Heroes of 1823 African Guyanese uprising disrespected

By The Ligali Organisation | Fri 4 January 2013

Enslaved Africans force the retreat of european soilders during 1823 Uprising

The Guyanese government and sculptor Ivor Thom have been heavily criticised for the location chosen of a monument commemorating the 1823 African uprising.

On the night of 17 August 1823, the sound of African drums and shell-horns signalled the start of over a thousand enslaved Africans surrounding the houses of about sixty plantations. In one of the largest uprisings in the Caribbean, over ten thousand freedom fighters eventually rose up against their British oppressors seizing arms and ammunition whilst placing their enslavers and overseers in stocks.

This uprising shattered the long promoted european myth that Christianised Africans born and enslaved in the Caribbean were both passive and accepting of their enslavement.

The rebellion which lasted until 20 August 1823 was led by the enslaved African, Quamina and his son Jack Gladstone in the county of Demerara. It initially started at Success village but concluded spiritually at the Parade Ground.

Tragically more than 250 Africans were murdered.

The government decision to designate an area that fails to reflect these facts as a remembrance site to those who passed in this history was agreed with African Guyanese sculptor, Ivor Thom. The ill placement of Thom’s monument has invariably angered many community members, activists and organisations who believe the location has been chosen for convenience and not respect or historical accuracy.

In a passionate opinion piece on the topic writer, Mark Archer states;

“Like Thom I too have an opinion, and I feel that the site of the 1823 monument must by necessity be at a location chosen by the descendants of that struggle. The area known as the Promenade Gardens and the Parade Ground was where the brutality and sadistic mentality of the colonial government was put on full display after the rebellion was put down. This is where a number of our African freedom fighters were hanged, ten of whom were later decapitated. This is where in African tradition and lore the spirits of our courageous ancestors still roam. What Mr Thom and Dr Anthony are about to do is not only unprecedented, but an affront to, and direct attack on, the historical accuracy of the African struggle for freedom in Guyana.”

Culture Minister, Frank Anthony (left) and sculptor, Ivor Thom (right): Disrespecting African Ancestors?

Absolutely no connection to the event

Anthony states that the government “asked for suggestions pertaining to the siting and we then set a deadline for the 31 March, and we received no submission from any organisation, and it was about four different occasions when we did this”.

However it is clear that the minister who is said to be disconnected from grass root community concerns did not attend the public forum held at the Bethel Brethren Church in December 2012 where it was agreed that the monument should be built on Parade Ground where numerous enslaved Africans were actually murdered by the illicit enslaving regime.

The Ramotar-led PPP/C government which is currently spending over GUY$26 million on the monument stands accused of chosing to ignore grass roots public opinion by deciding to locate the monument on Carifesta Avenue opposite the Guyana Defence Force ground. Culture Minister Dr. Frank Anthony attempted to justify his decision by saying that if the monument was erected at Parade Ground, it would “be impinging on the existing playfield and the football field”.

Historical presentations on the uprising by Dr. Melissa Ifill and Tommy Payne revealed that the heroic actions of the freedom fighting Africans born in Guyana had a major impact on the British abolishment of slavery act in 1838. After the uprising, many enslaved Africans suspected of being leaders were arrested, put on trial and from 26 August 1823 convicted and executed immediately on Parade Ground with their heads of cut off and littered across sections of the coast.

Dr Ifill who is also the highly respected, Vice President of the University of Guyana Senior Staff Association (UGSSA) said “It is insulting to the memory of those who died to build a memorial at Carifesta Avenue location that has absolutely no connection to the event and I would humbly suggest that any memorial be rejected by us all unless it is sited on Parade Ground and if needs be we should build the monument on ancestors ourselves,”

An area has been cleared by members of the African-Guyanese community and a sign erected. It has also been reported that the Chairman of the public panel discussion, Nigel Hughes has “confirmed that Thom would be told the coalition of African organisations representing the “true descendants” would not be recognizing the monument unless it is erected on Parade Ground”.

Dr. Melissa Ifill, Prosposed community site for 1823 monument

External Links
Afro-Guyanese coalition to lobby sculptor about slavery revolt monument
1823 Monument and Ivor Thom by Mark Archer
Sculptor Ivor Thom completes 1823 monument
1823 Monument to be built on Carifesta Avenue
1823 monument site well positioned – Dr Anthony

Ligali is not responsible for the content of third party sites

Speak Out!

Is it right that the people are ignored and the government and sculptor alone select the site for the 1823 Monument?
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It insults the memory of those who died to build a memorial at a location that has no connection to the event, it should be rejected by us all unless it is sited on Parade Ground, if needs be we should build the monument to our Ancestors ourselves

Dr. Melissa Ifill

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