January 23, 2018

Preserving the masquerade art form

A local masquerade band performing

The Guyana Cultural Association (GCA) of New York, Inc. and Guyana’s Ministry of Culture, Youth and Sports will this month organise and host a symposium in Guyana aimed at preserving the legacy of the masquerade art form in the country.
The symposium “Masquerade Lives”, scheduled for December 13 and 14, would serve as stimulation in the context of the Mashramani celebrations for February, 2013.
“Masquerade Lives” is intended to create a space for public education, and to examine the deep heritage associated with Guyana’s masquerade traditions. Special attention would be paid to the origins of the art form, its historical and international connections and the reasons for its decline. Sessions would also focus on masquerade’s aesthetic dimensions, including costumes, dances, music and the performances.
One of the events of the symposium would be the unveiling of a masquerade mural on the lawns of the National Museum. This was conceptualised to pay tribute to and celebrate, Guyana’s masquerade heritage.
According to GCA, “the proposed imagery for the mural is colourful and bold; the deliberate painterly approach will contribute to its boldness, and the overall finish will not be constrained by naturalism and realism.” GCA noted that this approach is deliberate and intended to pay homage to the rousing origins of masquerade in Guyana and the Caribbean. The mural is an archetypal reminder of our rich cultural heritage.
The association pointed out that the painting of the mural would contribute to a weeklong synergy of the creative arts in Guyana.

A masquerade band dancing on the streets of Georgetown

There would also be a film and video festival, to be held at various locations countrywide. This would take place December 13 – 16. The films explore the history of the masquerade tradition in the Caribbean, the role masquerade plays in the formation of social identity, and the role it can play as tool in HIV/AIDS education.
During the symposium the association has planned five workshops that would include dance, music, costumes and image making, and drum making. The workshops, according to the association, would satisfy one of the symposium’s objectives, which is to provide an opportunity for knowledge transfer and new creativity. The goal is to have each workshop led by Guyana’s best practitioners.
The association outlined that Desmond “Putagee” Vivierios, recognised as one of the few competent masquerade flautists, has been identified as one of the facilitators for the music workshop. Additionally, Sonia Noel, one of Guyana’s leading fashion designers, would facilitate the costume design workshop. Guyana’s distinguished artist, Stanley Greaves has already provided the patterns to be used in making traditional masquerade costumes.
GCA revealed that at least 100 persons, strategically selected from across Guyana, would participate in five workshops. Out of these workshops, at least five masquerade bands are to be rehabilitated.
While focused on contributing towards a strategy for the rehabilitation and promotion of this tradition, the symposium would also help to preserve Guyana’s folk heritage, both at home and abroad.Participants would also identify and pay homage to Guyana’s masquerade pioneers such as Joe Flounce, Bandula, the Blacketts, Boysie Sage, Bundarie, Putagee and others.