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HIKARANA: A symbol of joy for CARIFESTA

HIKARANA: A symbol of joy for CARIFESTA

When one hears the term ‘Totem Pole,’ it is difficult to draw an immediate association with the Caribbean region. However art history provides us with evidence that cultural practices and beliefs have travelled with civilization. Therefore, to believe that totem poles are found only in North America is a misconception which obscures the truth that carved handiworks of many Native Americans are found within the Amazonian region including the Guianas.    

Though totem poles are sculpted in the form of large poles they can also be seen carved into walking sticks, emblems, figurines and a benab’s centre pole. Archaeologists have also discovered totems in and around the Amazons. Countries such as Brazil, Peru, Ecuador, Panama and Guatemala have all shown signs of the Mayan and Inca civilizations. In Guyana, through archaeology, miniature totems have also been discovered in areas such as Mabaruma and the Mazaruni River.

But what is a totem or a totem pole? A Totem Pole is a symbol of a group of people or tribe that represents individual and family identity. The images on the pole signify spiritual beings who are believed to be an embodiment of spiritual guardians.

The recent unveiling of the HIKARANA Totem Pole, which now stands prominently in the city of Georgetown at the Walter Roth Museum, attests to the intrinsic connection between artistic expressions and culture among the Amerindians of Guyana. Sculpted by Arawak artist Telford Taylor, the towering pole which stands some 23 feet tall depicts the coming joy of CARIFESTA. Having the HIKARANA pole displayed at such a prominent location is but one in the many efforts being made to promote visual art in Guyana with the coming of Tenth Caribbean Festival of Arts (CARIFESTA X).

Within this season of CARIFESTA many local artists are given the opportunity to create a work of art which presents a lasting impression of Guyana and her many peoples. As one such artist, Taylor, who hails from St. Cuthbert Mission located on the Mahaica River in Region 4, spared no effort in showing the many facets of his ancestral culture via a wooden carving. He grew up in a very disciplined home where Sundays were reserved for fun and frolic to which end Taylor enjoyed playing football with his friends.  

At age 28 Taylor began sculpting based on a dream in which he experienced someone leading him to a bag. It was in that bag that he found some miniature carvings. Upon waking from the dream the artist related that he was inspired to reproduce the images he had seen. Notably, Taylor’s art career was preceded by his pursuit of a dream of joining the Guyana Defence Force. It was there that he acquired a sense of discipline which he credits for his success in life. 

Today, Telford Taylor continues to draw his inspiration from the environment and from his uncle Mr. George Simon, a renowned Guyanese artist, who is an ardent supporter of his work. But the HIKARANA Pole is not the first of its kind. Mr. Taylor sculpted a pole in 1998 when he participated in an exhibition at the Venezuelan Cultural Centre. That piece was bought by an overseas visitor and subsequently taken to Canada.  In 1990 Taylor created a piece which can be seen on the top level of the Cara Lodge on Quamina Street. More recently, in 2003, he was commissioned by a Dutch citizen to create two 10-feet totem poles in St. Cuthbert’s Mission.

The HIKARANA Pole which was initially conceived by Taylor as a personal birthday gift took him about two years intermittently to complete.  He donated it to the Walter Roth Museum for CARIFESTA X with the hope that it brings joy to the festivities ahead. “The totem symbolizes joy and I know everyone in Guyana is looking forward to a joyous time because CARIFESTA was not here for a long time and now it is back here.”  

The unveiling ceremony was attended by acting President Mr. Samuel Hinds, Minister of Culture Youth and Sport Dr. Frank Anthony, Dr Desrie Fox, Minister within the Ministry of Education and the Minister of Amerindian Affairs, Pauline Sukhai-Campbell.  

Feature by Ayanna Waddle; Photos by Leroy Marshall  
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Posted on 14 Jun 2008 by Admin