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    The great ancestral spirit of the Amerindians, and so of us all, the symbol of the land and its power, its beauty and its mysteries and of a people whose history is their response to the rhythms of nature.


    Was born in Africa and brought to Berbice most probably at the end of the 1720’s. Contemptuous of the system of slavery, which contained him, he joined the great revolt, which broke out in February 1763, rose to be its first leader, and seriously shook the foundations of Dutch power in Berbice. Sensitive and imaginative, blessed with a diplomat’s shrewdness and a statesman’s vision, he planned to set up an independent state in Upper Berbice, conceived in protest and dedicated to the proposition that all men were created free. Frustrated in 1763, his dream was fulfilled in 1966 when Guyana became independent and thus completed the job he began. In 1970 he was declared Guyana’s first national hero and the honour denied him in life was paid to him two centuries after his death.


    Was a distinguished and incorruptible Dutchman who made Guyana his home, and its development his vocation. From 1737 when he arrived to 1775 when he died his fertile mind and iron will carried through schemes which opened up the country, multiplied its settlers, increased investment and settled its boundaries. He was a man both of his time and ahead of it and his projects have a surprisingly contemporary ring. As Captain General of Essequibo and Demerara he fostered the settlement of the latter Colony, which was almost empty when he first arrived. Fittingly, he died and was buried there, a Guyanese not by birth but by adoption and merit.


    Was a slave and an elder in John Smith’s Chapel at Le Ressouvenir. He hungered for freedom but wanted to achieve it by non-violence: a way of getting justice more familiar in our age that his own. In 1823, knowing that Parliament in London had ordered changes in the treatment of slaves which the planters in Guyana were resisting, he planned a peaceful protest among the slaves on the East Coast of Demerara. The planters and Governor reacted with armed brutality; the slaves too up arms in self-defence and the strike became a revolt. Quamina was shot while trying to escape from the soldiers but his “strike” and its consequences stiffened the resolution of men in England to work for the destruction of slavery.


    Was a distinguished lawyer and a stout advocate of the masses against the planters and the colonial officials. He was one of the few coloured men in the Reformed Legislature at the end of the nineteenth century. A brilliant debater, subtle tactician and a generous opponent, he devoted most of his career to easing the lot and promoting the rise of the non-white races in the society and fittingly, a national Debating Competition was named after him.


    A humane, enlightened, high-principled man who from 1858 to 1880 worked in Guyana and, for a great part of that time, was Immigration Agent General. He saw himself as Protector of the Immigrants. Against criticism and calumny, both from his superiors and his equals, he fought to rectify the wrongs and secure the rights of the indentured immigrants to make laws more equable and the planters less arbitrary. The Indians loved him and affectionately called him “Papa Crosby” and his office “The Crosby”. His successors were all known as “Crosbys”. Although the Colonial Office often regarded him as a bungling nuisance, he practiced what they preached: imperial protection for the underdog.


    He represents a breed of men, bold, resourceful, spacious and hardworking who emerged in the last decade of the nineteenth century. They sought gold down the Mazaruni and Cuyuni, bore impossible hardships to find it, shot treacherous falls to bring it home and often drowned before they reached. Their swagger gave colour and comedy to the society, their generosity created legends, their sense of equality with all living things upset the social snobs and their bravery made them heroes. The interior still echoes with their memory.


    Descended from indentured immigrants from India, he became a brilliant barrister, an outstanding judge and acted as Chief Justice for some time. His whole career was one of capturing the heights in a colonial society, which tended to reserve the top posts for expatriates. He was a King’s Counsel who preserved his humility, a learned man who understood the uneducated, and a patriot who made his countrymen learn to love their native land. He set the pace in achievements and many of his countrymen have followed in his footsteps.


    An Italian by birth, a Guyanese by commitment, he devoted most of his active life to the eradication of malaria in this country. Brushing aside the promises of professional promotion and rich rewards in Europe, he chose in 1922 to work in Guyana, then a malarial Colonial back-water, with a population whose numbers and spirits were kept low by high fever. In the thirty years he worked a miracle: malaria by 1950 ceased to be a scourge, the population became larger and fitter, energy replaced lethargy and desperate prayers for survival have turned into definite plans for progress. His genius has made this country habitable, his achievement has been recognized by the world and in 1971 Guyana conferred on him the Cacique Crown of Honour – a symbol of debt, which can never be fully repaid.


The Water St. Dome Murals
Stanley Greaves and E. Anthony Phillips

The mural depicts eight figures of importance in Guyana's development, each drawn from various areas such as exploration, the slave era, those associated with it from Government, religion, etc. Each figure has its own legend of explanation and is presented in a semi-cubist form. They surround a central figure, Makanaima, the great ancestral spirit of the Amerindians – the indigenous people of Guyana, looking down from the centre of the turning world of history. The idea not only suited the method of installation but was chosen because the people of Guyana as a whole were demanding to know more about their past history and it was felt that the presence of these figures would provide food for thought, matter for debate and conjecture.

Discussions concerning the feasibility of such a project was done around Feb - Mar 1973 and, although at this stage no one had any idea of what would finally be the subject, research commenced and, in fact, continued to within a few weeks of completion.

Earlier on it was realized that the job would be too big for one person to work on, so Guyanese artists Stanley Greaves and E. Anthony Phillips were invited to share the job. The artists suggested portraits of historical figures as people relate faster and more emotionally to human figures, particularly figures which have had something to do with the country in which they live.

Since this was going to be the first mural of its type in Guyana, in so far as its location and conditions were concerned, advice from out of Guyana had to be sought. A visit to Winsor & Newton of London, where the matter was discussed, had the most influence on the mural in the style of installation and materials used. Further assistance was also obtained through the British Council, the U. S. I. S. and various glue manufacturers. Locally, research was carried out by Vere Daly, a noted Historian and Author and Dr. Robert Moore, former Professor of History at the University of Guyana who, at the time, was Guyana’s High Commissioner to Canada.

A problem the artists faced was the lack of material about the physical features of some of the characters as the history books gave a lot about what they did but very little about what they looked like. In these cases the artists had to draw upon their own imagination and sensibility, paying strict attention to the period in which the characters lived and costumes fashionable at the time.

A working scale drawing of the final subject was presented for approval in November 1973 and work commenced in February 1974. Each figure presented is between 9’6” and 10’ high and were painted on to 12’ lengths of 45” wide canvas. These were later cut into five and more sections then glued on to the surface in the dome. All work was done at night except at weekends, as both artists had regular jobs, and the project was finally completed on June 8th 1974. For work in the dome itself, which is 36’ in diameter and a rise of 11’, a loose plank floor was built on top of scaffolding and erected into the base of the dome. Work on the dome was far from easy and difficulties included unevenness of the surface and extremely hot temperatures, even up to 10 p.m. at night. The shallowness of the dome created a very awkward angle to work on at all times. Winsor & Newton artists oil paints, mediums and varnishes, guaranteed to last 300 years before beginning to fade, were used.

The mural was declared open on Thursday 27th June, 1974 by The Honorable Minister of Information & Culture, Miss Shirley Field-Ridley. The total cost of the project was twelve thousand two hundred dollars. From a purely historical aspect, it is the first attempt to fit images to many of our local heroes who have existed in name only. As a means of interior decoration it has demonstrated how successful local art can be in bringing to life dull concrete areas.


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