By Shania Gonsalves
GEORGETOWN, Guyana, (DPI) – A collaborative effort will be taken by Guyana and Canada to preserve the indigenous people’s culture, language and way of life, minister of Amerindian affairs, Pauline Sukhai, said on Tuesday at the ceremonial unveiling of the indigenous mural, which is titled “We the first people”.
“Guyana and Canada have continued to share strong bilateral relations that are decades old. These relations are built on a foundation of shared principles, policies and traits. Even deeper than these, our country shared a connection based on our indigenous heritage, our respect and our appreciation of our culture…It is through our rich culture and our heritage and our identity that we are connected,” the minister stated at the ceremony held at the Canadian High Commission.
Minister Sukhai added that Guyana will continue to fight for the rights and protection of the Amerindian people as they promote cultural exchanges, languages and their way of life.
“Internationally the first people have made and continue to make an indelible mark on the world…In Guyana we are continuously advocating for the promotion, protection and promulgation of the way of live, cultural heritage and languages of the Amerindian people,” she said.
The minister also said the government will ensure full development and recognition of the importance of the indigenous people’s contributions. “The indigenous culture is an integral part of the tourism sector,” the minister related, as persons travel from across the world to experience this culture.
Minister of tourism, industry and commerce, Oneidge Walrond said the mural is significant as it brings together two Governments in friendship and cooperation as they seek to protect the Amerindian culture, while developing the tourism industry.
“It brings together the governments of Canada and Guyana, as well as our respected indigenous nations in a spirit of friendship, kinship and cooperation… It builds on the many similarities between our countries with their significant indigenous populations and aligns completely with the central place that we see in Guyana for our indigenous peoples and communities in our tourism development strategies,” minister Walrond said.
Minister Walrond explained that the mural will add a voice and visibility to the nations of first people, while also noting president Ali’s promise to invest more in Amerindian communities to address developmental gaps between these communities and others across the country.
“This work of art prominently is placed as it is will add to the voice and visibility of our indigenous peoples. It joins the Umana Yana, and the Guyana Marine turtle monument (which) are intimately connected to the stories of our indigenous nations,” the minister noted.
Meanwhile, Canadian High Commissioner to Guyana, His Excellency Mark Berman said the art will allow for Canada to support new and innovative forms of indigenous expressions. He also stated that it is necessary as it represents the global effort to preserve endangered indigenous languages.
“This activity is symbolic of our shared values and our long-standing friendship. The mural provides Canada the opportunity to support new and innovative forms of indigenous expressions, through art… The significance of this is rooted in global efforts to preserve indigenous languages, as many of them are endangered,” His Excellency said.
The mural painted by young indigenous artist, Nigel Butler is an abstract piece depicting patterns and designs from the first nations of Canada and Indigenous peoples of Guyana. An inscription on the mural stating “Welcome to the High Commission of Canada” was done in Akawaio, a local indigenous language.
Deputy speaker of the national assembly, Lennox Shuman, MP, British High Commissioner to Guyana, Her Excellency Jane Miller, US Ambassador to Guyana, Her Excellency Sarah-Ann Lynch and other members of the diplomatic corps were also present at the ceremony.