Eddy Grant: a sensitivity to Guyana's wooden heritage
March 7, 2004
As Georgetown's traditional wooden buildings continue to disappear from the landscape to be replaced by concrete structures, singer Eddy Grant thinks we should be making more effort to preserve our material heritage.
Speaking to Sunday Stabroek at his home last week, Grant said that he was interested in the preservation of interesting buildings from the past, because they formed a significant part of our history, and have become part of our culture.
"To destroy them [older wooden edifices] does not remove the distaste of our past," he said. "... We've paid the price for them as a nation... and so therefore they form a part of our cultural past."
Grant observed that having a large body of beautiful, old, wooden buildings opened up possibilities for tourism: "Someone... would want to come to Guyana, to see and photograph [them] and be in the presence of their magnificence."
Grant thinks that there should be an active National Trust, and voiced his doubts about whether the one we had was vigorous enough, because he had seen "the destruction of many [older] buildings in the recent past, and if they are not careful they soon will all be gone with no legacy for our children and their children."
Eddy Grant Building currently occupied by Caricom.
He said that we seemed set on following in the footsteps of those who believed that concrete was the way to go, while not paying any attention to the cost of going in that direction. We do not realize, he said, how much fuel and/or energy these places require just to be clean and comfortable. "We are actually changing the way we live to accommodate other people's taste, fashion and fantasy, to the detriment of any value system that we may have, or have had."
His view was that the government should earmark sufficient funding for the National Trust, as well as a national awareness campaign to sensitize the public to the importance of the material cultural heritage. The destruction of historical wooden buildings was "a very serious case of vulgarity," he said, "because in the sophisticated society which we would like to think that we are, we are promoting all the things that are sent to us by others from abroad whether we like it or not, by way of television and other media. I can understand ending up with a number of old wooden buildings through the encouragement of the English and others who enslaved us and caused us to build, but I can't understand that in a free and democratic dispensation we should feel compelled to mimic that which we didn't either make or create, and that which is seeking to make us uncomfortable."
Grant said that it was an indictment of ourselves as a people and as a nation, that we cannot find the required funds to embark upon a history education process.
The singer has refurbished the Eddy Grant building in Duke street, which is occupied by Caricom, and is currently working on the rehabilitation of another in the same road, which he said at one time had been the Chinese Embassy. Everyone said he should have pulled it down, "but I didn't pull it down, and it is standing proud in Duke street," he told Sunday Stabroek.
Grant said that whenever he has to build, he tries to keep within a certain vernacular, so that the style blends in with what is already there. "I try not to knock anything down that is significant, but if it is too far gone, it is too far gone. I will knock it down, but I still won't put some concrete rubbish on it... I am sensible to what we've got." (Angela Osborne)