What You Need to Know about the Arts of Guyana

What You Need to Know about the Arts of Guyana

From tribal arts and crafts produced by the Carib and Arawak Amerindian people, to the literature of Wilson Harris, E.R. Braithwaite, A.J. Seymour, and Walter Rodney, we look at the arts of Guyana.

Guyana’s cultural institutions

The country’s cultural institutions center around Georgetown, the home of Guyana’s most celebrated museums, including the National Gallery of Art and the Guyana National Museum.

Walter Roth Museum of Anthropology Founded in 1974, the Walter Roth Museum of Anthropology was Guyana’s first museum dedicated to the scientific study of humans.Guyana is home to nine Amerindian tribes, of which the Wai Wai is one of them. The Walter Roth Museum encompasses an extensive collection of Wai Wai artifacts, as well as relics recovered from archeological digs covering Guyana’s 10 Administrative Regions.

Guyana Art
Image by US Embassy Guyana | Flickr

Guyana National Museum – Located adjacent to Hibiscus Plaza in Georgetown, the Guyana National Museum is home to an extensive collection of indigenous flora and fauna, precious stones, archaeological artifacts and Amerindian arts and crafts.The museum, which opened on February 13, 1868, was established by British Guiana’s Royal Agricultural and Commercial Society.

National Gallery of Art – The National Gallery of Art is situated in Castellani House. The renowned architect Cesar Castellani designed this iconic, whitewashed building, which was the principal residence of Guyana’s Director of Agriculture during the late 1800s.Guyana’s National Gallery today houses more than 700 works of art, including priceless pieces from Bernadette Persaud, Frank Bowling, Stanley Greaves, Denis Williams, Aubrey Williams, George Simon, and E.R. Burrowes.

Museum of African Heritage Established in 1985, the Museum of African Heritage was originally known as the Museum of African Art and Ethnology. The popular Georgetown museum celebrates the history and culture of the Afro-Guyanese community.The Museum of African Heritage features important examples of African art, mostly originating in West Africa. From elaborate wooden masks to musical instruments and traditional clothing to the carved wooden door of a secret society, the Museum of African Heritage takes visitors on a journey spanning the history of Guyana’s people of African origin.

Music of Guyana

Guyana’s music scene encompasses a wide variety of musical styles, such as Amerindian, Indian, European, African, Chinese, and Latino-Hispanic. Popular Guyanese performers include Eddy Grant, Terry Gajgaj, Harry Panday, Dave Martins and the Tradewinds, Shameer Rahman, Aubrey Cummings, and Nicky Porter.

Shanto – Shanto is a type of Guyanese music that incorporates both mento and calypso music. It became popular throughout the country through its use in Guyanese vaudeville shows. Often accompanied by a guitar, shanto songs are generally lighthearted and topical.

Calypso, Chutney, and Soca – Settlers from Trinidad and Tobago introduced calypso, an incredibly popular musical genre in Guyana today. Calypso, a lyrically oriented, satirical music style, is played during Mashramani and other Guyanese celebrations.Also originating in Trinidad and Tobago, Chutney is popular at Indian events. The lyrics are typically sung in either English or Hindustani.Soca music, also an import, is defined as the “Soul of Calypso.” Originating in a marginalized Trinidad and Tobago subculture in the 1970s, soca has diversified into a variety of musical styles, including ragga soca, groovy soca, steelband soca, afrosoca, and power soca.

Indo-Caribbean – Indian music arrived with South Asian settlers. The genre includes folk music played with the sitar, harmonium, dholak, dhantal, and tassa drums.The music is based mainly on Hindu songs known as bhajans. The tan classical Indian singing style is unique to Guyana and Suriname’s Indian community.

Reggae – This rhythmic musical style developed in 1960s Jamaica. It is typified by an off-beat called “skank.” Slower than ska music, reggae usually features accents on every first and third beat of the bar.Reggae lyrics deal with many different topics, including religion, love, relationships, poverty, peace, injustice, and political issues.

Amerindian art

Among the most exciting developments in the Guyanese art world over the last 25 years has been the surge in interest in Amerindian art. From paintings to archival pieces to prints and crafts, artists from Guyana’s indigenous tribes have made a significant impact over the last two decades.

Amerindian art in Guyana predates history with ancient paintings, motifs, and petroglyphs adorning rock faces and caves across the country.

GBTI supports Guyana’s arts industry

As Guyana’s longest-serving bank, GBTI recognizes the importance of art and culture to Guyanese society. Every year, GBTI runs an art calendar competition and invites young people across the country to submit drawings and artwork for inclusion in the bank’s calendar.

GBTI, which is also known as the Guyana Bank for Trade and Industry, helps students and entrepreneurs across the country to pursue their dreams. As Pamela Binda, GBTI’s public relations marketing manager, explained, the GBTI Art Calendar Competition’s extensive eight-year history is a testament to the bank’s commitment to charting the road to creativity for young people all over the country. The organization is committed to giving back to communities across Guyana and improving the lives of Guyanese businesses and families.