Monday, August 22, 2005

Sunday haze

Sitting in the verandah with me cup o’ green tea, reading newspapers. Lazy Sunday, yesterday mornin’, no breeze, no bees. No news either. A haze settle on me brain, nothing new to do, nothing in the nothing-ness, the day gon drift into another daze.

Then I suddenly remember, got to call Ameena Gafoor, editor of The Arts Journal.

[Incidentally, the second issue selling really well, here and overseas. And another "incidentally" for the Guyanese who want to email me: The Arts Journal is a non-profit venture].

Drag me tail into the living room and phone.

We talk about art, and we discuss and cuss the lack of it in we society.

"I meet M. the other day," I say. "She in theatre, no? And I tell she we have a shortage o' creativity, we just not bubbling. I don’t see a sharing o' thoughts and ideas. I don't see newness and openess. I think she get huffy."

Then I hop on me soapbox about getting people here involved in art...

...and I grumble how the only 'art' so-called educated folks understand is duck curry competition.

"I don’t think they appreciate the role of art in this society, and the need for intellectual thought, and vision. And how ordinary Guyanese hungry for it, how they hungry."

Ameena say. "The venue is also important. The art gallery is so inaccessible for the ordinary people. To them, you have to dress a certain way to enter the gallery, and you have to be from a certain well-to-do group in society, financial and education-wise. Remember that East Indian art exhibition The Arts Forum held in 2003?"

"Yes, in the new wing o' the National Library."

"Girl, I was so happy with the impact it had," Ameena say, "If you see the kind o' people who come to view it. Working people, market vendors. Women and children from the countryside. People walking in off the streets, in they flip-flop slippers. I was there every day to oversee the exhibition, and people come up, and talk to me, they were so delighted."

Ameena say, "One lady from the countryside, she tell me, 'I hear about this thing, this art exhibition, and I say, lemme come see is what. I never see art before.' Girl, when she told me that, tears came to my eyes."


DCveR said...

"I don’t think they understand the role of art in this society, and the need for intellectual thought, and vision,"

Maybe. But the image of children making metal toys out of soda cans popped into my mind. And of old men carving elephants and giraffes out of pieces of wood. Women singing millennar songs.

Maybe your concept of art is far above theirs, far more abstract in a way. But I can't believe they have no 'art'. Maybe picking up from what they have makes it easier to get them involved in other art forms.
I'm not talking from my own experience here but from what missionary friends tell me on their experience.
No I don't like people who evangelize, but at the same time some of my friends do it, it happens.

Guyana-Gyal said...

Dcver, the country isn’t completely devoid of creative expression, it does exist at the “grass roots” level, and we do have artists, writers living a hidden away, low-keyed sort of life.

BUT “grass roots” expression is certainly not enough to sustain the intellectual growth of a nation. We might be 3rd world, but I do think we can / should want more too. Why not?

There IS a dearth [shortage] of intellectual, creative expression due to the MAJOR brain drain this country has been suffering from since the 60's.

I am speaking of a shortage of people being original in many ways. We copy, then we do the same things, over and over. Even M, the lady in theatre was complaining about the actors and writers and their lack of skills.

I've lived elsewhere, and I've seen what poor folks are capable of, creative-wise, intellectual-wise, and I know it doesn't happen much here.

I think poor people deserve to be educated too. And should want more than just rum and hammocks.

Guyana-Gyal said...

And Dcver...thank you for sharing your make me think, work my brain. That's good :-)

kfumama said...

"Seek knowledge from cradle to grave" said a prophet...
it doesnt matter how you learn something, or what you are learning, art is, language, dance, designing, cooking, writing, just to name a few...all forms of art. Unfortunately, a lot of the Guyanese folks think that art is a piece of paper and some color on it...hopefully with Ameena G and her Journals the people will come to know and learn more....Hurrah for folks like her..

DCveR said...

Agree, but you'll have to build from the 'grass roots', otherwise you'll be building a castle on thin air.
As for education, I'm with you too. We all can always benefict from learning.

Oh, and Kung Fu Mama? You are absolutely right!

piu piu said...

the city i live in has about 3 or 4 galleries. 2 are run by artists, one is a major international space that p works for. although its not enough for me, its a good mix. the international provides the ideas and context (again a grumble for me...but for a non art city its great)- for example the blacksploitation season starting in a couple of months is partly designed to get the african sector of the city into the gallery. The artist run spces are trying to get new artsts to show work, and to encourage the artists in the city to try keep working within it.

i think really, to encourage a hunger and innovation, guyana probably needs to invite overseas artists to participate in not only large accessible shows that are curated with an agenda in mind, but also an active educational programme alongside those shows- for example u might have a show about the influence of western pop culture on contemporary art, and include a performance artists like the british artist lali chetwynd who has made funny work about jabba the hut, and invite a load of schoolkids into the gallery for a day of making paper mache jabba the hut and making little performances.

its all about making it accessible, and inviting society to take an active involvement...and then they leave and hopefully an idea will start germinating about what art is and how it can be explored in a guyanese context

piu piu said...

ps. thats really cool what that woman said to u gg about never seeing art before

also- i guess its about getting the guyanese artists to work alongside international artists and ally themselves with them, to push their own practice

i dont think it would be hard to get international artists over to guyana to work. u wouldnt have to pay them. just off free food and board, and somewhere to work for a while.

JAMATECH said...

It is a natural expression of the people. Sometimes for rejoicing in life, but usually to lament the suffering.

Third World? Nah. First people.
One World.
My Jamaican friend abhors the term "Third World". I have to agree. It condescends.

Expression of life. Of Death.
Celebration of Joy.
Lament of Suffering.

Where can I find Guyanese Art online? Is the Journal electronic too?

DCveR said...

jamatech: Loved that first people expression!

Guyana-Gyal said...

Kungfu mama, yes, art is everywhere, in lil pockets, but people ain’t discussing, they ain’t sharing knowledge, or ideas, and that is my grumble.

Girl, the Guyana you and Twine and left behind is not the same. Rum / drug / going to Abroad is ‘it’ now.

Yyyyes...get people learning, discussing...that’s what Ameena wants to do.

Dcver, I’m, not too sure I understand: “you'll have to build from the 'grass roots', otherwise you'll be building a castle on thin air.” I don’t expect ‘grass roots’ people to be intellectuals.

But I expect the creative people here to be more active, get discussions going, be more vibrant, alive. Here’s an example of apathy: for almost 2 decades now the people in the theatre world can’t even repair the Theatre Guild...pettiness, bickering, jealousies...

Piu, I love your suggestions xx. It is very exciting!!! I will talk with Ameena, she’s not the curator of our one and only national art gallery, but I’m sure there can be other ways to get your suggestions going.

Hm, I wonder if the curator herself would be interested. I wonder if Caricom would assist. I'm all revved up.

Jama, weellll, the One World concept is great. But we are 3rd world, whether we like it or not. I believe in going ‘within’, examining what we are, not glossing over the truths...see the symptoms, examine the illness, face it for what it is, then find solutions.

I think a book that examines our inability to do this is Guerrillas by
V S Naipaul.

I’ll suss out some Guyana art and let you know. Some time this week. In the meantime, click on the link, The Art Journal, in this post, and it will take you there.

Ahhh, thank you all for the discussion. If you have more, bring it, bring it.

piu piu said...

check the above link for ideas on international residencies and what is offered generally, and also try this-

piu piu x

ps u can email me if u want to ask anything else

DCveR said...

What I meant was:
if you want to educate people you can't just 'throw' art at them. Although taking a Guyanese to the Louvre will surely cause a big impression it will most probably do the opposite of what you want, it will probably send the message of something too far, something unreachable. On the other hand, by enhancing their skills, by getting people to look to the creative 'pockets' that already exist, getting people to value what they already do, getting them to share you can achieve a lot more. The issue is to get people involved by showing them the gallery is not very different from their traditional art. If people can relate to what they see they will get more involved, this relation is easier if based on their own skills and crafts.
Otherwise, the thin air bit, you will be trying to teach concepts that will seem vague, distant and most surely irrelevant to them.
In the suburbian town where I live elderly citizens are learning how to paint, this brought some 'unexpected' results (unexpected to some at least): the galleries nearby started having more costumers. People got a new interest by learning how to do it.
In Moçambique some friends got things working in a different way: they started displaying traditional crafts in a gallery, people who knew the craftsmen started going in there and after some time going inside the gallery was something common, as was listening to lectures there.

DCveR said...

ooops got a bit carried away, sorry

Guyana-Gyal said...

Haha, get carried away, Dcver, I like to hear other people's thoughts. If they're restrained, then I don't hear.

My grouse isn't about how to educate...I've been in the media for years, communicating with the less educated. [Was the focus of my uni. degree.]

My quarrel is with the [selfish?] creative people here who are not willing to share knowledge, info, ideas...nothing...

I think you and Ameena Gafoor are on the same wavelength about teaching too...what you've said here, is what she dreams of accomplishing.

Piu, you're a sweetheart. This weekend, that's what I'll be checking out. And I'll definitely be sharing this info. Thank you xx

Ale said...

i just read in the financial times about Paul Heritage, an actor, who moved to Brazil to create this program of art,and theater in the favelas. He basically puts on Shakespear performances and expositions.
(full article)

basically he is trying to bridge the very divided upperclass and lowest class in Rio. and he is using art as the first step...

i think people forget that we are more similar than different, and by seing art (EVEN from a completely unrelated culture or time era) people see these similarities. and its very inspirational, becuause art is timeless just as our deepest hopes and dreams remain the same from generation to generation from country to country.

(sorry to go soft on ya...)

anyway- all that said-- i'd LOVE a rum and a hammock... even JUST a hammock :) -- if evolving means sitting in the office for 14 hours a day than the HECK with evolving ;)

Aunty Marianne said...

Cooking is an art form too. Let's not underestimate the duck curry! (winning recipe please?).

Would there be some way of taking art on tour to the flipflop ladies? All you'd need is a motorbike or some other means of transport, a projector and a laptop or even slides... and some white walls in each place.... this is how I saw my first movie, in Nigeria. (Appropriately enough it was Disney's Jungle Book - not great art, but a great medium.) Could you get volunteers from the universities or co-opt teaching staff to shoehorn it into the arts degrees curriculum? Get the students to survey villagers on reactions and write a dissertation afterwards about, for example, the nature of naive critique?

Twine said...

Guyanese have been starved of any kind of artistic stimulus for several generations. Because of the economic situation, the first priority for people has been a financial one. I compare the opportunities that my children have to what I didn't growing up in Guyana. Here, in the UK, even in the state schools, the kids have so much - school trips, drama, music and sports clubs not to mention all the free museums, libraries etc. (And that's not mentioning all the extra-curricular activities that most parents enroll their children for) Hopefully, in Guyana, those that can afford to, will start a slow artistic revolution in Guyana. At least one woman, Ameena G. has begun...

kfu mama said...

true Twine, thats so true...I do think of that often, how much the boys have. So much to do, see and learn, can make your head spin. I remember how much I wanted to learn to play the piano I was able to get two lessons before someone broke it....and that was at school...and then the thieves came and stole and destroyed the home econ room...the school didnt have any money to replace the that was taken was one after the next...sheesh!!

Its sad, real sad and a shame!

Oh and another thing..Kung fu..its an art too...

Twine said...

An' the ting is, K-F M., is my kids tek it all fo granted - expensive days out, theatre-shows & state-of-the art cinemas. De only ting I ever saw was de Chinese Acrobats that came to Guyana as part of the communist-cultural exchange program. Remember dem cinemas in GT? De latest flim used to be bout 3 yrs old, and de seats ole and rickity and de sound dont wuk properly. Hehe, we was wicked as teenagers in de back of dem cinemas.......

Modern Viking said...

Oops... I was writing a comment yesterday... but I forget to hit the button! Well, I was saying something along the lines of "creativity good, apathy bad." Is it apathy? Is that the problem over there? People just don't care? It's a big problem these days...

zoe said...

cooking, singing, jewelry, sculptures, paintings - are all part of 'art'.

if you want to know what one of my favourite (african) pieces of art is .... is a mouse-trap made out of reeds. i love it because very few europeans know what it is.

brightly coloured bangles, bead necklaces - they are last year's, the year before's and again, this year's - black!

if you want to own a shop to attract tourists/travellers/visitors to your country, then i'm sure that we could all give you advice on what to sell.

sculptures and paintings sell very, very well.

zoe said...

i meant to add: the location of the 'shop' is incredibly important.

Ale said...

OHHH lookat that you got links going on! :)

Guyana-Gyal said...

Ale, thank youuuuu with the links. I'll read that article about the favelas this weekend.

Hey! You can buy a hammock online from the Rupununi Weavers. They would appreciate it, Amerindian women in the hinterlands, weaving glorious hammocks.

Marianne, my dream is to have art festivals with street theatre, food, craft, paintings, sculptures, the works. Yes, I do need to talk to more people.

Zoe, I'm all revved up. I would looove to start that 'shop'. Online. It's something I'm working one. Waiting for Kung Fu Mama.

Mm-hm, yep Viking. Apathy.

Y'know Twine, Kung Fu Mama, when I see what children Abroad have, and what children in poor countries don't have...I get worked up, thinking, what can I do about it, what can I do to help.

Oh...mum says, laughing her head off, to ask you 2 if you remember...