Regarding the controversy surrounding the Atlantic Reader Series, and how fairness and balance can be achieved without members of particular ethnic groups feeling marginalized or misrepresented, and the dilemma of state institutions, which are supported by taxes perceived to favor certain ethnic groups, cultures and/or religions through the material they produce for public consumption and the activities in which they engage, I have a suggestion and hope that Concerned members of the public who feel strongly about this issue will offer suggestions/solutions that are actionable and not just problem-focused. However, certain factors must be taken into account: Guyanese society is multicultural and multi-ethnic; state institutions are funded by taxpayers and represent the secular state.
Editor, if I want to know more about Indo-Guyanese culture or the traditions of indigenous people, who should I ask or where should I look for this information? Even if I were to do my own research on the internet, I might not find enough relevant information. Although the ancestors of the Indo-Guyanese came from India, our culture, including traditional dishes, is unique and has evolved. For example, if one visits an Indian restaurant, you will find that some of the dishes they prepare are foreign to us, and even the ones we know taste different and are prepared differently. Therefore, the most suitable people to write about the cultures, traditions and religions of the different ethnic groups in Guyana are the people from the ethnic groups who have this knowledge and are willing to do the necessary research; be immersed and passionate about promoting their culture; are held in high regard for accountability and view writing about their culture as an act of service to the community.
Editor-in-chief, I suggest that grants be given by the relevant agency to a group of prominent cultural activists and intellectuals, or nationally recognized cultural organizations of each ethnic group to produce a book on the culture, traditions , religions, etc., of this group . Since the preservation of its culture is the responsibility of today’s children, the book should have a child-friendly meaning; clear use of language, neither too long nor too verbose; liberal use of images and designs and relating to the present day. Using Indo-Guyanese culture as an example, the book can cover topics such as: a brief history of Indian migration to Guyana (parts of India they came from, ships, reasons, unique circumstances, number of people, etc.), clothing, food, music, instruments and dance; art, religions, traditions, festivals and observances and names. Also some basic Hindi words and phrases like hello, hello, thank you and names of family members. And a chapter on notable Indo-Guyanese men and women who have impacted society in various fields like politics, literature, culture and business. Since only a few are known nationally or internationally, ordinary people like a farmer, housewife, nurse, driver, and clerk can also be added. In addition to a physical book, a CD/DVD may accompany or the book may be placed entirely online.
I suggest that a committee made up of educators, cultural activists, media personnel and other concerned people be created to review and approve these and other books to be placed in public schools, if such a committee does not already exist. In addition, school libraries, especially at the secondary level, should have a special corner for books written by Guyanese and suitable for children, as well as well-received books written by others about Guyana and/or Guyanese. This would foster a sense of national pride in children and could serve as motivation for would-be writers. Editor, for a book on Indo-Guyanese/Indian-Guyanese heritage, culture, traditions and religions, I believe a group consisting of Mrs. Rhyann Shah, Swami Aksharananda, Ravi Dev, Baytoram Ramharack or persons of stature similar, who would see this task as a labor of love and community service rather than a tedious job, take up the challenge and be proactive in promoting Indian culture.
Many people grow up with only stereotypes of ethnic groups, other than Afro-Guyanese and Indo-Guyanese, due to lack of readily available information and immersion. It would be interesting and informative to read about the cultures of the Indigenous, Guyanese-Portuguese and Guyanese-Chinese peoples; local associations, intellectuals and/or cultural groups of the ethnic group could prepare relevant material to be placed in secondary schools. And although Portuguese-Guyanese and Europeans are listed separately when demographics are given, Portugal is in Europe, and the only other European group that significantly shaped Guyanese society are the British, a text could be prepared by a local organisation/group to educate Guyanese children about British customs, traditions, culture, etc., and about Britons who have contributed to Guyanese society.
Editor, according to the Government of Guyana “In 2022…we have planned $1.3 billion to directly support culture and the arts in Guyana, including $100 million to promote culture and the arts” (https://dpi .gov.gy/1-3b -injected-for-advancing-la-culture-des-arts-en-2022/). Since the government is keen to support culture, I suggest that small grants be given collectively to a group of highly respected individuals, or a credible organization representing each ethnic group, to prepare a book on the culture of that group. However, it is up to the people/organizations concerned to defend this or any suggestions they have regarding the promotion and/or recognition of their culture. Even if the books are not used directly in the classroom or placed on book lists, they can still be made available to students in school libraries and used as research material for homework/social studies assignments, reviews of English books and other writings; and other relevant areas. However, what should be considered most important would be their presence and availability to Guyanese.