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|Culture Minister calls for enlightenment on full impact of slavery --Exhibition mounted at National Museum|
|Saturday, 04 August 2012 23:40|
CULTURE, Youth and Sports Minister Dr. Frank Anthony is calling on Guyanese to come out in their numbers to view the Emancipation Exhibition, currently being mounted at the National Museum at North Road Georgetown as part of the celebrations for the 174th anniversary of Emancipation in Guyana.
Dr. Anthony made this call while delivering opening remarks at the opening of the Exhibition, hosted by the Museum of African Heritage on Friday.
He expressed concern that far too many people in Guyana still do not understand the horrors of the slavery system to which our fore-parents were subjected; and too often tend to take for granted their hard work and sacrifices endured at the hands of slave masters.
Held under the theme “Campaigning against Slavery; Breaking the Silence,” the exhibition is a timely reminder of the struggles of our fore-parents at the hands of slave masters – cruelly beaten; working for long hours under the most inhumane condition; and ostensibly divorced from the end product of their labour.
Dr. Anthony said the Ministry of Culture, Youth and Sport (MCYS) continues to be very actively involved in Emancipation celebrations noting that every year, the Exhibition is one of the highlights of Emancipation observances. He added that through exhibitions like this, the nation is able to go back over the pages of history, reflect on those moments, and see what it was like to be a slave, and the conditions that existed. Additionally, this year, the Ministry has pumped more that $7M into making Emancipation observances a success through disbursements to some 45 cultural groups countrywide.
Know your history
Of the exhibition, he said that what the Ministry is seeking to do is to help educate our general population about that period of slavery, and to celebrate 174 years of freedom from slavery.
“I think that too many people in our population do not understand the horrendous system of slavery that existed in our country, and how that would have affected a major part of our population,” Dr. Anthony said.
The Minister is of the view that by reading and seeking to learn more from information documented in books, images portrayed in paintings, carvings and artifacts on display at exhibitions, Guyanese can better be able to grasp and understand the realties of the life endured by slaves, and so develop a better understanding and appreciation for the ultimate price they paid so we today can enjoy a better life.
But despite what evolved in those days, the way the slaves were literally tortured day by day; how they were divorced from the end product of their labour; they demonstrated remarkable resilience, were able to overcome those hardships, and prevailed.
Come out in your thousands
Dr. Anthony cited as an example the drainage system and canals around the city and coastal Guyana, which were manually dug by slaves with spades and shovels, without the use of machinery and equipment. Yet, so few of us know of this; or those who know, sometimes take it for granted, he said.
“Therefore, if you want to reward that hard work and effort they have put in, then we want to literally see thousands of you coming to the Museum to learn a little bit more about the period [of slavery,” he emphasized.
Preserving our history and culture
And on the need to preserve our history and culture, the Culture Minister recalled that, late last year, the MCYS had published a very useful book which gives insight into the slavery system, namely: “Hearing Slaves Speak’. It was an account of the ordeal endured by slaves being tried in the courts under the slavery system during the Dutch era. He said a number of such records were extracted.
A second book being documented by the MCYS is on ‘The 1763 Rebellion’. It is to be released next year on the occasion of 215 years of the Berbice Slave Rebellion.
In addition to being placed in book stores, the books will be available at the National Library and in school libraries, since the MCYS feels that our young people must learn more about our history.
Dr. Anthony reminded that Emancipation is not limited to the activities on Emancipation Day, but will be held throughout the month of August, and are expected to be more colourful than ever before.
Testimony to this was the colourful African dance sequence performed by dancers from the National School of Dance, and the energetic drumming by Primo’s Finger tip Drummers for the opening of the exhibition.
Meanwhile, staffer Jeanelle Hamilton added that what is important to note is that this Exhibition not only highlights traditional slavery, which is wrong enslavement of Africans, but also modern day slavery, which explores the prevalence of human trafficking and other forms of exploitation that seek to reinforce slavery.
She said the exhibition will also provide pertinent information on other themes, such as Europe before the Trans-Atlantic Slave Trade; Africa before the Trans-Atlantic Slave Trade; Trade and Commerce, where the traded items such as gold evolved into a lucrative trade in slaves.
Other useful information includes plantation life, resistance and rebellion, including our own 1763 Berbice Slave Rebellion and the Demerara 1823 Rebellion.
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