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GUYANA JOTTINGS - 1

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WHO WAS AKARA?

He was one of the leaders of the Berbice Slave Rebellion. He and Cuffy disagreed violently towards the end of the rebellion and he was demoted and made to work in the gang. Akara later joined Atta against Cuffy. Later still, he cooperated with the Dutch, taking part in the successful assault on Accabre which ended the rebellion.


THE MOST WELL-KNOWN NAME IN HORSERACING IN GUYANA

It's Lloyd Luckhoo.

 Born in Berbice, he lived on Coburg Street, New Amsterdam between 1918 to 1929. The racecourse of the Berbice Turf Club was located at the Back Dam, close to his home and he frequented the race meetings there. After moving to Georgetown, where he attended Queens College between 1929 and 1937, he again found himself close to a racecourse, this time D’Urban Park, Queen College being then at the top of Brickdam. Lloyd later studied law in England and returned to become the best-known name in horseracing, as horse lover and for 28 years (until 1971) a radio commentator. He was a familiar radio voice in Guyana, Trinidad and Tobago and Barbados. Lloyd Luckhoo left Guyana in 1984 to take up a position with the Government of Antigua and Barbuda as legal consultant.  

The Luckhoos were a family of horse lovers. E.V. (later Sir Edward), Lionel (later Sir Lionel) and Ena and her husband Peter Byrne all owned and were deeply interested in horses.


RAILWAYS IN GUYANA

The first railway system on the continent of South America was built in British Guiana (Guyana). It was first operated by the Demerara Railway Company, a private concern, but sold to the Colonial Transport Department of the Government, which assumed control from January 1, 1922.

The Demerara - Berbice railway ran along the coastline from Georgetown in Demerara to Rosignol in Berbice - a distance of 60 1/2 miles. It was connected by ferry steamer across the Berbice River with New Amsterdam. The Demerara - Essequibo railway stretched along the West Coast from Vreed-en-Hoop on the left bank of the Demerara to Parika on the Essequibo River.

The bill proposing the construction of the railway was passed in July 1846. The Demerara - Berbice railway was laid down in sections.  The first section, from Georgetown to Plaisance, was opened on November 3, 1848. The extension to Belfield was completed in 1854, to  Mahaica  in 1864 and during 1897 to 1900 the extension to Rosignol was built.

The names given the railway locomotives acquired in 1847 were “Mosquito,” “Sandfly,” and “Firefly.” The two locomotives acquired in 1863 were named “Alexandra” and “Victoria.”

The first section of the Demerara - Essequibo railway was laid down up to  Greenwich Park, then was extended to Parika in 1914.

The public railway system was dismantled in stages in the early 1970s, at that time leaving only the industrial railway systems at bauxite mining sites and another linking Port Kaituma and Matthews Ridge in the Northwest District.

The Lamaha Street terminus of the Demerara - Berbice railway was converted into a bus terminal subsequent to the closing of the railway.

After the railway system was scrapped,
Dr. Ptolemy Reid, then Deputy Prime Minister, admitted in Parliament that the closing of the railway system was a mistake.

 

JUMBIE UMBRELLA

In Guyana, the mushrooms that spring up in damp shaded places, such as under the stairway leading from the yard to the house, are called “jumbie umbrellas.” These fungi with their umbrella-shaped caps are not popular. Wild mushroom picking is not a pastime or national sport, as it is in some other countries. There is no debate about whether they might be poisonous or good – people just don’t eat them. However, as Guyanese become more familiar with the cuisine of other people around the world, mushrooms are probably gaining acceptance. Meanwhile, for most people, they are for the jumbies.


HOUSEHOLD HINTS FROM THE PAST

The following are selected "Household Hints" from Radio Demerara's 1964 Calendar, promoting the "Woman's World" program. To some of us today, they may seem quaint. However, as you will see, many of them are still usable today.
(Thanks to Annette Stokes, who made her cherished copy available to us.)

 Fresh grease spots can be removed by applying talcum powder or crushed chalk to spot. Leave for a few minutes. The grease is absorbed by the chalk or powder and then can be easily brushed off.

 For a quick and handy flower holder, cut a large potato in half. Scoop holes in it with a knitting needle. Place in a vase and arrange flowers as desired.

 Change the water of flower arrangements frequently. Revive faded blooms by putting an aspirin or a small piece of camphor in the water.

 Sear the ends of milky stemmed plants like hibiscus and poinsettia by dipping in boiling water or by holding them over a flame for a few minutes. Protect blooms from heat and steam.

 When frying eggs, for each egg put a teaspoon of water into the fat. Cover the pan and fry over slow heat, as desired, for each member of the family. ( Silvertorch: The water makes the eggs moist.)

 For salty stews and soups, add pepper and a little sugar. If there is time, add one or two raw potatoes and cook until salt is absorbed. Remove potatoes before serving.

 Store your cake in the cover of the cake tin. Place body of tin over cake (upside down). Cake can then be sliced easily and conveniently. A small piece of bread added to cake tin will help to keep the cake moist.

 A panstuck cake may be loosened by placing the tin over hot water.

 The wick of an oil stove, if soaked in vinegar before used, will not smoke when put into service.

 Sharpen scissors by cutting sandpaper or by trying to "cut" the top of a bottle, sliding edges up and down on the lip of the bottle.


DEMERARA LIGHTHOUSE

The Lighthouse (103 feet in height) stands in its red and white stripes on Water Street, Georgetown at the mouth of the Demerara River. The foundation stone of the lighthouse was laid in 1830. It replaced a wooden lighthouse constructed by the Dutch in 1817. Sea-going ships obtain clearance from the lighthouse service to enter the Port of Georgetown. Arrangements are then made for customs, quarantine and immigration officers to visit the boat.

BALATA

The production of balata was once big business in Guyana. Balata is obtained from the latex of the South American tree Manilkara bidentata, known popularly as the bulletwood tree. Balata has been used in the manufacture of gaskets, golf-ball covers and machine belts. Men called “balata bleeders” would cut the outer skin of the tree in an "X" pattern with a machete (cutlass), causing the white sap of the tree to ooze out. The sap would then run down to the base of the tree and be collected in containers. The bleeders would return to the tree to tap it year after year.

Most of the balata bleeding in Guyana took place in the foothills of the Kanuku Mountains in the Rupununi. Early exploitation also took place in the North West District, but most of the trees in the area were destroyed by illicit bleeding methods that involved cutting down the trees rather than making incisions in them.

Folk uses of balata included the making of homegrown
cricket balls, temporarily filling of troublesome tooth cavities, and the crafting of figurines and other decorative items (particularly by the Macushi people of the Kanuku mountains).
The production of  balata is similar to that of  "chicle," or natural gum, which is used for making
chewing gum.


In  recent times balata has been manufactured synthetically and used in golf balls.


FORT CANJE

Fort Canje was established in the 19th Century at the junction of the Canje and Berbice Rivers. Barracks were set up there to house British soldiers. Following the emancipation of slaves in 1834, a sugar estate was established there. Today, the Fort Canje hospital (now the National Psychiatric Hospital), for many years described as "the mental hospital",  is a reminder of the place where the old fort stood.


DR. BLAIR - THE MAN AND THE ANIMAL

Long ago in Guyana, there was a doctor named Blair who believed in drawing his patients' blood as part of his treatment. People reported that whether you went to him with a pain in the neck or a sore finger or a headache or an abscess, he would he would cup you and bleed you. As a result, people named the blood-loving vampire bat after the blood loving doctor and called the bat "Dr. Blair."
See Surgeon
See Vampire in Guyana


AMERINDIANS – THE FIRST GUYANESE

Amerindians are the original inhabitants of the Americas and the Caribbean. They are also called American Indians (from which the term “Amerindians” is derived) and Aboriginal Indians.

They were first called Indians by Christopher Columbus who, when he arrived in the New World, thought he had reached India. It is believed , however, that Amerindians were originally inhabitants of the continent of Asia and crossed the Bering Strait into North America during the last Ice Age.

The Amerindian population in Guyana is estimated  to be 29000. This population is composed of 9 tribal groupings based mainly on language, but also on culture. The groupings are Carib, Arawak, Wai Wai, Akawai, Makushi, Warrau, Wapishana, Arecuna and Patamona.

The three administrative districts in which the majority of Amerindians live (the Mazaruni Potaro, North West and Rupununi) include 90 major Amerindian villages. Each political unit of the Amerindian society, the village, is headed by a Captain or Touchau elected by the people to maintain law and order in the village. In turn, the Captain, who is paid a monthly stipend by the Government, is responsible to the appropriate Government Officer.

Amerindians live mostly in the Amerindian Reservations (occupying a total of about 6000 square miles). The reservation system was introduced in 1902. In 1910 the Aboriginal Indians Protection Ordinance made the Commissioner of Lands and Mines the Amerindian Protector, proscribed visits to the reservation without authorization, and generally regulated Amerindian affairs. In 1951 a new Amerindian Ordinance was introduced. It represented a policy of acculturation and brought Amerindian villages under the Local Government System.

Useful information about Amerindians include “Focus on Amerindians”, edited by Dr. Walter Edwards and published by the Amerindian Languages Project of the University of Guyana.

More about the Amerindians of Guyana


MUSLIMS FROM AFGHANISTAN IN GUYANA

There are Muslims in Guyana whose ancestors went there from Afghanistan.  One of them was mainly responsible for the building of  the Queenstown Jama Masjid (mosque) in the capital, Georgetown. They were also involved in the Rose Hall sugar worker strike of 1913.

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NORTH WEST DISTRICT: GOOD SITE FOR THE CAPITAL?

This is one of the three interior districts of Guyana. It is approximately one-tenth the area of the country (about 8,000 square miles). Its western border is scarcely 100 miles from the eastern edge of the great Venezuela cattle savannahs, while its southern boundary runs along the division line of the Cuyuni and Barama basins. The northern and northeastern sections include thousands of acres of rich alluvial soil, of which its main crops include coffee, ground provisions, cabbage, beans, corn, other vegetables, citrus and other fruits (This is the area which supplies the famous Pomeroon casareep). Gold and diamond mining is also carried out there. During the late 1960s and early 1970s, serious consideration was once given to moving the capital of Guyana to this area. The Matthews Ridge-Port Kaituma manganese industry was discontinued when falling world prices made it uneconomical to continue.

Look for it on the map

NATIONAL PARK

 The National Park at Thomas Lands in Georgetown, occupies 57 acres of land, landscaped and set aside for the public enjoyment of the people of Guyana.

A public park was proposed soon after the Coronation of Queen Elizabeth in 1953. In 1965, Government decided to construct the park at Thomas Lands to commemorate the Queen’s visit to Guyana. When it was completed, that same year, it was named the Queen Elizabeth II Park. On Guyana’s attainment of independence, it was renamed the National Park.

The National Park is located on part of what was formerly Plantation Thomas, an old sugar estate. The area had been occupied by the Demerara Golf Club since 1923, but when the club’s lease expired at the end of 1963, Government resumed possession of it.  

In March 1973, a National Parks Commission headed by Bernard (Bunny) Fernandes was set up to manage, control, and develop park areas. This commission was set up to work in collaboration with the local government authorities and other agencies in the establishment of new parks and to consider what new areas might be designated as parks. The Commission also advised the Minister responsible accordingly.  

Over the years, the National Park has provided facilities for a variety of sports such as football, athletics, netball, cricket, pony riding and rugby. There are also an open auditorium and a children’s park.

Major open-air events, such as the GBC Folk Festival, have been held at the Park from time to time.  

The Park has also accommodated the office of the National Sports Council, Youth Ville, the National School of Dance and the Department of Culture.

Open Auditorium

The open auditorium is a stadium-type construction. The northern and eastern stands were constructed in 1966. The northeastern stand, formerly the VIP stand, was built in 1972 for Carifesta. Two stands were constructed on the western side in 1976, but were later pulled down and replaced by one structure. The southern stand was constructed in 1979 for Mashramani. In 1980, part of the southern stand was converted for use by the President and other top members of the government. The total seating capacity exceeds 10,500. 


GUYANA COOK-UP RICE

Cook-up (cook up) is a hugely popular Guyanese meal in which all the ingredients are put into one pot and cooked up together. The main ingredients are rice, meat, peas or beans, spices and coconut milk. Any kind of meat may be included in a  cook-up. Favorites include salted pork, pig tails, salt beef. Favorite peas are yellow split peas and black-eye peas. Other ingredients include onions, garlic, parsley and thyme. It is often eaten with hot pepper sauce.

Cook-up recipe


FOLK SPIRITS OF GUYANA

Moon Gazer (Moongazer)

A moonlight-night phenomenon, the moon gazer is so tall, his head is at about the same level of the crowns of tall coconut trees. His concern is gazing unwaveringly at the moon. The old foldks say you should ignore the moon gazer. Should you pay any attention  or show that you are afraid, he will appear before you blocking your way no matter where you turn.

Massacuruman (massacruman)  

An ape-like spirit creature that leives in the water of the Mazaruni and Cuyuni Rivers. Porkknockers believed that seeing a massacuruman was lucky and meant gold or diamonds were nearby.

THE JORDANITES

For many years, members of the Jordanites in their lily-white robes and their leader with a long staff or crook were a familiar sight in Guyana.  They were  members of a church established by Elder Nathaniel Jordan at Agricola Village on the East Bank of the Demerara River. Elder Jordan taught a "new" doctrine ("free from popish traditions and based on principles laid down in the Holy Scriptures contained in the Old and New Testaments") as received from Joseph Mc Laran of Grenada. Elder Jordan established his church in 1917 and built the first temple at Agricola in 1924. He was succeeded by Elder J.N. Klien, Bishop.

Both men and women dressed in white robes - the women in white veils, the men in white turbans. Many of their meetings were held near busy street intersections. Baptism took place on the edge of the Atlantic Ocean. They wore no shoes in the sanctuary, leaving them near the door. Many ate no meat at all, others limited the kinds and quantities of meat they ate. Jordanites also forbid the use of alcoholic beverages.

 The proper name of the church is given as the "West Evangelist Millenium Pilgrim Church."


IWOKRAMA – KEEPING SOME OF GUYANA REAL  .....… AND BEAUTIFUL  

Iwokrama International Centre for Rain Forest Conservation and Development was established as a research and development institution to demonstrate how to preserve and maintain Guyana's tropical rainforest such as exist in Guyana can be preserved and maintained in a manner that is beneficial to the people of the country. Iwokrama, located in the heart of Guyana, occupies an area of one million acres. Half the area will be a Wilderness Preserve.
More about Iwokrama
Tours and Activities


GUYANA FOLK FESTIVAL

On August Monday (first Monday in August), 1982 the Guyana Broadcasting Corporation (GBC) held the first national Folk Festival at the National Park in Georgetown, Guyana. The inspiration and driving force behind the organization of the folk festival was Vibert Cambridge, who was then "Programme Director, Culture" of the GBC. The Festival put on display, and involved people in, a wide variety of folk activities highlighting the music, food, herbs, games and artifacts of Guyanese from their various ethnic backgrounds and from communities all across Guyana. The theme was “Preserve the Heritage.” The thousands who witnessed and participated in the first GBC Folk Festival turned up alone, in pairs, in groups and in families. Many were able to stake out areas in the National Park, often under the shade of the big trees, and then venture out to visit the various booths to see or hear or taste or otherwise experience what each had to offer.  

The success and promise of the first Folk Festival led the GBC to organize folk festivals in the succeeding years.

The Guyana Folk Festival survives today in New York, where it is observed every year.


JUMBIE

In Guyana, a jumbie is supposedly a ghost, the spirit of a dead person. It is the rough equivalent of a duppie in some other Caribbean countries, such as Jamaica, Barbados and Antigua.

Those who claim to know about such things say the following. The jumbie tends to frequent places where it existed before death. Jumbies would not usually be noticed by people, as they are normally invisible. However, they can make themselves visible as human beings, as animals or as anything they want to. While most people are not aware of them, certain people can see jumbies at any time. The spirits are generally associated with evil acts or unpleasantness. To control them, one is said to require the services of a spiritualist or obeah man. An obeah man can confine a jumbie to a particular place or neutralize it, making it harmless. Otherwise, a jumbie is free to roam, appearing and disappearing at will. It is not deterred by hindrances or barriers such as walls, fire or water.

GUYANESE HERITAGE MUSEUM

Guyana has a heritage museum at Kastev, West Coast Demerara,  in which artifacts and books significant to the past of the nation are displayed. Guyanese Gary Serrao, bought everything he could find in London and in North America and made them available to the people of Guyana. Amon the items on  display are clothes irons, enamel lunch carriers, ice-shavers, three-legged iron pots, 18th and 19th century maps, coins and stamps, and books by Guyanese.

Guyanese Heritage Museum Web Site


MISSION CHAPEL, NEW AMSTERDAM, BERBICE

Mission Chapel, a Congregational Church, was built around 1814 in New Amsterdam, Berbice. It was founded by the Rev. John Wray. The history of the church dates back to around 1812 when Rev. Wray paid a visit to the Berbice slaves and was inspired to stay and help teach them.

The church was opened in 1819 and was twice enlarged. It was destroyed by fire in 1824. In 1825 and again in 1944, the church was rebuilt. Mission Chapel probably has the largest seating capacity of all churches in Guyana - 1,500 seats.

In 1966, the Government made a gift of $25,000 to the residents of Berbice to renovate and further preserve the church.

In 1969 the Rev. Pat Matthews, who had served the previous four years at Smith Memorial in the capital, Georgetown, became the first Guyanese pastor at Mission Chapel.

In 1976, the structure was named a historic one by the Government of Guyana. In 2001, Mission Chapel was designated a National Heritage Site by the Ministry of Tourism, Industry and Commerce.

Mission Chapel is located at 12 Chapel Street, New Amsterdam, Berbice.


PRISONS IN GUYANA

The Guyana Prison Service Headquarters is located in Georgetown, the capital city of the country.

The largest prison in Guyana, known as Georgetown Prison, is located at D’Urban and Camp Streets in the city of Georgetown. Over the years this prison has become increasingly overcrowded and there has often been talk of removing it to a more suitable location.

The Mazaruni Prison is located along the Essequibo River, near Bartica. This maximum-security prison, located far away from the coastlands, is the usually the one to which felons sentenced to long prison terms have been sent. In colonial times, when convicts were sentenced to hard labor at the Mazaruni Prison, they were sometimes transported to other parts of the country to do heavy work. Prisoners from the Mazaruni Prison were used to help build portions of the sea wall in Georgetown in the 19th Century.  It was at Sibley Hall (a relatively open prison for younger and first-time non-violent prisoners at Mazaruni)  that PPP members were detained following the suspension of the British Guiana constitution in 1953.

A small prison, known as Timheri Prison, is located south of Georgetown near the Cheddi Jagan International Airport.

The prison for female inmates is located in New Amsterdam, the main town in the county of Berbice.

A fifth prison, known as the Lusignan Prison,  is located on the east coast of the county of Demerara.

During World War II,  Italian and German residents of British Guiana were regarded as "enemy aliens" and sent to the Mazaruni Prison, then referred to as  the Mazaruni Penal Settlement.

In colonial times, the penal system was known as Her Royal Majesty's Penal Service. In 1957, the name was changed to the Guyana Prison Service.


THE ESPLANADE

The Esplanade is the name of an open public ground west of Esplanade Road and immediately opposite The Gardens in New Amsterdam, Berbice. It evokes many pleasant memories of the time when it was immensely popular as a picnic resort and rendezvous for the people of Berbice. The bandstand there saw many splendid and well attended performances of the British Guiana Militia Band.


FERRIES IN GUYANA

Because Guyana has many rivers,  many ferry services are used to get people across these rivers. The main ferries are the Georgetown - Vreedenhoop (at the mouth of the Demerara River), the New-Amsterdam - Rosignol (at the mouth of the Berbice River), and the Leguan-Parika (at the mouth of the Essequibo River). There is also a  ferry linking Guyana and Suriname crossing the Corentyne River from Springlands (at Corriverton in Guyana) to Nieuw Nickerie, a town in Suriname.

A ferry song


LEMON GRASS

A type of grass with a strong lemon flavor. Guyanese use it to make a herbal tea. This is drunk because it is pleasant or because one has a fever. In neighboring Suriname, it is also used for flavoring food. Lemon grass is used fresh or dried during cooking but usually removed before serving. It is also used, sparingly, in powdered form.


SEA WALL (SEAWALL)

The seawall is the name given to the wall of concrete built along the foreshore with the sea in Guyana, mostly in Demerara. It is part of the battle against the Atlantic ocean waves. Earth walls are called sea-dams. The most famous stretch of  seawall is the Georgetown Seawall.

Seawalls were found necessary because of constant erosion of land by the sea. Historians note that two estates, “Kierfield” and “Sandy Point,” known to be existing in 1792 north of the present Georgetown Sea Wall, were completely washed away by 1804.

The foreshore is subject to cycles of erosion and accretion. (Tables of erosion and accretion, started by G.O. Case have been maintained by the government).  It appears that accretion in the early 1840s was followed by erosion in the late 1840s. By 1855, the great
Kingston Flood took place when the sea dam was breached. It was after this catastrophe that the sea wall between Fort William Frederick and the Round House was started in 1858. Built principally by convict labor with granite from the Penal Settlement at Mazaruni (now Mazaruni Prison), it was completed in 1892.

Serious flooding resulting from breaches in the sea wall took place at Enmore in 1955, at Buxton in 1959, and at Bladen Hall in 1961.

The Georgetown seawall is a favorite place for afternoon walks, for listening to music (at the bandstand), for races on the beach, for spontaneous cricket matches, for lovers’ trysts and other activities.

In 1903 the Georgetown Seawall Bandstand was built with funds subscribed by the public as a memorial to Queen Victoria. The shelter north of the bandstand, called the Koh-i-noor Shelter, was erected in 1903.


COMPANY PATH GARDEN  

This is a small garden on the Avenue of the Republic in Georgetown, Guyana, between Church and North Streets. During colonial times, “company path” was the name given to a road used by the propertied class as an access road from the river  to their lands. The company path, in this case, extended from the side of the Demerara river along the path on which the Bank of Guyana was built and eastwards beyond the Avenue of the Republic.

In 1870, the entrance to the old Anglican cathedral (St. George’s) together with the entire width of Company Path was handed over by Government to the Mayor and Town Council. In 1908 part of the land was enclosed by an iron rail and planted as a garden – the Company Path Garden. It is now the site of the Non-Aligned Monument.


HUSH-HUSH NAMES

Traditionally, personal names were given to Amerindian children by the piaiman soon after birth. However, such names were hardly ever used for fear that they might become known to persons eager to use the names to cause harm to their owners. Amerindians therefore addressed one another according to relationship, such as brother, sister, father, mother, boy, or girl. In order to keep his real name secret, an Amerindian when dealing with a stranger (especially an European, in the past) would ask the stranger for a name then answer to whatever name was given.


REMEMBRANCE DAY

Remembrance Day is observed "on the Sunday before or on the morrow of" November 11 (Armistice Day), when the dead of the two World Wars are remembered. A service is held at the Cenotaph in Georgetown and is attended by the President. The program usually includes the following: (1) The Silence- lasting two minutes (2) The Reveille (3) A statement from the President (4) Prayers (5) The Laying of Wreaths (6) The Hymn: O God Our Help in Ages Past (7) The Presidential Salute.

Veterans from the two World Wars who are able to do so take part in the parade.


MOST SUCCESSFUL LAWYER

The late Sir Lionel Luckhoo of Guyana has been listed in the Guinness Book of Records as the World's Most Successful Advocate with 245 consecutive murder acquittals and no conviction on a capital charge. Sir Lionel was a member of a prominent family of lawyers in Guyana.

Lionel Alfred Luckhoo was born at New Amsterdam, British Guiana, on March 2 1914, the second of three sons. Although his fame rests chiefly on his legal exploits (1940-1985), his interests also encompassed politics and diplomacy. He served Guyana  in the Legislative and Executive Councils, as Mayor of Georgetown (1954, 1955, 1960, 1961) and as a distinguished High Commissioner to the United Kingdom (1966-1970), in which position he also served the people of Barbados. His official motor car flew two national flags. This is believed to be the first instance in which one ambassador served two sovereign nations.

After retiring from legal practice, Sir Lionel devoted his life to propagating the gospel of Jesus Christ. He founded a mission in 1980, and published and preached around the world.

Sir Lionel died in December 1997 at the age of 83.  

 

UMANA YANA

The structure called the Umana Yana is located in Kingston, Georgetown. It was built close to  the Pegasus Hotel, Georgetown's largest hotel, in 1972. It is is a 55-foot high cone-shaped benab (or shelter) constructed by Amerindians of the Wai Wai tribe from thatched allibanna and manicole palm leaves, and wallaba

posts lashed together with mukru, turu and nabbi vines. No nails were used.

















The Umana Yana was specially constructed to serve as a V.I.P. lounge and recreation spot during the Non-Aligned Foreign Ministers Conference held in Georgetown in August 1972.

It shelters an area of approximately 460 square meters. Umana Yana is an Amerindian expression for "meeting place of the people."


HIGH COURT IN GEORGETOWN

Guyana’s High Court was formerly known as the Victoria Law Courts. Designed by the great Dutch engineer, Baron Hora Siccama, the High Court is  located on the Avenue of the Republic between South Road and Charlotte Street. The building was opened on Queen Victoria’s birthday, May 24, 1887. At the front of the building stands a marble statue of the queen, erected in 1894 to commemorate her jubilee. After Independence in 1966, the name “Victoria Law Courts” was changed to “Law Courts, Georgetown” and the statue of the queen relocated at the eastern end of the Botanic Gardens. It was later reinstalled in front of the court building.


QUEH-QUEH  

Queh-queh is a folk celebration among Guyanese of African descent on the eve of a wedding. It is held at the homes of the persons to be married and the participants are mainly females. The participation of the men takes place mostly at the home of the groom-to-be.  

Queh-queh  expresses pleasure that two lovers have found each other. Some of the women may form a ring with the bride and groom-to-be in the center and do the queh-queh dance, which often alludes to the expected intimate relations between the married couple. The dancing and gesturing are generally not modest. The dance is accompanied by appropriate queh-queh songs, while the rhythm is maintained by the clapping of hands. African drums may also play a part. The women take turns dancing in the ring with the man to be married.

In some versions of queh-queh, the parents of the bride-to-be would hide her in their home and it becomes the task of the bridegroom, his parents and entourage to find her. 
 

Preparation for the queh-queh includes food for all, and could involve the slaughter of pigs, chickens, even a cow (where this can be afforded). Cake, home-made drinks and, in many instances, rum (the favorite alcoholic beverage among Caribbean people) would be available. 
 

Over the years, the amount of time given to queh-queh  has grown shorter and more and more time has been given to dancing to commercial recorded music.


NON-ALIGNED MONUMENT

During the Conference of  Foreign Ministers of Non-Aligned Countries held in Guyana, August 8 - 11, 1972, a monument to the four founders of the Non-Aligned Movement - President Nasser of Egypt, President Nkrumah of Ghana, Pandit Nehru of India, and President Tito of Yugoslavia - was erected in Company Path Garden in Georgetown and was unveiled by the President of Guyana, His Excellency Mr. Arthur Chung. The busts of the founders are the centerpiece of the monument.


ANNATO DYE

One of the reasons that Europeans went to Guyana was to obtain annato seeds. An inexpensive substitute for saffron, they are used primarily in the Caribbean and Mexico to color food a bright yellow-orange. Annato is also sold as annato oil and annato powder. In the United States annato seeds are used today to color cheddar cheeses and butter.

The annatto (arnatto) tree is also known as Achiote.


THE FASCINATING NEEM TREE
Almost anywhere in the world where you find people from India, you will find the neem tree. East Indians are sure to grow it if the climate allows, but at least they use its products.

Neem is used as a medicine and as a natural pesticide for controlling farm and household pests. As medicine, neem products have been used since time immemorial against heat rash, boils, wounds, jaundice, leprosy, skin disorders, stomach ulcers and many other conditions. Practically all parts of the tree are used: fruits, seeds, oil, leaves, roots and bark. Because it clearly affects many ailments, universities and scientific institutions all over the world are actively studying neem.  

Before toothpaste became popular, the people of India chewed neem twigs to keep their teeth healthy.  In Germany, Neem extract has been included in the formulas for several  commercial toothpastes to prevent tooth decay and to prevent and heal gum inflammation.  

As a pesticide neem has been found to be effective against 200 insect species as well as some mites, nematodes, fungi, bacteria, and even a few viruses.  

Neem has social uses as well. For instance, mourners may keep neem leaves in the mouth on returning from funerals. To Indians in foreign lands the neem tree helps bridge the gap with India. It is a symbol of continuity with the past.  

In recent years interest has been shown by Caribbean nations in using the neem tree to help in reforestation. Antigua and Barbuda, for example, sees the neem tree as useful for replacing forests destroyed by hurricanes or cut down to make way for the construction of buildings.  

The scientific name of neem is Azadirachta indica


THE AMERINDIAN PIAIMAN OR DOCTOR

The piaiman is the Amerindian medicine man or shaman and is highly respected by his people. He specializes in herbal medicines and is believed to have supernatural powers.

He also functions as a doctor, composer of words used in ritual blowing (known as "tareng"), and a disciplinarian during initiation rites or puberty rites for the young man. He trains other piaimen and is believed to invoke the dead when relatives or the dead wish to speak to them, to practice telepathy, to communicate with animals, and to have unusual foresight.

More on the piaiman


GUYANA'S MIGHTY KAIETEUR

Kaieteur is the most famous of Guyana’s numerous waterfalls. It is situated on the Potaro River, a tributary of the great Essequibo River. The water flows in a rainbow of  color over a 450-foot ledge of flat sandstone into a deep gorge in one long drop of 741 feet, which makes it the largest single-drop waterfall in the world. A second drop of 101 feet gives it a total of 822 feet, which is five times the drop of Niagara on the US-Canadian border and twice that of the Victoria Falls in Africa.  When there is little sunlight the sheet of falling water may be light-brown in color.

Under the rock formation behind the curtain of falling water live the Kaieteur Swifts, also called Makonaima Birds.  

Kaieteur, which is 250 miles southwest of Georgetown, the capital of Guyana, was established as a national park by the British in 1929. It remains a true wilderness area with a fascinating array of plants and animals.

The park  occupies an area of  45 square miles and comprises the falls, the greater part of the gorge below, and part of the Potaro river above the falls to the south.  

If a proposal developed in 1991 by the The World Wildlife Fund (WWF) were to be implemented the Kaieteur National Park  would be expanded to encompass “the entire upper watershed of the Potaro river with all its tributaries, and all forest lands bordering the savannahs to the southwest, the Kurungiku mountains to the southeast, Ebini mountain to the east, the Ayanganna mountain to the northwest and the upper watersheds of the Kuribrong and Amaila rivers.” The area covered would be more than 400,000 hectares (about 1700 square miles). The government has decided for the time being to expand the Park to “222 square miles, which would incorporate the watershed leading into the falls.”

Reuters reported that 25 year old Pvt. Robert Howat of the Scottish Black Watch took the most dangerous dip on record when he swam across the top of the Kaieteur Falls in 1955.  This exploit was listed in the Guinness Book of World Records in 1970-71, but removed in 1980, Howat said, so that no one else would be encouraged to attempt it again.

The first European to report seeing the Kaieteur Falls was Charles Barrington Brown.

Kaieteur in Action - Video
Kaieteur Plants Checklist


WHO WAS PRINCE RANDIAN?
Also called Prince Randion, or even Radion, he was born in 1871 to Hindu parents in British Guiana. In 1889, he was brought to the United States by the showman P.T. Barnum who exhibited him as a “human oddity” or “freak” – a practice common in those days.

Born without arms and legs, Prince Randian was billed as "The Caterpillar Man" , "The Armless and Legless Wonder" , “The Human Torso”  even “The Human Worm” and entertained audiences at Coney Island in New York and in other parts of the United States for 45 years by performing tasks using only his lips where one would normally use one’s hands. One such task was rolling cigarettes. Rolling cigarettes was really making cigarettes out of raw tobacco leaf and paper.  He was also introduced as the 'human caterpillar who crawls on his belly like a reptile'. This was because he moved from one place to another by wiggling his shoulders and hips. Other activities performed by him were writing, painting and shaving. Randian was also an actor, rolling cigarettes,  in Tod Browning's movie "Freaks" (1932).

Prince Randian spoke English, German and French. He had a wife, four sons and a daughter. Their home was in Patterson, New Jersey. He died at the age of 63, shortly after a performance at Sam Wagner’s 14
th Street Museum in New York City on December 19, 1934.


THE GEORGETOWN CENOTAPH

The Cenotaph was built in 1923 at Main and Church Streets. It is the site of Remembrance Day (Remembrance Sunday) services in November each year.


WATCH THIS GUY – WINSTON ALWYN OCTOBER  

Guyanese Winston Alwyn October recently became the first Guyanese to sign with the Washington Redskins (March, 2001) and possibly the first Guyanese to play in the National Football League of the United States. Born in Georgetown Guyana on July 12, 1976, he came to the USA at age three. He is only 5' 8" tall and weighs only 170 pounds, but is credited with great speed and safe hands and  in his second year in the NFL he was considered one of the most dangerous kick returners. October scored three touchdowns on kick returns for Allouettes last season, one of which was a 111-yard run after a wide field goal. His two-year contract is expected to earn him the NFL minimum of US$209,000 this season.  He is the son of former national defence Marshal and Winston Alwyn Callender, now first vice president of the Guyana Football Federation, and Margaret Gaskill (nee October).[July, 2001].


EYEPASS

 Here is one account of  the origin of the expression “eyepass.” It was said to have begun in the colonial days. As there was almost always not enough work for everyone, the workers would assemble at the appointed place, mainly on a sugar estate,  and wait to be chosen by the estate manager or overseer. The boss would arrive on his horse and from his lofty perch he would look over the crowd. He would make eye contact with someone he wanted to work that day and nod his approval. He would continue, his eyes “passing” those he did not choose, and finding someone else whom he would employ that day. Later, the meaning of the word became much stronger than being overlooked. It came to mean disrespect.


Charmaine Hooper, soccer star

Charmaine Hooper, probably the most famous Guyanese woman soccer player, has been described as "one of the most powerful soccer forwards in the world," and "one of the world's best attackers." Born January 15, 1968 to Ivan and Myrna Hooper in Guyana, she was taken at age 7 to Zambia to be with her father who was posted to the Guyana High Commission there. When her father got a new posting two years later, the family moved to Canada, where Charmaine's soccer career began.
 

THE HARPY EAGLE

One of the great attractions at the Guyana Zoo is the Harpy Eagle, reputedly the strongest eagle in the world. It lives in the tall trees in thick rainforest in Guyana's deep south. Harpy eagles are not numerous and it could be difficult to see one. However, several Amerindian communities are now noting and protecting nesting sites so that serious bird watchers could observe them.

The harpy can grow to be as large as 36 to 40 inches in length and up to 20 pounds in weight. It can reach speeds above 50 mph in flight. Its feet are massive. At half the size of the average man, the harpy is a formidable hunter and has been called the "flying wolf." It has a black back, white underside, and gray head. There is a black band across the chest up to the neck.

Even in the zoo some visitors find it a fearsome, intimidating creature, especially when it is closely observing one with its piercing eyes. When hunting, the harpy eagle launches surprise attacks and employs its huge sharp talons to secure its prey. It captures and eats small and not so small animals, such as howling monkeys, opossums, coatis, sloths, iguanas and some birds.

One of the locations from which harpy eagles are observed is the Dadanawa Ranch in the Rupununi District.


MALTEENOES SPORTS CLUB

The Malteenoes Sports Club was founded in the year 1902. It's first president, Mr. Ferdinand Christopher Archer, a master tailor, was a Barbadian who emigrated to the then British Guiana when he was a child. At the age of eighteen he recognized the need for a sports club for the poor. The club was initially located at Camp Street, Eve Leary, at the spot where the Police Commissioner's Residence now stands. When this site was taken over by the military, Malteenoes moved  to its present location.  

Malteenoes Sports Club allowed young men and women the opportunity to participate actively in a variety of Sports including football, cricket, hockey, table tennis, dominoes, badminton and scrabble.  

Some of the Malteenoes Sports Club Members who performed at a very high level are: Charlie Jones, John Trim, Glendon Gibbs, Rex Collymore, Barrington Browne, Clayton Lambert, Kenneth Wong, Cohn Stewart, Pat Legal, George Green, Pat Britton, Dennis France, W.G. Griffith, Crawley Hunte, Rita Braithwaite, and Iris Straker. Among those who served notably in administration are: Joseph "Pirate" Alexander, Rudolph Harper, George Green, Rex Mc Kay, Rex Collymore, Claude Raphael, Edward Richmond, and Pat Legal.


THE BLACK WATCH 

Following the suspension of the British Guiana constitution in 1953, the British government dispatched troops mainly to Georgetown to keep the peace. Among them were the 2nd Battalion of the Scottish regiment, The Black Watch (Royal Highlanders) who arrived in 1954. Their unusual regalia and their bagpipe music made them quite conspicuous.


A PRETTY TARANTULA

Although the name ''tarantula" strikes fear into some people's hearts, the Guyana Pinktoe Tarantula (avicularia avicularia) is regarded by many as a spider of striking beauty. It is docile, yet speedy. When full grown, it measures up to five inches. It eats insects and the occasional small lizard or even a pinkie mouse. Many people are not affected by the venom of this species, but some are. All over the world, lovers of those "pink toes"  rear the Guyana Pinktoe singly or communally in  terrariums with broad-leaved plants, vines, rocks and other hiding places. This tarantula is native to the tropical forests of  Guyana, Brazil, French Guyana, Surinam, Trinidad, Venezuela, and the Amazon Basin generally.

EARLY AVIATION IN GUYANA
The first airplane flight took place in Guyana in March 1913, when George Schmidt, a German, flew a machine over Georgetown, taking off from the Bel Air Park Race Course.

In September 1929, the first airmail service to Guyana began.

The famous American flier, Colonel Charles Lindbergh, arrived in the Demerara River with his flying boat (an amphibian craft) on September 22, 1929.

The first regular flights to the interior started in 1939. Regular shipments of beef from the Rupununi to Georgetown by air began on July 9, 1948.

Amphibian aircraft have been vital to the development of the country as they were able land both on airstrips and on water-alighting areas.

The development of air transport in Guyana owes much to Arthur James William (Art Williams) a pilot and mechanic from the United States. He arrived here in 1924 and returned to the United States in October 1955. Over this period, except for the war years, during which he served with the United States Force, he developed the British Guiana Airways Ltd. (Registered 27th May, 1938). The Company was sold to the Government of Guyana on July 15, 1955.

(The book, "50 Years of Flying in Guyana" by H.S. Burrowes deals with early aviation in Guyana)


GUYANA'S NATIONAL AIRPORT
Guyana's national airport, now the Cheddi Jagan International Airport, is situated on the right bank of the Demerara River, 26 miles south of Georgetown, Guyana's capital city. It was previously known as Timehri International Airport. Timehri is the name given to ancient Amerindian inscriptions which may be seen in Guyana's interior. Timehri International was declared open on May 1, 1969 resplendent with colorful mural decorations, employing Amerindian motifs executed by Guyanese painter Aubrey Williams. Before then it was called the Atkinson Airport.


THE ARAWAK CACIQUE

The cacique was an Arawak clan chieftain who was treated with great respect. Although he needed to be firm, he was usually courteous and considerate to his people.

The cacique was responsible for, among other things, the distribution of land, labor arrangements, planting and disposal of crops, and decisions regarding war and peace.

The cacique was allowed a number of privileges. He was given a part of the harvest; his dwelling was the largest in the village; his canoe, the largest and the only painted one, was made for him.

 

CACIQUE - THE BIRD

Yellow-billed, yellow- or red-rumped caciques, (also called "bunyas" in Guyana), build four-foot long purse-like or basket-like nests in colonies so that they hang from the branches of  trees. Almost always these nests are built in  a tree already harboring  nests of marabuntas (wasps) or bees.  The purpose, it is believed, is  to protect their eggs and young from monkeys and other predators which would tend to stay clear of the aggressive stingers. 

Caciques are mostly sleek black, with red or yellow rumps and/or wing patches and yellow bills. 


THE ORIGIN OF DAUNTLESS, LEGUAN

Dauntless is the northern portion of the Island of Leguan which is at the mouth of the Essequibo River. It has a fascinating origin. The following excerpt from Vincent Roth's "Trip on the Baridi" tells the story:

"Many years ago a sloop called "Dauntless" ran, at low tide, on a mud flat off Leguan Island and, as she could not be refloated, was abandoned. Gradually the mud silted up around her hull, each high tide depositing more. Then some seeds drifted along and soon began to grow, and lo, an island was formed. This grew rapidly as more mud was deposited by the tides until, in the twenties, it joined on to the neighboring Leguan Island though for many years after it was still called Dauntless Island."

Incidentally, Dauntless Island is the site of terrific crab marches.


DADANAWA
On the Rupununi River deep in the savannah to the south, is Dadanawa Ranch, the largest and most isolated ranch in Guyana.  It covers about 2,000 square miles. The preferred means of travel in that area is by jeep. There you can find Guyana's vacqueros or native, sometimes barefoot, cowboys skillfully herding cattle or even working to keep them safe from the claws of the designing jaguar. Nature-loving tourists often use Dadanawa as a location for  venturing into the breathtaking Kanuku Mountains, or looking at Amerindian paintings and petroglyphs on the savannah, or observing the harpy eagle.


TIMEHRI ROCKS  Timehri rocks are pictured rocks most probably carved by Amerindians. Among the figures represented are men, animals, the sun and other objects. The word "timehri" is used by the Carib and Macushi Amerindians to refer to the curious alphabet-like markings of the letterwood tree. It is now commonly used to describe the engraved rocks of Amerindian antiquity found throughout Amazonia and the Guianas. The main locations of  timehri rocks in Guyana are the upper reaches of the Essequibo River, the Corentyne River and Aishalton in the Rupununi.


CUBANA AIRLINES DISASTER

Eleven Guyanese were among 73 persons who perished on what is now generally known as the Cubana Airlines Disaster of  October 6, 1976. The others were 57 Cubans and 5 citizens of the Democratic People's Republic of Korea (North Korea). Those killed included 19 members of Cuba's junior national fencing team returning from Caracas, most of them teen-agers. The Cubana Airlines DC-8 in which they were traveling was destroyed by a bomb placed in the rear toilet. It exploded mid-air shortly after it took off, bound for Havana, and crashed into the sea off the coast of Barbados. Six of the Guyanese were Guyana scholars who were en route to Cuba to pursue studies in medicine.  This event is generally regarded as the most serious case of anti-Castro terrorism. 

Two Cubans, Orlando Bosch and Luis Posada Carriles, were jailed in Venezuela in connection with the attack. Bosch, a physician, left the United States after he was paroled from a 10-year prison sentence for firing a rocket at a Polish ship anchored in Miami.  Carriles, a former CIA agent had been trained as a demolition expert for the Bay of Pigs. Posada Carriles escaped from jail in Venezuela in 1985, reportedly disguised as a priest.


OL'  HIGUE

The ol' higue in Guyanese folk belief is a person, generally an old woman, who's essential diet was the blood of babies. At night, the ol' higue would remove her skin, hide it under a mortar (a hard bowl in which substances are pounded with a pestle), turns into a ball of fire and flies to the home of her victim. Whether a baby lives or dies, or is in good or poor health was often attributed to the activities of the ol' higue.

 The Barbados equivalent of the ol' higue is the hag. In Trinidad and Tobago she is called a soucouyant.

One way of getting rid of the ol' higue was finding her skin before she got back from her nightly journey and rubbing it with pepper and salt. She would be unable to put it on again without pain and severe burning; she might even die. Another way is to throw some salt or rice grains around the door or window. She would not be able to leave until she has counted every grain. You might then be able to keep her there until the sun comes up and she is caught without her skin. Yet another way is to beat her with a big stick. Next day, the old lady with the evidence of  a severe beating is revealed as an ol' higue. 

One was believed to become an ol' higue as the result of a curse passed on from a dying ol' higue.

 

A NOTE ABOUT DDT

In Guyana, the days before DDT was used were the bad days of malaria and blackwater fever. The period after the use of DDT in malaria "eradication" programs was better and DDT was regarded as a good thing. However, DDT stays on in the environment after it's done its work as a killer of disease-bearing mosquitoes and is today regarded as a notorious toxic chemical. From the very beginning, DDT was known to be harmful to people. As a result, the DDT was said among the people to mean Damned Dangerous Thing.

  


What is "red rum" spelled backwards?


THE AMERINDIAN PIAIMAN IN ACTION

The piaiman (pronounced pee-EYE-man) is the Amerindian medicine man or folk-doctor. The late Vincent Roth of Guyana tells of a case in which a piaiman was asked to diagnose and treat a patient.

The patient was a young man who just grew worse by the day. Several doctors in the capital, Georgetown, failed to help him and, in desperation, his mother asked the piaiman's intervention.  The piaiman had the patient sit on a tortoise shell in his wigwam of palm leaves. Roth and others sat in a circle outside the hut and could not see what was going on inside.

But the observers could see and smell the aromatic smoke which soon seeped through the leaves of the hut. They also heard the sound of the rhythmic shaking of a gourd rattle; then later the "droning sing-song" of the piaiman's voice; then later still a conversation in which three different voices were heard. The séance lasted for about half-an-hour, after which the patient was taken back to his mother's house.

When the piaiman emerged, he said he had consulted the spirits of the camoodi (anaconda) and the tiger who told him that the lad was being punished with this illness because he had been unfaithful to an Amerindian girl. However, he would not die.  

The piaiman set out at dawn next morning to obtain the medicines he said the spirits prescribed, returned in three days, administered them to the patient, and the patient became well again. His fee? A long-barreled gun.

Roth, like other observers, believe that the piaiman is essentially one who has intimate and extensive knowledge of the medicinal value of forest plants and is an excellent ventriloquist.

ATKINSON AIRPORT

Atkinson Airport, Guyana's first airport, was named after Major Atkinson, the commander of the air-base facilities which the American government developed at this location during World War II. Atkinson Airport occupied 68 acres of Atkinson Field, formerly Hyde Park, on the Demerara River. During 1950 it was restructured for civil aviation purposes. Another more up-to-date terminal building was built and opened on March 15, 1952. When the new building was ravaged by fire on August 5, 1959 the old terminal building was renovated and used again until the destroyed building was replaced. After independence, Atkinson Airport became the
Timehri International Airport.

Atkinson Field was leased to the United States of America by the United Kingdom in 1941. The lease was terminated on May 26, 1966 (Guyana's Independence Day). Because the lease was terminated 74 years before its due end, a new agreement was arrived at giving certain specified rights to the Americans in relation to the air base for the next 17 years.


THE BERBICE SLAVE UPRISING

The most famous slave revolt in Guyana began in February 1763 and lasted into 1764. It began on Plantation Magdalenenberg on the Canje River in Berbice. The slaves rebelled, protesting harsh and inhumane treatment, and took control of the region. As plantation after plantation fell to the slaves, the European population fled; eventually only half of the whites who had lived in the colony remained. Led by Cuffy (now the national hero of Guyana), the rebels came to number about 3000 and threatened European control over the Guianas. The insurgents were defeated with the assistance of troops from neighboring French and British colonies and from Europe.  


JAN RYNVELD CAREW

Jan Carew is novelist, playwright, poet and educator.

Born in 1925 at Agricola, a village in Guyana also called Rome, he was educated at the Berbice High School. At age 17, he left Guyana for the United States where he studied at Howard University and  Western Reserve University (1944-8). He also went to Charles University in Prague (1948-50) and the Sorbonne in Paris. He has taught at London University, Princeton, Rutgers, Illinois Wesleyan, Hampshire College, Northwestern and Lincoln Universities.

Jan Carew has lived in Holland, Mexico, England, France, Spain, Ghana, Canada and the United States. In England, he acted with Sir Laurence Olivier and edited the Kensington Post.

Some of the noted figures he has had relations with are W.E.B. DuBois, Paul Robeson, Langston Hughes, Malcolm X, Kwame Nkrumah, Shirley Graham DuBois, Maurice Bishop, Cheikh Anta Diop, Edward Scobie, John Henrik Clarke, Tsegaye Medhin Gabre, Sterling D. Plumpp and Ivan Van Sertima.

He is the author of Grenada: Black Midas, The Wild Coast, The Hour Will Strike Again, Fulcrums of Change, Ghosts in Our Blood: With Malcolm X in Africa, England and the Caribbean. His essays include "Estevanico: The African Explorer," "Rape of Paradise: Columbus and the Origin of Racism in the Americas," and "Moorish Culture-Bringers: Bearers of Englightment."

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