This year marks the twelfth year since the release of the movie GUIANA 1838 which recounted the history of Guyana and of the indentured Indians being brought to the shores of Guyana by British slave masters.
When they arrived here they met ex-slaves who were freed four years before and soon bonded knowing no creed, class or colour but met on common grounds of suppression—as depicted in the movie.
With the month of May commemorating the arrival of the ethnic races in Guyana, The Scene sought out one of the oldest local actresses, who played the role of the wife of a runaway slave. Brenda Massiah who turned eighty this month was in high spirits. Surrounded by relatives and friends she took to telling us about her role.
Her stage name was ‘Mafuah’ and she played the wife of runaway slave Cabi (Neville Williams), mother of Ami (Henry Rodney), who played one of the lead roles. In fact, Williams is Brenda’s real life husband; at the time of our interview he was away on vacation.
“GUIANA 1838 was very exciting. It made me realise what went on long ago during the time of slavery. It was a really good and enriching experience. My director [Rohit Jagessar] was very patient with me. The movie showed the culture of the Indian and the Africans. That would be the first time Henry and Kumar Gurav (Indian actor) would meet. They almost had a confrontation but soon meshed in.
“I remember looking out at the Indians on the 63 Beach in their white kurtas, some limping; oh man, the silhouette was just lovely,” reminisced Brenda who vividly remembers this particular moment as it was yesterday.
Enacting a replay of history told of a story of struggles, she explained, was hard as it was one that saw both cultures, beaten and fed little; one where they slept on straw then woke up before dawn while it was still dark to work until it was past dark again; one where they were forced to work under the fierce sun, young and old, man and woman, the feeble and the strong for years barely seeing a generation or two before they sank beneath the soil.
“And though both cultures had racial slurs thrown at them by the whites, although their strength waned and they lost their lives, integrity remained; the only thing that could never be bought or stolen,” she said.
She recalls cleaning the wounds on Cabi’s bruised back left by master’s whips but Brenda also remembers, the day Mafuah heard the happy cries of her daughter, Maga, “Massa [Master] day done!” in celebration of freedom.
She posited that as the country celebrates the arrival of its peoples, citizens should be reminded to not see their different cultures as segregating them, but see themselves as a blend of unity and harmony where the same cultures that helped to create Guyana and helped to build her can continue to strive to do so.
In a finally reminder Brenda says, “This movie was very touching. It showed us that we could live in love though the white people were trying to divide us…. The Africans and Indians came a very long way; peace and love prevailed.”
Brenda also acted in: In Search of Happiness (2004), Obeah In Court (2011) and For Better For Worse (2016).