THE Department of Culture of the Ministry of Culture, Youth and Sport yesterday unveiled the 1823 Monument on Carifesta Avenue, Georgetown, erected to the memory of those who lost their lives during the slave rebellion of that year.
Unveiling the monument was President Donald Ramotar who remarked that the exercise indicates that they are formalising the honour which has been kept in the hearts of Guyanese as a united people, acknowledging an epic contribution to our people’s quest for justice, dignity and liberty.
He added that the ceremony is both a dedication to our historical past and the national recognition of the acts of valour our enslaved ancestors who were willing to make the supreme sacrifice to secure freedom for themselves and their descendants.
He pointed out that the Demerara slave uprising took place in August of 1823, 190 years ago, and historians remind that the revolt is of historical significance because it was the largest revolt in Guyana’s history, involving more than 10,000 enslaved Africans.
President Ramotar stated that history suggests that this revolt hastened emancipation, and given its numerical scale, economic impact and social consequences must be credited with influencing the decision to end slavery in all of the British colonies.
According to him, all Guyanese must continue to work to make this position totally and absolutely irreversible, since we still do have many things to struggle against.
He noted that Guyana is a poor developing country which operates in an international environment that is generally not in the favour of poor developing countries.
He posited that sometimes there are still many invisible chains that try to keep us in bondage and this is where all Guyanese must use the experiences of their ancestors in order to work with others in similar circumstances, to try to improve conditions for the development and end the inequality which exists so much in the world.
President Ramotar stated that the 1823 Monument is a potent reminder to all Guyanese that they will not forget the sacrifices and struggles of all the peoples who make up Guyana, and that their struggles will not be in vain; but we will, as a nation, collectively and individually work to further the gains of the heroic dead.
He expressed hope that the monument will inspire all Guyanese to join hands in partnership for peace, progress and prosperity.
Meanwhile, also making remarks at the unveiling ceremony, Culture Minister Dr. Frank Anthony informed that following the ceremony, the monument will be handed over to the National Trust of Guyana and it is hoped that the public will work together to protect and care the historic site.
Dr. Anthony explained that in 2011, to mark the United Nations designated year of people of African descent, the Government of Guyana undertook a number of activities which included the construction of the 1823 monument.
He further explained that in April of 2011, a national competition was launched for the design of the monument and they received five designs which were evaluated by a technical panel of persons who adjudged Mr. Ivor Thom’s design as the winning one.
According to him, they also established a site selection committee and advertised several times in the newspaper for proposals on where to erect the monument, but no one responded to their request.
Dr. Anthony related that the committee then identified 10 villages on the East Coast of Demerara, based on the history of the uprising, and also identified five places in Georgetown, following which a review was done of these sites and the present site was chosen.
He pointed out that unfortunately, when work was advanced on the site, they received requests from some individuals to change the site but they were unable to accommodate that request.
The Culture Minister asserted that the ministry regrets the controversies which erupted around the siting of the monument and posited that it is time to focus on the purpose for which the monument was built- to remember the resilience and resistance of those in the 1823 uprising.
Highlighting that there were more than 30 plantations involved in the uprising, Dr. Anthony informed that they will be working with the historians to identify many of the plantations where fighting took place.
He added that it is their intention to create a history trail to put up markers so that persons can visit these sites to have a better understanding and appreciation of the scope and magnitude of the uprising.
Dr. Anthony maintained that the 1823 Monument stands as a testimony to resistance against slavery and colonialism, and expressed gratitude to all the persons who worked on the project, especially the sculptor, Ivor Thom
Persons present at the unveiling ceremony included Health Minister, Dr. Bheri Ramsaran, Minister of Amerindian Affairs, Pauline Sukhai, Public Works Minister, Robeson Benn, Minister within the Ministry of Finance, Bishop Juan Edghill and Permanent Secretary of the Ministry of Culture, Youth and Sport, Alfred King.
The audience was treated to a packed programme which included drumming, African dances by members of the National School of Dance, as well as a baton display.
Photos stored in graphics as ‘1823 monument’