GCA celebrates 22 years of Guyana Folk Festival Season in Brooklyn

Super Terry belches out "Aye Fatty Bum Bum", "My Commanding Wife" and Sparrow's "Congo Man", among other hits.
Super Terry belches out “Aye Fatty Bum Bum”, “My Commanding Wife” and Sparrow’s “Congo Man”, among other hits.
Photo by Nelson A. King

Reflecting this year’s theme of “CARIFESTA@50: Reflections and Legacies”, the curtain came down to the pulsating rhythms of a Guyanese Folk Ensemble of drums, guitar and saxophone on the 22nd anniversary of the New York-based Guyana Cultural Association’s (GCA) 2022 Guyana Folk Festival Season, with a spectacular multi-cultural Family Fun Day, on Sunday, Sept. 4, at the Old Boys’ High School grounds in Brooklyn.

After a hiatus of two years, due to the COVID-19 pandemic, Family Fun Day returned with a Caribbean-flavored, in-person season grand finale.

The official ceremony opened with a parade of CARIFESTA countries represented by the Children’s Village participants escorted by Master Jaguar Julio Thijs on stilts.

On stage presentations included Guyanese Folk artistes, Caribbean Folk music performances by the Roxborough Folk Group from Trinidad and Tobago, Jamaican-headed Braata Folk Singers and Angels Caribbean Band.

The plethora of attractions on the ground, surrounded by the aroma of Guyanese and Caribbean cuisine, included the Children’s Village, which featured several folk and educational games; hometown and alumni associations; health care groups; and Guyanese arts and crafts.

The Guyana Ministry of Tourism, Industry and Commerce, whose aim is to propel economic development by boosting tourism, showcased several tourism development opportunities and destinations in Guyana.

Tourism Minister Oneidge Walrond emphasized plans for the upcoming first-ever Cricket Carnival, urging members of the Guyanese Diaspora and all persons interested in learning about Guyana to visit and participate in the Cricket Carnival.

“From crowd participation, reports and comments received, GCA’s 22nd Family Fun Day could justifiably be described as a highly successful, professional, informative and creative occasion representing the true spirit of CARIFESTA,” said GCA in a statement issued to Caribbean Life.

It said the day’s activities also highlighted Caribbean cultural similarities and multi-cultural roots, “depicting that working together with communities regionally, internationally and nationally continues to keep alive our diverse cultural heritage and strengthens the bonds of our cultural legacies, which are important to current and future generations.”

GCA said another core event of the 2022 Guyana Folk Festival Season is the Caribbean Summer Heritage Workshop Series (SWS), which targets Guyanese and other Caribbean youths in New York.

Folkloric songs from Braata Productions.
Folkloric songs from Braata Productions. Photo by Nelson A. King

The program consists of a literacy-based set of workshops related to stem, the performing arts, music, the arts and dance, GCA said.

It said workshops are conducted by experienced practitioners in each field.

GCA said this year’s SWS was “up and running” from July 5 through Aug. 12.

During this period, GCA said several modules were dedicated to educating and entertaining the younger generation through “Reflections and Legacies of CARIFESTA ’72.”

“The GCA strove this summer to guide the participants in this 14th iteration of its exploration in learning and fun,” said Workshop Director Dr. Juliet Emanuel in her closing remarks to the class of 2022. “Thus, while a book may have a video modality, that modality enhanced the overall experience of reading, drawing, playing, singing, etc.”

Dr. Lear Matthews, one of the sponsors in a closing charge said: “Hearty thanks to the Guyana Cultural Association for its tireless efforts in continuing this tradition of service to the Caribbean-American community.

“Thanks to the parents and extended family members for having the confidence in GCA to provide this annual cultural and educational experience,” she added.

In accordance with their camp song, GCA said students are encouraged to “Be the best that we can be!”

GCA’s three-day international symposium, from Aug. 5 to 7, examined the 50th anniversary of CARIFESTA ’72.

For the past 21 years, GCA said the symposium continued to be a “core event” of the Guyana Folk Festival Season.

This year, in keeping with our theme, the symposium focused on CARIFESTA ’72 and the 50 years since it was launched, GCA said.

It said the three-day, primarily virtual, symposium was organized under the title “The Inaugural Caribbean Festival of Arts as Prism: 20th Century Festivals in the Multilingual Caribbean.”

GCA said the symposium was envisioned as “an opportunity for an intergenerational exploration of the origins, events, experiences, missteps, legacies, and stories of CARIFESTA ’72.”

The non-profit group said this was accomplished over 17 sessions that featured artists, archivists, scholars, activists, administrators and policy makers.

The keynote address was presented by Alison Drayton, the Caribbean Community’s (CARICOM) Assistant Secretary General for Human and Social Development.

Drumming: Winston "Jeggae" Hoppie, with turban, in yellow T-shirt, and Ato Greene.
Drumming: Winston “Jeggae” Hoppie, with turban, in yellow T-shirt, and Ato Greene.

GCA said the three-day symposium, which was viewed over 24,000 times on social media, also envisioned, “as a part of a conversation, that, given the scale of the CARIFESTA cultural phenomenon, (it) must be deep and wide.”

It said the 2022 symposium represents the start of that conversation and, in keeping with GCA’s mission to collect, preserve, and promote Guyanese heritage and creativity, launched the creation of the Digital Archives of Guyanese and Caribbean Festival, Culture and Literature in the Caribbean Library at the University of Guyana.

“This archive is a major step in the sustainable collection and preservation of Guyanese memory.,” said GCA, adding that “key to the success of the symposium was the international partnership that was assembled by the organizers of this year’s symposium.”

In Guyana, GCA partners were the University of Guyana, Moray House Trust, Lions Club of Ruimveldt and Festival City 50th Anniversary Celebrations Committee.

GCA said the Caribbean Broadcasting Union was a regional partner; in the United Kingdom, Guyana Speaks was a partner; and, in the United States, the other partners were the academic institutions where the organizers are based: Rice University, Binghamton University and Ohio University.

The public is urged to visit the symposium’s website at:   https://www.carifestaat50.com/

The public is also invited to participate in the following Carifesta@50 initiatives to support the digital archive:

Recollections: https://www.carifestaat50.com/recollections

Shoebox Archives: https://www.carifestaat50.com/recollections

GCA’s 2022 Awards Ceremony, now in its 21st year, was held virtually on Wednesday, Aug. 31.

GCA said its key objective is to showcase and promote Guyanese contemporary creativity, “as we recognize individuals, groups and agencies whose achievements and current work also advance GCA’s mission to recognize and celebrate the multiple roots of Guyana’s cultural heritage.”

These winners are the outcome of a process that starts with nominations from the public,” GCA said. “These nominations are then evaluated by panels of distinguished judges. All nominations are evaluated against seven criteria: Originality, Scope, Impact /Influence, Integration, Pioneering spirit, Challenges and Achievements.”

In his message to the virtual 2022 Awards Ceremony, Amb. Michael Brotherson, Consul General of Guyana in New York, congratulated and thanked to this year’s award recipients for “a remarkable job well done in their respective areas of expertise.

“The Consulate General is proud to acknowledge the sterling contributions of each of you towards the recognition and development of Guyana’s culture,” he said. “Cultural development is a top priority for the Government and people of Guyana.”

Over the past 21 years, GCA said, with the participation of the public, it has recognized more than 400 Guyanese and other citizens.

Additionally, a pre-awards presentation ceremony was held in Guyana for the GCA Awardees and the first prize winners of the Godfrey Chin Prize for Heritage Journalism.

GCA said The Theatre Guild of Guyana “graciously agreed” to host this event at its venue in Kingston, Georgetown on Thursday, Aug. 21.

At the ceremony, the opening remarks were given by Prof. Paloma Mohamed Martin, vice-chancellor, University of Guyana.

Tamika Boatswain, director of culture, Ministry of Culture, Youth & Sports, presented the awards and prizes, GCA said.

The Georgetown organizing committee included GCA members, Margaret Lawrence and Sidney Benjamin, along with visiting Assistant Cultural Director, Queens resident Dr. Rose October.

GCA also hosted Kweh Kweh Nite, an Afro-Guyanese pre-wedding ritual celebration, on Friday, Sept. 2, in Brooklyn.

“This celebration showcases and celebrates Guyana’s rich folk culture, and the creative responses of Guyana’s root cultures to the Guyanese experience,” GCA said.

It said the Guyana Folk Festival Season supports “inter-ethnic and intergenerational conversations among Guyanese in New York, at home and across the Guyanese Diaspora, and contributes to building bridges of understanding and communication between and among Guyanese, Caribbean, and other communities in New York.”