Loss of cultural identity and Guyana Carnival

Dear Editor,

Professor Al Creighton’s article in the Sunday Stabroek, May 20, 2018, `Guyana Carnival: a new imitative contrivance’ and the Stabroek News, Tuesday, May 22, 2018 news item `Imitation Carnival puts Guyana’s tradition at risk’, were pieces which should stir Guyanese consciousness. The Guyana Carnival is simply a carbon copy of an event that is celebrated in most Caribbean territories. It was conceptualized to primarily promote tourism and while that is a noble objective, the reality is, this ‘festival’ will be detrimental to our marquee February tradition in the long term.

Like many others, I have looked on in amazement at the volume of energy and enthusiasm displayed by the architects of this event and their corporate sponsors, to promote it.  Why isn’t the same level of energy and enthusiasm expended to help Mashramani evolve?  Even before reading Mr. Creighton’s piece, I was just baffled by this. It is quite sad when our premier festival is slowly being relegated by events of this nature.

Mashramani, our festival, identifies us, it gives us individuality when compared to other Caribbean territories. What is being promoted as a ‘Carnival’ is just a charade to advertise parties and shows and adds nothing to our already rich and diverse culture.  Now, I am sure we will hear the same old rhetoric after this event, such as it being a resounding success, the plans to improve and expand it, etc.  Aside from being economically beneficial, what else does it offer our country?

Guyanese have been adopting some questionable foreign traditions over the years, most notably, J’ouvert, Halloween and now ‘Carnival’. The danger with adopting these traditions is that it gradually leads to a loss of cultural identity. This is one of the reasons why countries like Pakistan, Saudi Arabia, Iceland and Greece, just to name a few, don’t allow certain foreign traditions or activities to seep into their culture.

It seems that the intent is for this activity to become an annual one and with just two months separating Mashramani from the ‘Carnival’ activity, it will be quite interesting to see which event is given paramount attention.

I sincerely hope that our premier cultural festival will not be lost to the frivolous fervour of an imitation.

Yours faithfully,

Ryan Carryl

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