As Guyana celebrated the 180th Anniversary of Emancipation Day, scores of persons decked out in their African prints and wear flocked to the National Park yesterday, for the 25th Annual Emancipation Festival hosted by the African Cultural Development Association (ACDA).
The annual festival has become the norm for Guyanese to attend, with ACDA, who celebrated 25 years of existence this year, hosting an exhibition and show with a number of cultural songs, dances and fashion displays on the programme.
As the annual celebrations gained momentum, patrons entering the park to view the various exhibitions were greeted with the lively sounds of Guyanese folk songs from the steel pans of the National Steel Orchestra. The festival saw a mixed crowd of all ages.
Later on, as attendees made their way on to the National Park tarmac to witness the cultural show, they were greeted with the sounds of reggae music from a live band.
One of the exhibitors, Andre Higgins said, “Emancipation to me is all about celebrating our freedom as Africans, so I always pay respect on this day. I’m also out here to take advantage of the business opportunity, seeing that I do my craft.” Higgins’ display of handmade jewellery was on sale to patrons who were there to take part in the celebrations.
The owner of “Jah Works,” Juliana Hughes’ exhibit comprised hand crafted jewellery fashioned from local woods, seeds and straw.
“The vibe out here today is good, it should be eye opening for the younger ones who have more to learn about their ancestors and where they came from,” Hughes proclaimed.
While some patrons’ African Prints were tailored in European lines, one man who identified himself as Prince Akeem stated that his garb was special to Ghana. “I wear traditional African wear almost every day, but today is a very special day. This garment is a reflection of my ancestors who gained their freedom through the revolution. Those are the persons that paved the way for us to be united as one people,” Prince Akeem announced.
“It’s great, it’s getting bigger and better every year, I’m really enjoying the vibe this year. I really appreciate this, the vibe is wonderful. We’re celebrating the fact that we are out of slavery, we’re out of bondage. As a young Afro-Guyanese woman this is a celebration of our freedom and our strength. We finally have a voice and we should come together as citizens of this nation,” said Omaiah Hall, a patron at the Emancipation Festival.
Aside from the celebrations at the National Park, persons celebrated the day in various ways. At the Penalty Sports Bar on Albert Street in Alberttown, a friendly “Cook-Up Rice” competition took place. Now in its second year, the cook-off came about after a few friends had a friendly argument over who could prepare the best cook-up rice.
This year’s competition had ‘serious’ rules which stipulated that teams must bring their own ingredients, everything had to be prepared on the spot, including the grating of the coconut, the time limit to complete the ‘pot’ was two and one half hours, individual plates had to be presented to each judge for sampling and each team could comprise of five members but not less than two.
The three participating teams bristled in action, as the tantalising aroma of cook-up rice simmering in coal pots filled the air. Easy banter was exchanged, as the teams commented on each other’s efforts. One cook was heard needling a competing team, “you fulling up de pot dey, boy,” as another chef added some vegetables to his team’s mix.
Chief Judge Kimberly Fernandes, one of three judges, pronounced that though they were competing for trophies, “it’s a fun, friendly competition,” as the judges would even turn a blind eye if competing teams borrowed ingredients from each other to sweeten the ‘pot.’
“It’s all about having fun today, this is just how we celebrate Emancipation, with a little friendly cook off,” the cook-up rice adjudicator said with a big smile.