Nothing like this before…

Nothing like this before…

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by Vidyaratha Kissoon

“I don’t think I have ever seen anything like this before.. I was wondering what was happening with art in Guyana” the man said to the art students at the Umana Yana. The students from the University of Guyana had put on a large exhibition of over 100 pieces of work. The exhibition was called “Artists in Perception”. The exhibition was held from 19th to 24th June, 2017. The man said he was an artist, and he congratulated the students on their efforts.

I had dropped in on the exhibition. I did not expect the wide scope of the exhibition. I thought the exhibition was ‘awesome’. An artist asked ‘how so’ . I could not explain since I am not artsy and I do not have the words.

There were vibrant colours. One powerful installation by Alavina Naughton was dedicated to the women who were attacked by their male partners after they left abusive relationships. The artists asked the viewers what they would tell perpetrators. There were only three or four statements on the notepads when I visited on the day before the exhibition closed. I thought the note pad with the pens and the couple of statements were a critical part of the installation.

I had never seen any kind of installation in Guyana which included the viewers or asked the viewers to participate actively rather than just ‘viewing’.

One of the artists Michael Griffith titled one of his pieces in the Devnagari script in the catalogue – “आंखें” – aankhen – Eyes.

“Nothing like this before..” is a nice feeling in a place where ‘Nothing like this before..’ has inspired feelings of despair.

“Nothing like this before.. “was the feeling after the chatree coolie Attorney General refused to resign, and slap-and-strip-bheri was put on the list of PPP candidates. But ‘Here we go again..” was the feeling as the new Attorney General refuses to apologise to a Judge who asked for an apology, and a few citizens, not a tsunami, signed a petition calling for the removal of Minister Volda Lawrence.

“Where are we going..?” a woman who is not a PPP supporter asked in despair as she watched the video selfie of Minister Simona Broomes in the empty Parliament Chamber. Minister Broomes had captured the imagination of the poor working people as she walked into work places and tried to clear complaints made against employers.

The video selfie was a tribute to another woman who had captured the attention of Guyanese on social media who needed a laugh.

“Nothing like this before..” accompanied the feeling of anticipation and hope as the coalition Government came into power. There was a nice feeling that this was going to be the beginning of end of “winner take all politics” and that it was possible for every citizen to feel part of something different, but nicer than what obtained for the first 50 years or so.

May 2015 and the new Prime Minister “ Vows to bring about Constitutional Change,”. By April 2016 – the PM has been given responsibility for governance and is waiting on the report of a six person committee. In June June 2017, the PM is silent according to Stabroek News who headlines that Despite budget of $80m, no move made by gov’t on constitution reform discussions

And this is even after the Working Peoples’ Alliance called on the Prime Minister to “stop pussyfooting’.

The “Nothing like this before..’ of a dynamic transformative changing of the Governance systems has not happened.

I live in Subryanville in Georgetown. The area has always been prone to flooding – and was always the last to drain off after the rest of Georgetown. Many other people on the coast did not deal with flooding – it seems that post 2005, there were serious attempts to keep drains clear and pumps and kokers working. This month though, Subryanville has not flooded like other areas. The rains have been intense, water has raised but the water goes down soon after. There were repairs done to some of the infrastructure – the Ministry of Public Infrastructure had to do critical work which the City Council did not seem to be able to do. Nothing like this before .. for some of the residents meant not having to be so distressed by heavy rains. Nothing like this before.. has meant for me, being ‘dry’ while other people used to be ‘dry’ are now flooded.

The Subryanville scenario though has not been repeated throughout Guyana. There is a lapse in management which seems to be a symptom of some kind of disconnect among the different parts of the Government which are responsible for drainage.

“Nothing like this before..” was also another feeling after the Stem Guyana Robotics Exhibition at the Cliff Anderson Sports Hall. It was a rainy Saturday morning. There were different groups exhibiting. There were all kinds of people who visited the sports hall to participate in the exhibition. Gender dynamics must have played out as quite a few men brought children with them.

One of the men visiting the exhibition was Stanley Greaves, an artist. The connection between art and technology is not often made in Guyana.

Another first for Guyana is the Youth Innovation Project of Guyana. The project invites proposals from young people in areas related to Science, Technology, Engineering, Agriculture, Architecture, Arts, Architecture, Archaeology, Mathematics and Spirituality. There was a news release recently with a call for more applications to the fund.

I asked a community conscious young man who lives in Region 1 if he had applied. He said he did not know of the call and was not aware of any out reach activities related to the call. He will try to meet the deadline of 30 June though. Another young man who works in Region 6 said he heard of it , but thought that it was only about science and technology. He was cynical about the fund – ‘they will probably give those who they know’ but he decided to apply in good faith.

The fund has the possibility of creating more ‘Nothing like this before..” projects in Guyana.

Innovations in Governance though is not part of the call for the Youth Innovation Project. Maybe the Office of the Prime Minister might use the $80 million dollars later on innovative governance projects.

Young and other Guyanese will therefore have to find ways of changing ‘Here we go again.. ‘and “this set just like the last..’ to creating a ‘Nothing like this before.. “ Guyana which every citizen has equal access to the resources and in which all citizen can achieve their full potential.

(Coil will be extinguished as it tries to refuel. If all goes well, it will be lit by 7 August 2017)

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