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
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.
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).
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
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.
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
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.”
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,
by Ayanna Waddle; Photos by Leroy Marshall