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History of East Indians Presence in Guyana March 7, 2017

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Brigadier David Granger

The Indian presence began with the arrival of indentured immigrants in British Guiana on May 5, 1838 primarily to work on the sugar plantations.

The ethnic origins, occupational diversity and large number of Indians were important determinants of their own destiny and the development of the country. Many were recruited from the heavily-populated, Bhojpuri-speaking area that came to be known as the United Provinces − roughly the present-day Uttar Pradesh − and embarked at emigration depot at Calcutta (now Kolkota).
…The majority of immigrants came from the lower agricultural caste (including chamar); artisan caste (kumhar); cultivator caste (kurmi); grazier caste (ahir); landholding caste (thakur), and priestly caste (brahmin). There were also significant numbers of Muslims and outcasts. Owing to the relative shortage of women immigrants in the early days, there was a degree of miscegenation; some men married or cohabited with African women producing children of mixed blood referred to as ‘douglas.’

Indian indentured labourers in the late 19th and early 20th centuries successfully transplanted their skills from their old homes onto their new. In so doing, they not only displayed a high occupational profile in a number of non-plantation economic activities but helped to diversify the economy of this country.

Others, through thrift, were able to buy freehold land on their own when they left the plantations. As most immigrants had come from agricultural castes, they were able to embark on rice and coconut cultivation and animal husbandry on small holdings as independent peasants. By the end of the 19th century, Indians dominated coconut and rice industries and cattle and dairy farming. The food shortage created by the First World War firmly established Indian-grown rice both as a domestic staple and a major export commodity. This was nothing less than the start of an agrarian revolution that transformed both the economy and society.

Religion has always been central to Indian society. According to Tota Mangar, approximately 83 per cent of the immigrants who came were Hindus, about 14 per cent were Muslims and 3 per cent were Christians. Plantation managers and the colonial administration encouraged Indian religion by permitting free time for the celebration of some festivals such as Holi, and by providing building materials for the construction of mandirs for the Hindus, and masjids for the Muslims.

Indians have left a rich legacy of art, dance, literature and music. Traditional cuisine – the perennially popular curry, puri, roti, bara, kheer – and other vegetable dishes, are widely consumed. Festivals, including the colourful Holi, Diwali, Youman Nabi and Eid-ul-Fitr are today national holidays. Traditional Indian wear – the shalwar, sari, kurta – though no longer everyday wear, have remained very popular especially at festivals, weddings and religious ceremonies. The contributions to sport, especially in the present day feats of Shivnarine Chanderpaul and Ramnaresh Sarwan, have become national legends.

The descendants of indentured Indian immigrants and settlers who came to British Guiana between 1838 and 1928 constitute the largest group in the population. Today, they play essential roles in the economic, political and cultural life of the country.

Small scale farming picking up in Guyana October 13, 2016


How Portugues got to Guyana and the Caribbean April 6, 2015

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Portuguese [Madeira] Migration to Caribbean and Guyana

Happy day? Don’t know – What do you think? May 6, 2013

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Speech at the Guyana Convention Centre on the 175th anniversary of Indians in Guyana
Eric M. Phillips Jr.

Chairman Sase Sankar; Dr. Frank Anthony, Minister of Culture, Youth and Sport; Mr. Puran Mal Meena, High Commissioner of India; Dr. Yesu Persaud, Chairman of The Indian Commemoration Trust; Mr. Ashook Ramsaran, President of GOPIO; Member of Parliament Kemraj Ramjattan; Members of the Head Table, Distinguished Guests and especially our Distinguished Visitors from Overseas; Ladies and Gentlemen, Students of the University of Guyana; Members of the Media, Guyanese All.

It is indeed a great privilege to speak here today, and to be associated with the remarkable undertaking of the Indian Commemoration Trust and GOPIO, the Global Organization of People of Indian Origin, to celebrate 175 years of the arrival of Indians in Guyana.
I have been asked to speak as a Guyanese of African origin and that privilege carries a humbling responsibility. So I thank Dr. Yesu Persaud and his Team not only for inviting me here, but for the outstanding example of Leadership which they are supplying to a Nation that is suffering an epic famine in Leadership and Self-love.
This year, we celebrate the 175th anniversary of the arrival of Indians in Guyana, the 175 anniversary of Emancipation of Captured Africans, the 169th anniversary of the Portuguese in Guyana, and the 160th anniversary of the arrival of Chinese in Guyana.
Anniversaries allow us to reflect on our Guyanese ness………… well as our ethnic and cultural ness.
I have been asked to speak about the suffering of Africans during slavery and their contributions thereof.
History has recorded how they contributed their lives, families, dignity, names, land, blood etc. etc. but history has hidden the larger sacrifices they made even before they even got here.
Although the horror of slavery is well documented, it is not taught in our schools. So Emancipation Day is seen as a holiday in Guyana not as sacred day of remembrance, and African Holocaust Day on 12 October is ignored although Guyanese wear poppies for a few hundred dead on November 11….but not for the millions who perished during slavery.
Slavery annihilated Africa, African culture, African family structures, African institutions, African commerce, African growth, African history, African Pride and African economic development.

Slavery stole Africa’s light and replaced it with darkness. Those whose inhumanity and moral degeneracy benefitted from this earthy purgatory called slavery, called Africa the “Dark Continent”. This perhaps as they tried to purge their guilty conscience which would have made them be known for what they were…. “Evil incarnate”.

The enslavement of Africans, beginning with the Arab Slave Trade which lasted for 11 centuries from 650 AD to 1900 AD, was the first “nuclear bomb” the World has ever experienced. Although much has been written about the European Slave Trade and the Middle Passage, quite amazingly, the Arab Slave Trade, although it began almost 1000 years before the European Slave Trade and continued for almost a century after the abolition of the European Slave Trade, is hidden from Public domain, especially in the West and definitely in the Middle East.
The main difference between the Arab Slave Trade and the European Slave Trade was in their intent.
The Arab Slave Trade centered on sexual pleasure and hence the majority of slaves were women and children. The European Slave Trade centered on labor and hence the majority was young men. The Arab Slave Trade took away African women, the source of African procreation.
There seems to be a great conspiratorial silence centered on how many Africans were taken in either the Arab Slave Trade or the European Slave Trade. Estimates of 8-25 million are used for the Arab Slave Trade and 10-16 million for the European Slave Trade.
The plain truth is that slavery was a 1200 year Arab criminal enterprise that occurred between 650 and 1900 AD and this holocaust was followed by another holocaust , the 400 year criminal European enterprise that occurred between 1441 and 1888 AD.
The numbers of this “greatest crime of mass murder and destruction” are incredible. So incredible is it that the World has used millions of words to hide this unique horror and evil.
Let us forget the intellectuals, racists and apologists who want to mask the truth about this” heinous crime for profit”. In his article “ The way I see it-“The Missing 100+ million”, Jack Crawford provided the following information from the World Almanac in the area of World population (1990 Edition page 539).


Global Eyes Magazine November 12, 2012

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Check out this article September 17, 2012

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Guyanese Playwright May 5, 2012

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Jennifer Thomas: one thousand times an artist By Jairo Rodrigues
Mariatha Causway also known as Jennifer Thomas has been immersed in drama from as far back as she can remember. As the last of seven siblings, she would often be ignored, so she would simply act to capture the attention she desired. She recalls, “As simple as saying my ABCs had to be dramatized.” It’s no wonder then that Jennifer’s life is now centred around theatre. She is the Manager of the Theatre Guild of Guyana which is a job she thoroughly enjoys. “It is fun being here. I get to meet a lot of people, and I get to share my talent with a lot of young aspiring actors and actresses. Each day I’m here I learn more about the arts,” she says Her earliest memories of the theatre come from her mother – a great lover of the arts. She has always been motivated by her family, as she puts it “they believed in my talent and have always supported me”. It was her sister who took her to see an Indian film where she developed the love and passion for drama and theatre; automatically she knew that this was something that she definitely wanted to do. At home and at school, Jennifer was surrounded by drama. She was a member of the Drama Clubs at both St Winifred’s Primary and North Ruimveldt Multilateral. Mariatha Causway also known as Jennifer Thomas Jennifer was strongly influenced also by Indian actors and films, because of her cinema going as a child. “I love the way Hema Melini captured her audience and kept them for hours. Her range of expressing emotion is unmatchable as an actress and I knew [back then] that was what I wanted to do with an audience someday,” she says. Other influences include her eldest sister, who she thinks is a down-to-earth person; Margaret Lawrence, who she describes as the most humble actress she knows; and Desiree Edghill who is “a very expressive drama queen”. Jennifer has a deep connection to God; she says she believes God created her especially to do this. Asked what she would do to promote the dramatic and theatrical arts in Guyana, she points out, “Guyanese need to be more appreciative of our art form. We must recognise that our people of the arts are unique and talented and are among the best in the world. Only when we do so will we be able to compete on an international stage.” She describes acting as “a make believe world with a lot of realness. We express and have fun with a lot of emotions yet our love is genuine. The theatre arts require concentration, love and respect for one another because we are responsible for each other. “Being an actress is one of the most fun things in the world to do. I get not to be me for hours. I get to be someone else. I get to live their life, to think like them to walk like them to have fun the way they have fun. It’s a hard fun job. It requires concentration, observation and a lot of personal time.” Jennifer says her most accomplished piece of work was portraying the character Jewel in the play Ecstasy (1995) directed by Ron Robinson. She says it was very fulfilling doing this role and that the character came from an ordinary woman and made her into an extraordinary woman. “This characterisation has always stayed with me and has always kept me focused and striving for excellence as a woman,” she notes. Lavonne George and Fitzroy Tyrrell were her supporting actors and Ajay Baksh her leading man. Her most memorable accreditations were in 1992 when she won Best Supporting Actress at the Theatre Annual Awards for the role Suzanna of Canaan in the play The Vigil and in 1996 when she won Best Actress for the role Jewel in the play Ecstasy. “It was great receiving those two awards because I was nominated alongside legendary actresses and it showed that my portrayal of my characters were being recognised and appreciated by my colleagues,” she recalls. Both directors, Ronald Hollingsworth (The Vigil) and Ron Robinson (Ecstasy) pushed her beyond her boundaries and then expected more from her. “Many days it was all about blood sweat and tears. But in the end my colleagues, my directors, myself and the audience I’m sure were happy with the results.” And she has the awards to prove that her efforts were worthwhile. “I remember at both awards ceremonies, my heart beating like a drum and when my name was called as the winner everything stopped and the world went quiet for a moment. Both were great experiences.” Most people know Jennifer the actress, a few know Jennifer the playwright. Fewer still, know Jennifer the poet. “Being a poet is a part of me I was reluctant to share with the world for some strange reason,” she says. “For me, it was private because it’s my thoughts. Only very close friends and family knew of it until recently. It’s the quiet side of me and writing is something I enjoy.” She adds that the ability to write poems comes from loving nature and wanting to capture it in words. “Being very observant gives me the opportunity to use all my senses and so I write as I feel, see, taste, smell and touch.” Jennifer became a playwright after challenging herself to write plays. She has always been captivated by the works of characters and how words can build their personalities. “I read many scripts as an actress and have always been fascinated by plots, themes, development, construction, conflicts, resolution emotions and the different characters used to tell a story.” She has written about six plays. Front Yard, recently staged at the National Cultural Centre was the first one she was willing to share with others. Asked about yet another persona, Jennifer the model, she answers: “This started from high school days but I never followed it up, simply because of the posture and the steps. I am not good with remembering how to place my leg or arm. I just wanted to be free. Until I met Sonia Noel, who is a close friend now and has always encouraged me to have fun with it.” Jennifer has modelled some of the outfits in Sonia’s latest collection. Jennifer spent her childhood days in Campbellville before moving to D’Urban Street, Lodge then to D’Urban Street, Wortmanville. She did not grow up in a rich family, but she notes happily that she lived comfortably and by no means were they poor. She feels especially close to her brothers since they practically raised her because of her single mother’s work schedule. Nevertheless, she considers her family very close. Her current family life is centred on her adoring and loving children. She is a divorced mother with twin boys aged nineteen and a baby girl aged seven. Her hobbies and social life involve spending time with her family and children, going for long walks, swimming and of course writing. “It must be mentioned that I have two sides and even though I am not a clubber I love going out and having fun with my friends.” Jennifer plans to continue writing plays on relevant topics especially domestic violence, poems and novels. She is also planning on writing and directing films. “It is my dream to direct a movie alongside Steven Spielberg,” she adds. “The arts is my life, my passion, my dreams. Here is where I wish to be always. If I am to live a thousand lives I always want to be an artist; always,” she says.