June 25, 2017

Promoting Our National Patrimony

The book has some inherent and generic functions. However, additional roles are sometimes thrust upon it, expanding its ambit and increasing its benefits. Increasingly, the book is being used to mark certain occasions like significant anniversaries and milestones, both public and private.

At a recent ceremony to mark the 51st Independence Anniversary of Guyana, three publications were (officially) released, namely: “National Bibliography of Guyana 1966-2016”, “50 Nations Builders” and “50 Creative Icons of Guyana”. These books were produced to mark Guyana’s Golden Jubilee of Independence in 2016. The last two books, in which I was directly involved, were attempts to inspire and encourage further research in order to acknowledge the contribution of our creative icons and nation builders to the development of Guyana.

Each book has its basic objective (s). For instance, according to Minister within the Ministry of Education Nicolette Henry, “50 Nation Builders of Guyana” is “to pay homage to a number of outstanding stalwarts”, to ensure that we do not forget or do not show a lack of appreciation for the “rich legacy our progenitors have left for us to enjoy”, and it is hoped that “this book will awaken in all of us a sense of commitment as to what we can do to build on the legacy left by our ancestors”.

The scope and limitation of the book were outlined by its editor, Alim Hosein, in his introduction. Mr Hosein says the book gives “a concise account that will provide some idea about the efforts and achievements of these nation builders”. He acknowledges the book’s limitations by stating “to make any list of nation builders is to invite controversy, especially when the list contains only fifty of them”, and that there are many other “less-visible nation builders” and unsung heroes.

The sister book, “50 Creative Icons”, is to elicit national pride by showcasing our creative men and women and “their invaluable, if often unacknowledged contribution to Guyana’s development”. Minister Henry, states that the creative icons are not only regarded for their “beautiful works of art or exciting entertainment, but because they take us to different levels of thinking, stimulating reflection and change”.

The book’s editor, Mr Hosein, puts the contribution of creative icons in proper perspective: “Many persons regard songs, dances, novels, poems, plays and the like as mere entertainment… but not worth much more than this… However, the Arts and our creative people do make a major contribution to nation-building, and they are as important as public figures, business people and other such persons… Indeed, it can be argued that our artists preceded our politicians, businessmen and others in the creation of the Guyanese nation.”

The editor also acknowledges the shortcoming of such a publication, saying this book “is not intended to be a definitive compendium of creative Guyana” and therefore a list was appended to encourage the seeking out of others to be accorded some sort of recognition.

The “National Bibliography of Guyana” was a very ambitious and commendable production despite a few lapses.

The foreword, written by Ms Debra Lowe, gives a background to the compilation and eventual completion and publication of the current ‘National Bibliography’. Ms Lowe writes that the compilation of this National Bibliography “has a long history which began on the 9th October 1945 when His Excellency the Governor, Sir Gordon Lethem K. C. M. G. appointed a Committee for the purpose of ‘compiling and publishing a Bibliography of British Guiana’”.

Almost five decades later, Dr James Rose enters the picture during his tenure as Chairman of the National Library and Vice-Chancellor of the University of Guyana making overtures to the National Trust and the Department of Culture to complete the Bibliography. Eventually, the project gained impetus as part of plans for the celebration of Guyana’s Golden Jubilee of Independence when “the idea… was presented to the National Commemoration commission as a marquee Jubilee Project and it was readily embraced”. Subsequently, in 2015 a new committee was formed, leading to the document that is now in the public’s domain.

The foreword also explains why the Library of Congress Classification was chosen in preference to the exiting Dewey Decimal Classification.

A National Bibliography is important for many reasons, but primarily, in this instance, showcases government’s policy, and public and private interest towards our literary output.

Included on the printed programme of this event was a fourth book, “Guyana at 50”, edited by Arif Ali. It is touted as “the premium 50th commemorative publication that captures the essence of all things Guyanese” (more on this in a subsequent article).

All of the above books are important to our national patrimony in preserving, promoting and disseminating the country’s unique heritage.

Responses to this author telephone (592) 226-0065 or email: oraltradition2002@yahoo.com