The marginalising of Indian artists continues
Stabroek News
May 18, 2002

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Dear Editor,

Thank goodness for Kaieteur News or we would have no really free press in Guyana. My letter which was captioned `PNC in league with PPPí in Kaieteur News was heavily censored by Stabroek News and the censored version appeared on May 10, 2002 along with an editorial [ please note: links provided by LOSP web site ] that glorified the work being done by Castellani House. The editorial probably became necessary because SNís Editor-in-Chief, David de Caires, is among those who sit besides Mrs Viola Burnham on the Castellani House sub-committee in question.

After expurgating whole bits from my letter Stabroek News went on to justify, through an editorís note, their attempt to give Mrs Burnham legitimacy and respectability. Then Mrs Burnham replied in Sunday Stabroek (May 12, 2002) to my previous letter.

Who cares how happy Mrs Burnham is to serve or that de Caires wishes her to serve? She served with her husband once before and destroyed this country. Who cares how much she cares for Aubrey Williamsí work or that she was at his funeral? And who cares whether her appointment was a political directive or not?

The Chairman of the Castellani House Board, Mrs Janet Jagan, and/or the Office of the President under whose remit Castellani House falls need to tell us why Mrs Burnham is being given the privilege of participating in the affairs of this country.

Which artists are being selected for the National Collection? Of the over 40 artists in the collection, how many are Indian Guyanese? We have ten fingers. How many would we need for the count? Of the hundreds of works collected, what percentage are works by Indian Guyanese artists? As much as five per cent.

And how many of the Indian artistsí work in the collection have been acquired because they won awards and Castellani House was obliged to acquire them? Anyone who follows the exhibitions mounted at Castellani House must wonder at the absence of an Indian artistic presence in the life of this supposed national art gallery.

The marginalisation of Indian artists that went on during the PNC dictatorship continues today under the PPP/C government. They were marginalized before the PNC dictatorship because an Afro and Eurocentric middle-class alliance blocked Indian progress in every field. This alliance came apart during the PNC regime when many, including de Caires, became disgusted by Burn-hamís corrupt and illegal rule and joined forces against it. However, the Afro/Eurocentric alliance has reassembled. A coterie of this alliance has taken control of the cultural life of Guyana and freely expresses its biased views within the pages of Stabroek News. They make the decisions as to who is in and who is out, and since they support the view that Indians must adapt to the Afro/European Creole culture to be accepted, it leaves the majority of Indian Guyanese outside and in the cold.

The PPP/C government cannot even fool itself that it has political power in Guyana and this is why it is unable to act and redress the discrimination against Indian artists (and Indian professionals in general). These artists did not wish to be identified with the Burnham regime and either stayed away from the art scene or emigrated. Under the PPP/C government they still have no hope. A collection of Guyanese popular art travelled to Venezuela recently. How many Indian popular artists were selected to go? Answer: none. I repeat: none.

Copies of this letter will be sent, along with a clipping of my previous letter as it appeared in Kaieteur News, to the Head of the Presidential Secretariat Roger Luncheon, PPP/C General Secretary Donald Ramotar, Castellani House Board Chairman Janet Jagan, Head of GINA Prem Misir, and to SN Editor-in-Chief, David de Caires so that he will have a personal copy, in addition to the expurgated one.

Yours faithfully,

Bhim Dinanath

Editorís note:

The editorial of May l0 was not about Castellani House, but about cultural institutions in general. Its main focus was the National Library and the archives, and Castellani House was mentioned briefly only once.

There was no nexus between the editorial and Mr Dinanauthís letter which appeared in the same edition.