Guyanese art crosses the Essequibo River

Guyana Chronicle
November 28, 2002

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‘Art Crossed the Essequibo’ reportedly screamed the headline carried by El Diario Nacional, one of neighbouring Venezuela’s leading dailies, the day following the opening on September 5 in the Bolivarian Republic, of a 50-piece exhibition showcasing the works of arguably some of Guyana’s foremost artists.

Aptly titled ‘Togetherness in Guyana’, says a release from the local National Art Gallery, Castellani House, the exposition was held at the Anauco Arriba Art Gallery in San Bernadino in the capital, Caracas, and covered a wide range of topics, from representations of Guyanese landscape and nature study; abstract and semi-abstract paintings; to sculptures (both relief and free-standing) the themes of which were either symbolic, political or decorative.

The brainchild of the local Ministry of Foreign Affairs, it comprised the works of a total of 14 artists, among them the renowned Phillip Moore, Desmond Alli, Winslow Craig, Maylene Duncan and Merle Ellis. Also on exhibit was a piece belonging to the Guyana Mission in Caracas and nine others belonging to the collection of Venezuelan diplomat, Mr Leonardo Canizales, who was once stationed in Guyana.

According to the release, not only was the exhibition well received but it also attracted a huge turnout on opening night.

Among those who graced the event with their presence were members of the Venezuelan art community; members of the burgeoning Guyanese community in Caracas; senior officials of the Venezuelan Foreign Ministry; and members of the Venezuelan diplomatic community, including the Barbadian and Jamaican High Commissioners to Venezuela, and the Ambassadors of South Africa, Greece, Holland, Spain, Korea and Honduras.

Perhaps mindful of the longstanding territorial feud between Venezuela and Guyana, and the efforts currently being made by both countries to mend or resolve the dispute and cement closer ties both culturally and politically, Ms Jennifer Tiwari of the Guyana Mission to Caracas, was quoted by journalist, Marian Marval Diaz, as saying in an article titled ‘Guyana Will No Longer Remain Unknown’: “This is one way of strengthening relations; an opportunity for solidifying the friendship between both our countries.”

She goes on to say: “It is possible that many people do not know Guyana, so this exposition will open our language and culture to the continent.”

According to the release, of the 19 artists initially invited by ‘the Gallery’ to participate in the exhibition, only 14 responded.

Two of the lot, namely Duncan and Ellis, were elected by their peers to attend the opening and possibly help with the mounting of the exhibition, which latter task was spearheaded by curator of the National Art Gallery, Ms Elfrieda Bissember in conjunction with her Venezuelan counterpart, Mariavelia Savino, who is Director of Anauco Arriba.

Bissember’s stay in Caracas, and that of the Gallery’s technician who accompanied her, Leon Howard, were partly sponsored by the Venezuelan National Council on Culture (CONAC)

Duncan and Ellis were sponsored by Castellani House and the Guyana Mission in Caracas. The Mission was also instrumental in helping liaise between the Venezuelan Foreign Ministry and its local counterpart.

The pieces have since been returned to Guyana following the conclusion of the exhibition on October 30.

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