New York-based group helping to revive Guyana’s masquerade

New York-based group helping to revive Guyana’s masquerade

Demerara Waves – Wednesday, 12 December 2012


Culture Minister, Dr. Frank Anthony flanked by GCA’s Dr. Vibart Cambridge and his association colleague, Dr. Juliet Emmanuel.

The New York-based Guyana Cultural Association (GCA) with the ringing endorsement of the Culture Ministry hopes to begin breathing new life into the dying art form of masquerade.

Culture Minister, Dr. Frank Anthony hoped that the December 13-17 programme of events titled “Masquerade Lives” would help revive interest in the dance of African origin. “We feel that this work is going to set that tone and perhaps set that context for people to see masquerade… don’t see it as a nuisance,” he told a news conference.               

He noted that masquerade, an integral part of Guyana’s cultural history, has been on the decline and whenever dancers appear on the streets they are stigmatized as a nuisance as persons who block the road and beg for money.

Asked how he measured the decline in masquerade over the years, the Culture Minister noted that the Masquerade Mashramani competition has “dwindled from a competition to not having a competition and that’s because we don’t have bands to participate.”

“We discovered too that the moves, the style, the playing of the instrument- all these things are gradually disappearing and, therefore, we need to have a focused attention,”  added the Culture Minister.

Anthony hopes that the GCA’s event will help arrest the declining trend by educating Guyanese through a comprehensive programme to appreciate masquerade.  “If we don’t do something to stem this trend, we’ll lose something that is dear and valuable to us as  a people and it would be an indictment on this generation if we do that,” he said.

GCA Executive Member, Professor Vibart Cambridge admitted that one of the major challenges after the six-day programme of events would be ensuring that the work is carried on to resuscitate masquerade. “The question is for all of us- sustainability. We hope that the images that are left, we hope that the observations that will come out the workshop, the policy decisions from the Ministry of Culture would ensure that masquerade and other forms of Guyanese expressive culture would be injected and blossom,” he said.

The inclusion of masquerade in the relevant curriculum and engaging the diaspora are, according to officials, part of the plans to educate and inform Guyanese about masquerade.

The programme for the December 13-14 symposium at the Umana Yana includes “Elders Reflection” , “Traditions and Innovations,” “Masquerade and Language,” “Masquerade and Social Change,”  and “Youth and the Future of Masquerade.” Several short films will punctuate the 10th annual symposium.

Workshops will also be held on December 13 and 14 on music, dance, stilt dancing, drum making and image making.  On December 15, the participants would be going to Victoria Village, East Coast Demerara  for a mangrove heritage tour and “The Flounce Off.”

The British Virgin Islands-based Guyanese teacher, Derry Etkins will be releasing music named “Masquerade Sweet Suite” on December 16 and on December 17 the curtains will come down on the series of events with an evening of Guyanese popular music that has been influenced by the masquerade tradition. The performers will be the Georgetown Jazz Project.

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  • Elizabeth Wilson-Anstey  On 12/23/2012 at 1:13 am

    The workshops were very informative. They certainly educated the public on the meaning of masquerade by discussing its history, as well as its similarities to and differences from other Caribbean countries. I hope that over the next year, the Ministry of Culture, Youth, and Sports maintains the momentum started by this symposium, Masquerade Lives.

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