s work is invaluable and their creativity comes deep from within, then is gone with the wind. It is a creativity which is hard to price but which invariably and sometimes unfortunately finds the products of that creativity in the homes of people who think very little of them.