On 29th January, 2022, my wife, Gem Madhoo-Nascimento, wrote deploring the mismanagement of the stage and sound at the National Cultural Centre (NCC) for a cultural performance presented by the Indian High Commission on the occasion of their 72nd Republic Anniversary. On 2nd February, 2022, Mr Vishnu Bishram wrote supporting the concerns she expressed but went on to echo a long standing complaint against the fact that the NCC had been built under the administration of former President, Forbes Burnham, with Indian Immigration Funds and proposed that the monies be returned with interest to build “Indian Cultural Centres” in various parts of the country.
My wife responded to Mr Bisram acknowledging that funds assigned for the repatriation of Indian Indentured Labour were, instead, used to build a National Cultural Centre. I repeat, a National Cultural Centre, to host CARIFESTA in 1972 for the celebration of our Caribbean and national culture and identity.
My wife, however, disagreed with Mr Bisram’s proposal which urged that the money be used purely for building Indian Cultural Centres across the country, making the very valid point that this would exacerbate an already racially divided country. She argued in favour of National Theatres being built in every region which would serve as the home for the celebration of all of our cultural heritages, both separately and collectively.
To my surprise and disappointment, Mr Bisram on 12th February, 2022, responded to my wife’s letter, published in the Kaieteur News, vigourously maintaining an argument that has long since proved to be false, that the National Cultural Centre is not used by Guyanese of Indian descent. May I remind him that the late great Lata Mangheswer performed there in 1981, it was the venue for annual Nritrageet (bowed out of productions after 40 years of performances) and Naya Zaman productions amony many others. More disturbing from a man of his intellect, while recognizing that we are “a multicultural nation”, his words, he persisted to urge that we build Theatres confined solely to the performance of our separate cultural heritages. He even goes on to suggest that any merging of these cultures is tantamount to “cultural genocide”.
So, according to Mr Bisram, our government must spend the people’s money building Indian, Cultural Centres, and by inference, African, Chinese, Portuguese and Amerindian Cultural Centres and, presumably, more Theatres confined to the performance of our Guyanese culture, or maybe Mr Bisram doesn’t recognize that the very essence of our Guyanese culture, as indeed is our cuisine and the sports we play, a synergy of all our heritages.
If you look up the definition of culture, you’ll find that it is the customs, ideas and social behaviour of a particular people or group. In our case the people of Guyana.
By all means, let us continue to recognize where we came from but, much more importantly, who we are.