Tuesday, 18 June 2013
To ensure higher level of service… $158.4M Polic... » COMMANDER-in-Chief of the Armed Forces, President ...
FAO recognises Guyana for meeting anti-hunger targ... » GUYANA is among 18 countries recognised at a speci...
State-of-the-art forensic lab to open soon - Rohee... » CONTRACTORS have requested one more week to finish...
Pomeroon farmers to export coconut water to Trinid... » COUNCILLOR of the Region 2 Regional Democratic Cou...
‘Terrorist’ Colin Jones convicted of Health M... » COLIN Jones, charged with the 2009 burning of the ...
Alleged woman beating… No place for rogue cops i... » THE Ministry of Home Affairs said, yesterday, that...
President Ramotar urges emulation of Enmore Martyr... » PRESIDENT Donald Ramotar yesterday called upon tho...
|‘Overtures’: A novel set in 1838 (Excerpted from the prologue)|
|Saturday, 28 July 2012 12:02|
(This novel was started in high school when I was an ardent student of history, affected by and searching for answers to our disquieting race relations.
I settled on the year 1838, to begin my research, because that was when Africans and Indians met for the first time in Guyana, and the overture between the two races informs/forms the story.The unfolding of this overture is carried by Somar, an enterprising Indian teenager, a thinker, schooled by Missionareies in India during its ‘Filtration Era’, and by Juba, a freed African building a house while awaiting the birth of the child carried by his wife, Feba.
The delivery of this child, the first African to be born outside slavery, in the home of an Indian family, and attended by an Indian is the direction and intention of the novel -- respect, tolerance and cooperation.
On the distaff side, the story is carried by Feba, in childbirth, symbolic of the Africans grappling with this ‘new burden’, freedom, and by Ruth, Feba’s sister, an educated mulatto youth having a close relationship with Somar; a hint of the miscegenation to follow.)
WHENEVER the cannons of Fort Willem Frederick boomed, they were signalling a momentous event. But these colossal guns were not always on target. At times, they were aimed at petty subjects. Other times, they failed to fire altogether. And there would be frustration in the air.
Sometimes the clamour would catch the citizens of Georgetown, in the County of Demerara, in the Colony of British Guiana, offguard. At other times, the folks waited in anticipation, conscious of the forthcoming event, especially a happy one, like the arrival of a shipment of ice or medicine, or the departure of an inefficient and/or bad official, awaiting their cue to explode also.
It was a difficult period in the history of the Colony. There were the uncertainties prevailing over impending constitutional changes; the aftereffects of the yellow fever epidemic that almost crippled Georgetown, the seat of governance; riots and disturbances with the advent of each new band of immigrants that failed to satisfy the labour demands; poor production and poor economic growth taking toll on the less fortunate. It was a time when there was no simple solution to the many adverse manifestations besetting the Colony of British Guiana. It was a season when one merely sat back and accepted the changes.
It was just such a time when any glimmer of hope was grasped. It was at just such a moment when anything can be used as an excuse to interrupt the gloom; to explode, to celebrate, to remain sane!
Today was a day of anticipation. In fact, the majority of the Colony's population was awaiting this significant day since August 1834. And the waiting waxed like the ordeal of Tantalus, the son of the Greek God, Zeus, condemned to stand in chin-deep water that receded whenever he stooped to drink, a real-real ketch-me-loose-me situation!
The grandiose guns of the bombastic fort exploded at stately, evenly timed intervals, marking time haltingly and hauntingly. The illiterate portion of the population soon lost count as to how many times the guns were fired. The more learned kept tabs on their fingers. First, on one hand, and then on the other hand. And still the cannons boomed…
The reverberating sounds were heard by the residents on the left bank of the river. This side was a solid, green wall of gigantic mangrove and courida bush, pierced by a few wooden wharves, and punctuated by a number of blackened chimneys of nearby sugar plantations. That side of the river was defined by a neat line running south as far as the eye could see. That side of the river culminated in a beautiful curve at its mouth.
Fort Willem Frederick was an apology for a vibrant fort. Built at the mouth and on the right bank of the Demerara River, it was poorly laid out, both physically and strategically. It is reported that a small, determined force could overrun it in less time than it took to gather together important legal documents. This structure didn't portray a sense of fortification. It was an image -- a mere image. To disappear like a mirage if viewed too long.
The Fort was situated on Water Street. Although this street was the commercial centre of the Colony, it, too, was an apology for a street. In fact, it was a mud dam; a dam that was built up in a meek effort to keep the sea out at high tide.
The buildings on Water Street were mostly huge bonds of shinning galvanised iron, and two-storey business places on the eastern side of the dam. A prominent feature of this street was the towering lighthouse in the north. This candy-striped lighthouse, erected in 1830, reaches a height of 103 feet.
Today, the cannons blasted nineteen times and then went silent. The citizens waited with pent-up emotions. They waited for the firing to end. And when it was certain that there were no more cannon shots forthcoming, a huge noise erupted.
Then, there were shouting, singing and dancing in the streets of Georgetown, celebrations on an unprecedented level. Drumming, the most distinctive sound of this jubliation, was intensified to over ten times the prescribed level. But it was not abrasive; even the most demure members of society were moved by the rhyhtm, howbeit with almost imperceptible movements.
And it rained. Heavily at first. Coming down suddenly, it petered out into a soft drizzle, cleansing the atmosphere, washing away the sins of that dark era. Perhaps, this rainfall was precipitated by the loud banging of the cannons and the thick clouds of gunpowder smoke hanging over the waters of the Demerara River.
Or by God's blessing.
Anyhow, the rain did not hamper the jubilation. In fact, it propelled the multitudes to deeper depths of rejoicing. The mud dams of the town were now wet and hilariously slippery.
At the Public Buildings, the seat of governance, from which the proclamation was made, were many orderly disorderly scenes of rejoicing. Although the jubilation was somewhat pedantic and officious in nature, like the enthusiasm shown within the four walls of a church, the air was pregnated with varying emotions of thanksgiving. Forgotten ancestral words issued forth from quivering lips; unused traditional gestures materialised, becoming natural movements. Crying openly from the licks of happiness was no shame. The atmosphere was thick with such, as throngs of mainly dark-skinned people, and varying hues gathered outside the huge white house to see the light as Governor Henry Light made public the declaration of freedom.
The Africans that had come to the colony round about 1640 as enslaved people, enduring the belittling period of apprenticeship, were now fully freed.
It was Wednesday, August 1, 1838.
(To respond to this author, either call him on (592) 226-0065 or send him an email: firstname.lastname@example.org)
More Lead Stories
- Cane Grove Village : --A thriving agricultural commune, with endless economic possibilities
- Medgar Evers ‘undergrad’ pledges to ‘pay it forward’ : --help fellow young Berbicians realize their dream
- Creolese: A language all of its own
- Enmore Martyrs and… : The advancement of the Working Class Struggle in Guyana
- "Gun Hill Road" for Sidewalk Café tonight