Editorial on culture was propaganda
Stabroek News
May 19, 2002

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Dear Editor,

The Stabroek News editorial of Friday, 10 May, entitled 'Cultural Institutions,' is an astonishing piece of propaganda.

You claim that the previous Archives Committee "had some remarkable achievements to its credit, and against all the odds, had managed to make commendable improvements." Whatever those remarkable achievements and commendable improvements are, are you suggesting that the present Archives Committee has made no progress since some of their predecessors abruptly departed from the committee?

It is a well-known fact that a few members of the Archives Committee hastily resigned about two years ago because the government would not allow the National Archives to be made into an autonomous body under the control of a few private citizens and possibly coming under the supervision of the Office of the President as is the case with the Castellani Gallery.

The fact is that the National Archives is national patrimony and must remain under the aegis of the Ministry of Culture. It is not the fiefdom of a few private and elite board members. The danger with such an arrangement is that such a board becomes dictatorial and treats the public scornfully, as is the case with the Castellani Gallery.

This small group of ex-board members claim that they have the potential to raise funds for a new archives building. If they really have the country at heart they would go ahead and secure the funds. It should not matter whether or not they own or control the archives exclusively. They are not the only persons who have a vested interest in the archival holdings.

In the case of the Castellani gallery, far from being the success story it is touted to be, it is a complete tragedy of national dimensions. Firstly, the gallery was wrenched away from the Ministry of Culture and placed under the Office of the President for some obscure reason that no member of the public can quite understand. Such is the clout enjoyed by the board but this is an anomaly that needs to be corrected urgently.

Numerous pieces of the people's art are lying in dusty moth-ridden cupboards.

The curator is mandated to catalogue the nation's collection, but this task remains unfinished.

There is no schedule put out by the gallery of its activities for the year.

This is standard in all countries. The national collection should be displayed all year round in rotation so that in twelve months Guyanese art lovers, students, and visitors would be able to see the entire collection.

International Women's Day has come and gone and the works of Guyanese women artists were not displayed. Indian Immigration Day has come and gone and the works of East Indian artists have not been displayed at the gallery. Republic Day has come and gone, Mashramani has come and gone. This is the danger of having a little dictatorial committee in charge of the nation's patrimony.

I hope you would not suppress or expurgate this letter. You have given one side of the picture and the public deserves a fair hearing. Certain persons have unlimited access to the SN editorials and often use them to peddle their jaundiced views.

Yours faithfully,

Arthur Duncan