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The Colony's best poet is a Marxist leader of the P.P.P., Martin Carter. His ideology has given his work a passion and intensity. I will quote the whole of one of his best and most typical poems, called 'New Day':

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are the fields

covered by the floods,

and these rivers roll

over altars gone;
naked, naked loins
throbbing deep with life

rich with birth indeed,

rouse, turning to the sun.

and more fierce rain will come again tonight,

new day must clean, have floods not drowned the fields killing my rice and stirring up my wrath.

In his poem 'For My Son' Mr. Carter reiterates this theme of awakening which runs through most of his poetry:

Light will awaken

All the young flowers
Sleeping and growing
Hour and hour.

Dew is awake
Morning is soon
Mankind is risen

Flowers will bloom.

Mr. A. J. Seymour's poetry has none of this political allegiance. He is at his best when he is celebrating the physical beauty of his country, retelling the ancient myths of the Amerindians or commenting on the history of the Colony. His 'There Runs a Dream' is typical of his work:

There runs a dream of perished Dutch plantations
In these Guiana rivers to the sea.

Black waters rustling through vegetation
That towers and tangles banks, run silently
Over lost stellings where the craft once rode
Easy before trim dwellings in the sun
And fields of indigo would float out broad
To lose the eye right on the horizon.

These rivers know that strong and quiet men
Drove back a jungle, gave Guiana root
Against the shock of circumstance, and then
History moved down river, leaving free
The forest to creep back, foot by quiet foot
And overhang black waters to the sea.


Wilson Harris belongs to the same school as Mr. Seymour, but his poetry is rather more contemplative and philosophical. He is strongly influenced by the later poems of T. S. Eliotparticularly in his series called "The Spirit of Place'. I will quote the last passage from 'The Spirit of the Fall':

So Man in his unreconciled drama stands
where the future can never be ground
however sensible the spray that broods like

Spirit over the Fall.

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How, I wonder, did the folk arts of the Slave Coast manage so entirely to be lost during the horrors of the passage to the New World? Why did the slaves, who came from a people accustomed to the creation of artifacts and works of art, sometimes of a remarkable order, not recreate even the simplest of their visual arts in the Caribbean islands? Their dances have survived in the mambo, the conga, and their rhythms in the calypsos of Trinidad and the meringues of Santo Domingo;

yet as far as I know it is only in Haiti that the African plastic peoples

arts have survived, and this by means of a conscious revivification of a dead tradition; for the rest not one decorative motif is left, no inclination to make pottery and adorn it, to weave baskets or to work in precious metals has survived. In all the coastland of British Guiana I could find nothing whatever, either among Indians or Africans, which even pretended to be a folk art; in Georgetown alone there are Indian gold and silversmiths producing commercial filigree work.

During the last decade or so Guianese interest in the practice of painting, rather than in its appreciation, has greatly increased. This is largely due to the excellent and inspiring work of Mr. E. R. Burrowes at the Working People's Art Society, which he founded-work for which he has been honoured with an M.B.E. I saw many canvases painted by the Society's members; they had a vitality, a vibrancy of colour which is usually lacking in work by equivalent Sunday painting in England.

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Most of the painters appeared to be of African origin, and although their immediate inspiration was European, the uninhibited statements of the paintings, often frankly sensual in an entirely non-obscene way, seemed to have their origin in the atavisms of race. Guianese painting has not yet reached a stage of sophistication comparable to Guianese poetry, and it shows a tendency to lose the imagery and naturalness of primitive art. That is an inevitable stage in the formation of a cultural activity of any value. Quality and sophistication could come with time, as young and promising painters emerge. But here there is a similar danger as in literature. A good Guianese painter will have to come to Europe to study, since there is no really adequate training to be had in the West Indies, and in proportion to the extent of his talent he is likely to identify himself with European painting, looking on British Guiana and its culture as something he has escaped from. It is the traditional dilemma of the expatriate artist and can only be solved in the mind of the artist himself. It makes the 'creation of quality' in the West Indies doubly difficult to achieve. There is an interesting example in Denis Williams, a brilliant Guianese painter, and illustrator of this book, who has more or less settled in Europe, where he is experimenting with the various languages of the modern movement. He knows that his future as an artist lies in Europe, and it is difficult to blame him for not wishing to identify himself with British Guiana. However, one day he may find the images and the light of his native country returning to him as a source for his work. In Georgetown I saw some of the work of his early Guianese period; it is startling, frightening, violent in mood; drawn, it seems, out of the darkness of Africa.

The small, integrated intelligentsia of Georgetown is not at the moment a very potent force in the Guianese community, but it recognizes its own value and its responsibilities in bringing the Colony towards maturity. It knows that it is the intelligentsia more than any other section of the community which must carry out the task of completing the pyramid, and the intellectual leaders of the Colony take seriously their aim of the 'creation of quality' in British Guiana. It is sad that intellectuals and artists are, as a class, less able to dominate the minds of the people than are politicians.



No colonial political party has captured the interest of the

world more completely than did the People's Progressive Party
at the time of the suspension of the Constitution in October,
1953. Anti-imperialists sprang to its support, seeing the sus-
pension as proof of Britain's insincerity in her policy of giving
her colonies self-determination; liberal-minded people with
genuine goodwill towards the colonies were dismayed, ques-
tioning the U.K. Government's action as possibly unjust and
precipitate. The suspension became a far larger question than
the ending of the P.P.P.'s ministerial power in British Guiana;
it became a symbol of the dangers attached to the handing over
of power in all the colonies, and there is no doubt that what
happened in British Guiana has made Britain more cautious
in the formation of constitutions for her other colonies.

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I met both leaders of the P.P.P., shortly after my arrival in
Georgetown, during a period of crisis in the Party; L. F. S.
Burnham, the African leader of the Party, it was said, was
making a bid to take over the moral leadership from Cheddi
Jagan and his wife, Janet. Permission had been given to hold
the annual Congress of the Party in a local cinema, and it was
here that the Burnhamites would split from the Jaganites. The
British, almost without exception, believed that the split in the
Party was being cynically organized for political expediency.
The P.P.P. had been stigmatized as Communist, and the Party
knew that while it remained Communist there was no chance e
of the Constitution being restored and free elections allowed.
The Robertson Report had called for a responsible moderate
party with whom the British Government might collaborate.
The split was therefore-so it was said-being manufactured
to give the appearance that the Communist Jaganites had been. Len
expelled, whereas in fact the Party would unite again once the
moderates had regained power. Considering the history of the
P.P.P. this was not a far-fetched view. I asked the Congress


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