There was a kaleidoscope of colours and mixture of people from all walks of life at the National Park on Thursday as Guyanese turned out in their numbers to celebrate 181 years of Emancipation in unity.
The blue skies were covered with thick clouds for most of the day which kept locals cool as they flowed into the Park to get a glimpse and taste of the rich African culture.
There was obviously the smell of cook-up rice, along with other delicious delicacies.
Besides the attractive colours, the flavours brought to Guyana all the way from Africa were widely celebrated by all walks of life.
People were seen purchasing and indulging in dishes such as conkie, metemgee, and black and white pudding among a number of others.
A few tourists who also visited the park expressed how happy they were to have stopped by with their families. They were seen taking photographs with locals and trying the famous Guyanese cook-up rice with fried fish.
Families were all decked out in matching outfits as they picnicked in the warm afternoon sun, which barely peeked from behind the clouds.
Guyana Times spoke with a member of an extended family as they picnicked in the Park. Merlin Kellman from Vigilance, East Coast Demerara, said she was having a great time with her relatives.
“I’m here with my husband, my daughter-in-law, my son and my mother-in-law. We all came out to have a grand time and so far we are enjoying ourselves,” she said.
Kellman said she usually visited the Park for the Emancipation celebration, but enjoyed her own cook-up featuring salted beef, pickled pork and even some chicken.
An elderly woman, Pamela Gittens from East Ruimveldt, Georgetown, said she enjoyed herself as she performed a song by the legendary Bob Marley, for the celebratory programme.
Shelly-Ann David, of Diamond Housing Scheme, East Bank Demerara, who was at the Park with her family, stated: “I am here with my mother, my grandson and we are having a wonderful time. We come out here every year. I just love Emancipation. So far I am enjoying it, especially the food, I love the pepper pot and fancy African dishes”.
While some persons were busy shopping and enjoying the various dishes and items on display, some were busy cooking, as ANSA McAL had its annual cook-up rice competition.
The Brand Coordinator for Chief Products at ANSA McAL, Tammy Ramsay, explained that this year, the competition expanded greatly as over 30 competitors participated compared to 13 in their first year.
They were competing for $100,000 in cash in each of the two categories – namely vegetarian and ‘obstacles’ cook-up. In the second category, participants were allowed to add whatever their special ingredients were.
The competition was judged in the afternoon by three judges: Odessia Primus, Head of Carnegie; Ms Lee and Gordon Moseley.
ANSA McAL Managing Director Troy Cadogan said he was extremely proud of the event and the excitement it brought to people from all walks of life.
“We are actually part of all the festivals in Guyana, so we teamed up with ACDA (African Cultural and Development Association)…Cook-up is a very widespread thing in the Guyanese culture and we felt that cook-up is good and Chief (company), which is our partner, have a cook-up seasoning and they were willing to partner with us,” Cadogan noted.
In another section of the Park was ACDA’s cultural programme during which persons were entertained with songs, dances, poetry and a number of other items.
The delegates for the Miss Emancipation Pageant were also present at the event.
Emancipation is also referred to as Freedom Day in Guyana.
In August 1833, the Slave Emancipation Act was passed, giving all slaves in the British Empire their freedom, albeit after a set period of years. It came into force on August 1, 1834, but it was not until August 1, 1838 after serving a four-year Apprenticeship that enslaved people in the British Caribbean finally gained their freedom.