Guyana - Land of many waters is 50

Kaieteur Falls is the world's widest single drop waterfall, located on the Potaro River in the Kaieteur National Park, in Essequibo, Guyana

Guyana - Land of many waters is 50

By Nicole-Rachelle Moore

United Kingdom | Thursday 19 May 2016: 9:09 BST

May 26 is the official date of Guyana’s celebration of its 50th year of independence from Britain, although observation of this historic Golden Jubilee landmark has been taking place since the beginning of the year. Guyana occupies the unique position of being the only English-speaking country in South America, and which shares a close socio-political affinity and history with many Caribbean islands (so much so that it is often considered another country in that region).

Popularly known as the ‘Land of Many Waters’ (some say from the Arawak Amerindian words ‘wai ana’), this vast landmass is bordered by the Atlantic Ocean to the north, Brasil to the south, Suriname to the east and Venezuela to the west. The country was first colonised by the Spanish, then the French, the Dutch and the British, being finally ceded to the latter in 1814 (Anglo-Dutch Treaty). Although contact with Europeans historically proved fatal for much of the indigenous Arawak, Carib and Warao peoples, several thousand Amerindians continue to live in the country’s dense interior.

The two main political parties that dominated Guyana’s history from 1950 onwards were the People’s Progressive Party (PPP), headed initially by Cheddi Jagan, and the breakaway People’s National Congress (PNC), led by Forbes Burham. Racial polarisation and resentment have often been at the fore of politics in Guyana. The late Guyanese academic and activist Walter Rodney (leader of the Working People’s Alliance) seemed, in the time before his assassination in 1980, to be able to bring together effective collaboration and solidarity between the two ethnic groups. In 2015, the country’s opposition party, A Partnership for National Unity (APNU), defeated the PPP after the latter’s 23 year rule. APNU’s leader, His Excellency Brigadier David Granger, is now the president, while The Honourable Moses Nagamootoo is the prime minister.

The Golden Jubilee had its New York launch in January, and there will be extended follow up events from June 4 to 12. In London, the initial observation of the 50 year milestone took place in April, and is to be followed by the highly anticipated gala dinner, show and dance on May 28 at the Park Plaza Riverbank Hotel. The evening is to be held under the honorary patronage of Baroness Valerie Amos.

Soca News caught up with Tafawa Ntune, a tireless cultural ambassador for Guyana in the UK for well over 20 years, and asked him for his thoughts on the country’s upcoming special birthday. Ntune said, “Guyana, the Land of Many Waters, has had a chequered first 50 years, but one thing with Guyanese – no matter the highs and lows or our aspirations and challenges, we all know how to party hard and we’re going to celebrate Guyana because it’s ‘we own’, to quote Dave Martens and the Trade Winds song Guyana is We Own. With the promise of a genuine, democratic process remaining in place for its citizens, an emerging new generation exhibiting more unity and respect among its diverse people and culture and a hope of good governance and management, Guyana will be a force to be reckoned with in the next 50 years! Happy Golden Jubilee of Independence Guyana! Guyana to the world!”

The country’s government has invited the UK-based Guyanese flautist Keith Waithe to perform ‘at home’ as part of its lavish cultural 50th anniversary calendar. Waithe said, “Guyana’s 50th Golden Anniversary is a significant milestone in this journey of life for all Guyanese at home and in the diaspora: Britain, the Caribbean and North America. This is a time for us, the people, to revisit folklore and the arts that played a major part in discovering the meaning of independence. I look forward to my performance during this period.”

There is no doubt that Guyanese people at home and abroad – ‘One People, One Nation, One Destiny’ - are set to party come May 26 and beyond. Soca News extends congratulations to the Government of Guyana and its nationals throughout the world on this historical occasion. For further information about events in London, please call Tafawa Ntune on 07956 425 916, email gtpromotion(at)googlemail.com or visit www.tasteofguyana.uk. More about Keith Waithe at www.keithwaithe.com or by emailing essequibomusic@gmail.com.

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Soca News
April 2017

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