As someone who has chosen to live in Guyana again, I have speculated in this space about the various magnets operating on Guyanese who could live elsewhere but choose Guyana. Just this week it came as a shock to me to realize that right under my nose, so to speak, a collection of photographs, sitting on my desk, represents one of those “what’s the pull” factors operating in my case. I have been a camera bug starting from when I moved to Canada and purchased my first Zeiss-Ikon camera, the old-time model with the miniature folding bellows, and later moving to a 35mm Nikon. Over the years, on my trips to Guyana with Tradewinds or on holiday, bunking with the Abdools in New Haven and then Courida Park, I have been taking a series of photographs, all over Guyana, partly from the photography interest and partly from reacting to images that came to me. While I cannot recall what originally propelled this, the next step was that somewhere around 15 years ago I began working with a photography outlet in Grand Cayman to make 14 x 20-inch enlargements of the pictures (probably to frame some of them?) and the point of all this is to say that I found myself looking at the colour prints this week – something I hadn’t done in a while – and realizing that the images spoke to the “why we stay” debate for me.
I took these pictures, over of a period of some 30 years, with no conscious mission, and they range widely. Interestingly, no photos of iconic Georgetown buildings are there – no Law Courts, no City Hall, no Kingston three-storey home – neither is the inevitable donkey-cart, or fruit vendor, not even a reminder of Garamai, the legendary potato-ball vendor on a Raleigh bicycle. (Remember, I was a West Dem country boy.) Also, the usual Botanic Gardens foliage or the blooming water lilies are missing; they may be there in the original rolls of 35mm film (I kept all of those) but clearly I had chosen not to enlarge them. Many of these photographs go back decades, and it’s understandable that I have almost zero recall as to why I took them in the first place. The subjects and the style cover a span. One of them is a noontime shot of a small, curving beach on the Essequibo River, at a place called Ampa, where my wife and I were guests of the aviation Correia family shortly after I returned here to live. For some reason, I waited until the beach was completely deserted before I took the photo and, as a result, there is a kind of sadness in the photograph which is something I cannot recall at that time, but I see it in the picture now. Eerie.
By contrast, during one of my Guyana visits when I lived in Cayman, Tony Vieira, he of the radio station and that striking former sugar-estate house in Versailles, took me in his boat to visit Kyk-over-al. On the brief walk to the ruins, it was dense green everywhere except for a solitary multi-coloured line of clothes hanging between two coconut trees like some exultant shout. It is a still photograph, no people mind you, but teeming with life…..