Saturday, February 23, will mark the 49th anniversary since Guyana became a Republic. That historic moment almost five decades ago officially severed ties of governance with the British colonial power. It’s a national holiday, Mashramani, which basically connotes celebrations after hard work.
It offers the opportunity to showcase national efforts of hard work for the spectacular costume and float parade through some streets in the city as splendour, creativity, vibrancy and revelry take the spotlight. All involved must be commended for their efforts to bring much joy to the nation and its people.
Over the years, direct participation in the parade has generally been a majority by one group, while Guyanese from all walks of life flock the route to savour the glamour which reflects the fruits of the hard work by designers, organisers and of course the revellers. Very conspicuous throughout the route are families in a picnic-like atmosphere saturated with the aromas of a variety of Guyanese cuisine.
It is a day that Guyanese generally look forward to the excitement and the demonstration of pride and nationalism. It also brings to an end the official activities for the festival barring a few regions that hold their parades afterwards. What has been a bone of contention over the years is that the grandeur of the floats and costumes along the route gets lost ironically as a result of the infiltration of those who are out to feast their eyes.
Many bands have been forced to implement measures, including roping, to prevent onlookers and passers-by from moving in and out. With narrow streets and the growing multitude over the years, the problem has worsened, making it extremely difficult for other onlookers and the media from capturing the true beauty of what was laboriously designed to please the eyes. It is also dangerous given the presence of low-bed trucks and other vehicles which are important parts of the show.For many families along the route and who do not encroach, viewing the parade becomes very challenging; the same for those following on television. The best vantage point to therefore the view the grand spectacle and to be in awe of the designers, is D’Urban Park where it culminates and facilitates final judging. Surely there must have been discussions on how to maximise unhindered viewing which becomes even more imperative, especially when looking at a parade in the USA; whether it’s Thanksgiving Day or Rose Bowl. There, the onlookers are clearly separated from the participants of the parade making for satisfied viewing whether on spot or on television.
An argument can be made that better resources and facilities are available in the developed countries and that’s only fair. However, the route of Thomas Lands into Vlissengen Road and onto D’Urban Park offers an advantage which hasn’t been fully capitalised upon. For starters, both carriageways are one-way allowing for onlookers to be accommodated on the opposite site. Also, the streets that lead to the carriageways which the parade progresses along can be blocked and manned to prevent encroachment.
If that were to be fully effective as well as putting onlookers on the opposite sides and which can be shared with the commercial ventures, then it will be a significant step forward. Key would be the manpower and effective barricades to so enforce accompanied by an awareness and education programme. Importantly, it can only start with a decision to the effect by those in charge if an unhindered parade and its much anticipated viewing are the desired outcomes.
If the visible demarcations for the allotment of commercial stalls along the said carriageway of the route were to be realised, then the current challenges will be repeated in an ongoing cycle. The reality is that a tremendous amount of resources including finance, creativity and time, are expended over a demanding period, to create the spectacle that has come to epitomise Mashramani. The visuals of that hard work must not be allowed to be lost.
In as much there is a disparity in what is available here and in the developed countries, organisers have to make hard decisions and make maximum use of what is at their disposal. The festival is one that attracts international tourists and media and overseas-based Guyanese. One would believe that they, like locals here, would not want to be impeded by the growing encroachment of the parade which also inevitably stalls the pace.
All it takes is a start in trying something different to help improve visibility and for the beauty of what’s on show to further overwhelm. 2020 will be the jubilee year for the country’s status as a Republic. With digits that connote good vision, it would be extremely pleasing to many, including sponsors, to see that parade devoid of the encroachment mentioned. Maybe it’s time to begin a Mash challenge!