Guyana – the book
Preserving our literary heritage
By Petamber Persaud
August 27, 2006
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Simply labelled, GUYANA presents a tabula rasa, a clean slate, no marketing gimmicks, no adulterating adjectives, no subtitles like those used on other books in the ‘Nations’ series like ‘Anguilla, tranquillity wrapped in blue’, ‘Barbados, just beyond your imagination’, and ‘Trinidad and Tobago, terrific and tranquil’. Adjectives may spoil the perception, the drama and the adventure. And GUYANA is an experience.
But traditional notions are not disregarded. There is the evolving mystique of El Dorado, the city of gold, first recorded by Walter Raleigh in his book, THE DISCOVERIE OF THE LARGE, RICH AND BEAUWTIFUL EMPYRE OF GUIANA, 1596, which is the first published book on this country. Also there is the ‘land of many waters’ with about 1,515 named rivers, 1,613 named creeks, 18 lakes and 275 waterfalls. And the country’s greatest marketing image, the mighty Kaieteur Falls. All those notions are saying, ‘If you drink creek water and eat labba, you’ll always come back to Guyana’.
From its opening pages, you are invited to experience Guyana and/or continue the adventure into a vibrant and emerging nation. Well-researched and well-written articles illustrated by almost 400 imposing photographs give an overall picture of the complex history and colourful culture of this country with separate authoritative pieces on each ethnic group. Herein the folklore of the country will blow your mind and play tricks on your imagination. This section of the book is buttressed with at-a-glance sheets of facts and figures and significant events in the history of Guyana.
The next apparent section deals with music, art, the development of Guyanese literature, the rising tide of sports developments, the architecture of Guyana, healthcare, Iwokrama – the green heart of Guyana, and underlining all of these is the tourism story of the country. Herein you will find the exploits of our musician like the effervescent Eddie Grant, our boxers bringing glory to this ‘great land of Guyana’ in the form of four world titles in recent years, and our world renown cricketers like Rohan Kanhai, Clive Lloyd and others. Iwokrama, Guyana’s gift to the world plays ‘host to a global, ten-year-old experiment in sustainable rainforest development’.
Section three deals with the economy and investment, finding the gold of El Dorado, exploring the wealth of natural treasures, agriculture – the backbone of the country, education, mass media and underlining all of these interesting issues is defence, national security and public safety. Invest your time reading this slice of GUYANA and be rewarded beyond your imagination.
And a master’s touch is the final section that gives synopses of GUYANA in French, German, Portuguese and Spanish….
The master is Guyana-born, UK-based editor and publisher, Arif Ali, who founded the Hansib Publications Ltd, UK, in 1970, a publishing house that has become ‘a movement’ for Britain’s visible minority communities. Since the 1980s, Hansib has published more than two hundred books and specialist titles. GUYANA is about the 14th in the ‘Nation’ series of books – a perfection of Ali’s craft and a touch of pride.
So for the first time we have one book that bares it all; GUYANA paints ‘no rosy picture, but true reflection of Guyana’.
And that’s the way it ought to be – it came to fruition through Arif Ali, a man who has great affection for the land of his birth, who had wanted to be prime minister of his country, who has over 35 years in book publishing and who is a shrew businessman. Further, GUYANA was more than ten years on the drawing board. Cheddi Jagan when he was president of Guyana (1992 – 1997) invited Ali to produce a book to ‘show off’ the country. And Jagan knew the value of literature, he knew the value of a country’s literary heritage; he was a prolific writer and produced one of the most well known books about this country, THE WEST ON TRIAL, also published by Hansib that in 1988 produced 12 Guyanese titles to mark the 150th anniversary of the arrival of Indians from India to Guyana.
At the time the idea of a book to ‘show off’ Guyana was mooted, the climate was not right but Guyana was ‘coming back’ – in the words of Dave Martins. And as Guyana approached its 40th anniversary as an independent nation, things started to fall into place for the country to have its first official book showcasing the country; there was full support of the government and formidable support from more than forty Guyanese businesses and organisations. At the time of launch, 7,000 copies of the initial 10, 000 printed have been sold even though a copy fetches a hefty price of US$45.
GUYANA was launched on July 7, 2006, one year to the date after going into production.
GUYANA is one of the better things to happen to this country…and to you and you and you.