This weekend, we celebrate our 52nd year of independence. Some will also be celebrating the Guyana carnival, which is modeled off Trinidad’s carnival.
Spaces where people can be uninhibited from time to time are necessary for our overall wellbeing, especially since it is easy to get lost in the pernicious affairs of the world. As expected, there are mixed views concerning the Guyana carnival; there are those who believe that it is progressive and will boost our tourism industry and those who believe it is not needed because we have Mashramani, which is unique to us. Time will tell if carnival boosts the tourism industry, but I doubt we will witness foreigners coming in droves in the first couple of years. It takes time to build a brand. And since what we are doing is replicating the Trinidadian carnival, will foreigners be inclined to abandon it to come to an imitation? Or will they rather stick to the original? All will be revealed in due time.
Will Mashramani suffer as a result of carnival? Maybe. There is the thought that some sponsors may withhold sponsorship from Mashramani and instead support the carnival. For many years, however, Mashramani was drab. It was reduced to a big lime and big truck affair, with little emphasis on aspects like the float parade. Whether it was the failure of the government or the business community to wholeheartedly support it, the fact that Mashramani had become monotonous was sad to witness. This year was one of the best we have seen in many years. I hope it was the beginning of a revitalisation. I am not afraid of Mashramani being replaced by carnival because I do not think it will happen. There are those in our society concerned with the preservation of what is unique to us who will not sit back and let Mashramani die.
Am I mad at the private citizens who decided that it was time for the carnival? How could I be? We cannot be mad at initiators for creating new ways to provide entertainment and make money. It is business and people can choose what to support or not.
However, there are poor people who have acquired more debt because of carnival–people were offered loans, even though I believe that if one has to take a loan for carnival, one perhaps cannot really afford to fete. But people can choose to do whatever they please with their lives. Some will choose to fete regardless of whether it means they will remain in poverty. And, after all, regardless of our social class, we all need an escape from time to time.
Perhaps one day, when Guyana becomes the “hub” of the Caribbean as many are saying will happen with the expected development of the oil and gas industry, Caribbean territories will mimic us and embrace our culture just as much as we embrace theirs. Wouldn’t it be peculiar to hear Jamaicans or Trinidadians trying to fake the Guyanese accent? Wouldn’t it be interesting to hear Guyanese music played constantly on the airways of other Caribbean territories? Wouldn’t it be interesting if some other nation decides to copy Mashramani? We can think on that and smile because we know that most likely it will never happen.
Return of the Brink
Amidst the buzz of carnival, other wonderful local events are happening this Independence weekend. Notably, the Theatre Guild of Guyana is hosting the ‘Brink Show,’ titled ‘Remembering the Brink: Oil and a Whole Lotta Gas.’
The Theatre Guild workshop members began working on this production some weeks ago. Founded in 1957, the Theatre Guild is home for many of us. Theatre is therapy. Like carnival creates an escape, so does theatre.
The ‘Brink Show’ emerged in the 1960s and continued until the late 70s. Most of the cast members in the ‘Brink Show’ this year were born after the show ended. We, however, have experienced the ‘Link Show,’ which evolved from the ‘Brink Show.’
The topic of oil and gas is being tackled in this production, which begins with a gala performance on Saturday evening, and continues on both Sunday and Monday evenings and with matinee shows on Tuesday and Wednesday.
What is in the oil and gas industry for Guyanese? That is the question on the minds of many. How will the industry change Guyana? What will be done with money? Will the government do right by the citizens?
The truth is the average man does not know what to expect. I am not even sure if the government knows what to expect. Many people are not hopeful that their lives will change for the better. Whether it’s the concerns about if we will be fairly rewarded or about what the oil industry could do to the environment or about the integrity of the oil companies, all voices are valid and should be heard in the discussion about oil and gas.
The ‘Brink Show’ will highlight some of these issues. The audience can expect an evening of laughter, while hopefully learning something new.
With Guyana carnival, Independence and the ‘Brink Show,’ Georgetown has a packed weekend. I say Georgetown because often most of the big events that happen in Guyana are centred in Georgetown. The ‘Brink Show’ will, however, go on tour after its initial run. People in every part of this country need entertainment and escape. We are a nation of many repressed people. It is not surprising since we constantly are faced with the ills of our society. Just look at the news on a daily basis and one can easily remain in a state of melancholy.
In 1966, we gained our Independence. For 52 years, we have been free from British rule even though remnants of colonisation still control some aspects of our society. The dress codes we still conform to provide a simple example. But we have also since created a dependence on other Caribbean territories who are miles ahead of us. This new Guyana carnival is an example of that. Perhaps the reason we imitate others as much as we do is because we are trying to escape our condition as a people. Maybe we are just too lazy to work on building our Guyanese identity. And perhaps we do not need to work on building a Guyanese identity, perhaps a part of who we are as a people enjoys and embraces the greatness and cultures of others. One thing is for sure, our future as a nation will certainly be interesting.