Mashramani is an amalgam of cultural fragments
February 27, 2004
Mashramani is the unadulterated representation of Guyanese cultural hybridity at its most delectable. The ultimate pan-Guyanese festival; it is an amalgam of Indian, African, Chinese, Amerindian and Portuguese cultural fragments; and much more- the global cultural flows, especially from the Trinidad and Rio carnivals.
Today we live in a world where the global mosaic of distinct cultures are leaking, merging and penetrating others. Cultures are today becoming unrooted and unmoored from familiar and particular places as items or fragments from their original repertoire of meanings. They increasingly break free and form the global flows through agents such as tourists, migrants and diasporas. I suspect we in Guyana have experienced this process long before the advent of the current phase of globalization.
As a country of six ethnic groups, with a history of co-mingling and cultural interfacing, it is virtually impossible for any ethnic group to exist in a state of absolute disconnected contiguity. Ease of travel and communication has made the much quested goal of cultural isolation and cultural purity highly risible and ridiculous. Cultural hybridization, as expressed by the Mashramani celebrations, has always been subjected to criticism, moreso by those who problematize ethnic hybridity, and who almost in King Canute fashion continue to resist incoming global cultural flows for fear of permanent subordination to hegemonic cultural domination. Not even the seclusionary comfort of the remote caves of Afghanistan can foster the ideal of cultural purity.
Mashramani has not only facilitated cultural hybridization but has seamlessly interwoven tradition, modernity and post modernity with a unique Guyanese flavour.
In conclusion, I must record that the Mashramani ideal has been critical in providing the basis for the Guyanese national identity during the modernization process and I feel that its continuing survival helps that process despite the juxtaposition alongside globalization and post-modern relativism.