Editorial Volume 10 Numbers 1 and 2  (2014-15)

Cover Image Volume 10

The tenth Volume of The Arts Journal is a significant milestone in the work that the Journal has set itself. The objective of the Journal remains the critical examination of neglected aspects of the written literatures, histories, oral traditions, the visual cultures and cultural expressions of the region. The appeal of the Journal continues to be its accessible language.

The Arts Journal has raised consciousness in Guyana and the Caribbean region and, indeed, in the Diaspora, of an additional avenue for publishing scholarly work and for offering more analytical perspectives that deepen our understanding of who we are and our place in the world.

Over the years The Arts Journal has issued volumes that mark significant events in our history: the 1st Issue (2004) is an attempt to document Indian-Guyanese visual artists whose works were neglected in mainstream art commentary and hardly existed in the national consciousness. The 4th issue (2006) explores Caribbean cultural identity through creative writing, memoir and criticism. In 2007, a double issue celebrates the Bicentenary of the Abolition of the Trade in captured Africans. In 2008, a double issue is devoted to the experiences of (East) Indians in our midst, and their creative and traditional arts one hundred and seventy years after they first began to arrive in British Guiana indentured to British sugar plantations. In 2012, a double issue is dedicated to the indigenous peoples of Guiana and the Caribbean region, their arts and cultural traditions. It seems fitting that this tenth Volume that coincides with the 50th anniversary of Guyana’s independence should continue its quest into the question of identity and belonging begun in previous issues.

The Arts Journal has made a conscious decision to focus on creative efforts, particularly from new writers, and in Volume 10, eight short stories, four of which are from first-time writers, have been accepted for this issue. Two short stories are from Stephanie Bowry, and one each from Pauline Lachman and Cyril Dabydeen; the last two mentioned writers have had their works published in various Journals. Lachman’s “Guanzhou Mud” is the story of a young Chinese entrepreneur living in Toronto who travels to China in the hope of acquiring knowledge to perfect cultural artefacts in order to attract customers and enrich himself. In China he has a rude awakening. Cyril Dabydeen’s “Forgive us our Sins” tells of a group of immigrants gathered to bid farewell to a colleague but not without memories of the land and lives they left invading their consciousness. Stephanie Bowry has published three volumes of wonderfully witty stories, many of them based on colonial life and titled True True Stories Volumes 1, 2 and 3. Bowry has another collection of short stories in press, titled Lilawattie and Other Stories, with more riveting tales of life in coastal Guyana. Her two short stories, “Don pass Fifteen” and “Bachoo in the House”, featured in this issue are reminiscent of the lived life.

Subraj Singh whose two short stories, “The Boy who Loved Neesa Gopaul”, and “Shame” are carried here, has won the Guyana Prize for Literature (2014) for his first collection of short stories titled Rebelle and other Stories.  Mariam Pirbhai’s “Outside People” is a creative rendition of a visit to an orphanage. Daizal Samad’s “The Sour of Tamarind” is a poignant tale of an adolescent schoolgirl who allows herself to be misled and the choices open to her after she realizes her mistake. Nazreen Kadir’s “Shooting the Pig” is an absorbing story of a young man from a rural village who is caught between the ways of village, town life, and the pull of England where a part of his family has preceded him.

Valerie Coddett states, “Living with the Masters is a story that takes place in the world of art and reflects the interaction between me and works of art I have encountered. The paintings and I have been living in overcrowded rooms for many years”. Coddett offers readers a glimpse of selected paintings from her collection – by artists from Haiti, Ghana, Guyana, and Cuba – with a subjective but fascinating commentary on each work and the impact these works of visual art have on her consciousness.

Professor Victor Ramraj’s article, “Literature without Borders: Perspectives on Historical and Cultural Particularities”, presented in 1995 and published in 2001, has been reissued in this volume as a Tribute to a friend and colleague who passed away last year. It is a timeless and fascinating compendium of views on notions of difference and affinities as well as on the struggle for identity and selfhood explored in post-colonial and post-modern theories of which Ramraj was a foremost exponent.

“Seepersad & Sons: Naipaulian Creative Synergies” is the title of a Conference (Trinidad – October 2015) hosted by the Friends of Biswas. It represents the first attempt anywhere to explore the connections in the writings of three important Trinidadian writers: Seepersad and his two sons, Vidya and Shiva, who collectively have given the world an impressive body of literary works. In his Keynote Address to the Conference, Emeritus Professor Kenneth Ramchand makes the point that Seepersad Naipaul was the first person of Indian origin in Trinidad to work as a journalist on what used to be called a mainstream newspaper. He began writing for the Trinidad Guardian in 1929 and meanwhile transitioned to short stories, poems and cultural criticism in addition to hard news.

In “The Shaping of the Indo-Caribbean People: Guyana and Trinidad to the 1940s” Emeritus Professor Clem Seecharan’s meticulously traces the economic, cultural and political progress of the East Indian in the West Indies and his ties with India.
Professor Daizal Samad and Shazeena Seetayah offer a perceptive critical analysis of Wilson Harris’s earliest novel Palace of the Peacock which reveals Harris striving through art, “urgently and vitally towards a sense of home, of authentic community”— an authentic voice for the fragmented peoples who comprise West Indian society.

This volume features three poems by artist and poet Carl Hazlewood that are sure to startle and please readers.

Dr. Paloma Mohamed offers a perceptive review of Professor Vibert Cambridge’s study, Musical Life in Guyana: History and Politics of Controlling Creativity in which Cambridge begins groundbreaking work into neglected aspects of the musical life of the diverse peoples who populate Guyana.

Professor Frank Birbalsingh reviews Jan Shinebourne’s fourth novel, The Last Ship, an instructive study of Chinese experience in Guyana, their concerns over creolization and the issue of cultural authenticity of immigrants to this land, their children and grandchildren, their alienation and disillusion at a certain juncture of our history. This novel was shortlisted in the Guyana Prize for Literature, Best Book of Fiction category, for 2014.

The release of this 10th Volume of The Arts Journal coincides with the 50th anniversary of Guyana independence but the political morass of the last 50 years seems to have stagnated intellectual development. This Journal is perhaps a reminder that no democracy can survive without critical examination of its cultural past, whether such raw material come to us in the form of subversive fiction, objective history, oral traditions, visual images, through music, song or dance, through film or another art form.  

Ameena Gafoor

Table of Contents

The Boy Who Loved Neesa Gopaul
Subraj Singh

Outside People
Mariam Pirbhai

Don Pass Fifteen
Stephanie Bowry

Forgive Us Our Sins
Cyril Dabydeen

Guangzhou Mud
Pauline Lachman

Subraj Singh

Bachoo In The House
Stephanie Bowry

The Sour of Tamarind
Professor Daizal R. Samad

Shooting The Pig
Nazreen Kadir

Living With The Masters
Valerie Codde

Literature without Borders:
Perspectives on Historical and Cultural Particularities
Professor Victor Ramraj

Carl Hazlewood. Poem: Tabula Rasa

Seepersad & Sons:
Naipaulian Creative Synergies
Emeritus Professor Kenneth Ramchand

Carl Hazlewood. Poem: The Third Warm Day of Spring

The Shaping Of The Indo-Caribbean People: Guyana and Trinidad to the 1940s
Emeritus Professor Clem Seecharan

Carl Hazlewood. Poem: Pour and Pool

Painting on A Torn Canvas: Reaching for Ethnic Harmony in Wilson Harris’s Palace of the Peacock
Professor Daizal Samad and Shazeena Seetayah

Musical Life in Guyana: History and Politics Controlling Creativity
Dr. Paloma Mohamed

The Last Ship
Emeritus Professor Frank Birbalsingh