Victoria’s historic Model of Village Governance

Victoria’s historic Model of Village Governance

Copyright. 2007.  Excerpt from a new book on The Guyana Villages by Eusi Kwayana.

The book by Mr William Arno, stalwart head teacher, and Inspector of Schools, educationist, famous in his time, gives us much I formation about the First post emancipation village in Guyana. In particular it lists the 83 original proprietors, who took the simple step of buying a village to be controlled by persons who had been enslaved up to 1834 and lawlessly forced to work for another four years until 1838.

Taking over land by purchase and setting up a new mini -civilization called a village was not a cake walk.  We often forget that the colonizers and the Sugar directors and Attorneys had passed laws to make it difficult for the emancipated men and women to acquire land. As the rulers saw it, when Africans got land the plantations would lose labour. 

Many early historians told us that the Africans “left” the plantations, walked out in mass. In fact they add spice to this report by calling them lazy. Alan Young  has documented that the colonial government passed ordinances to prevent anyone ( read  ‘newly freed Africans’ ) buying less than 100 acres of Crown Land and fixed a minimum price of six pounds sterling an acre  At that time this was  $48.80 an acre in the colony’s money. Alan Young, using the language of the times, declared that the official policy was “to keep the Negro landless”. Because the Africans. led by people   from plantations neighbouring Northbrook,  bought Pln. Northbrook, the  colony’s  establishment was far from friendly to their country-wide  efforts at even partial self reliance.

Where did the money come from? The Plantation owners had been compensated for “losing” their so called slaves. For those who had continued their fore parents’ agony of unpaid labour under the whip, there was no compensation. Where, then, did the money come from?  It came from labour – the labour of men and women, and often of children.

During the four years of forced labour (August 1, 1834 to August 1, 1838) the planters paid only for overtime work,, that is for work done  in excess  of  7 1/2 hours  (seven and a half hours) in any one day. It is out of this pittance that many Africans saved, little by little, to be able one day to buy themselves land in a country blessed with so much.

As I am showing in a new book on the Guyana villages and the whole self- reliance of Africans after emancipation, the new owners of Victoria also set another example which seldom receives the comment it deserves. After Victoria it applied to all post emancipation villages.

After centuries of enslavement under the barbarous “colonial slave mode of production” the found in Sylvia Winter’s words, a new “way of being human” That is, a new civilization.

Read full excerpt: VICTORIA- The first Village

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