Monument Watch

Indian Immigration Monument

Nestled amongst lush green foliage and tropical flora on the Merriman’s Mall is the Indian Immigration Monument. Sculpted of bronze, this monument, which rests on a black granite pedestal, is a replica of the Whitby, the ship that transported the first batch of Indian immigrants to the shores of (British) Guyana on 5 May 1838. Indentureship, which lasted until 1917, was described by Chief Justice Beaumont in 1871 as a monstrous system rooted upon slavery.

In 1987 a committee was founded to establish a working relationship with the National Commemoration Commission to formulate plans to celebrate the 150th anniversary of the arrival of Indians to Guyana on 5 May 1988. This event was celebrated with much fanfare and gala.

After the celebrations it was decided that a monument in honour of the Indian Immigrants should be erected. The Committee enthusiastically endorsed this proposal and the quest for a suitable site commenced. Several sites including the grassy oval where the Marine Turtle Conservation Monument now stands and the reserve between Water Street and Battery Road were amongst the areas identified. However these were not deemed appropriate and the search continued.

On 11 October 1989, Mrs Viola Burnham, Vice President for Culture & Social Development formally recommended that the Commission seek permission from the City Council to use the present location on the Merriman’s Mall to erect this monument. In February 1990 this was done and in June approval was obtained.

On 5 May 1991 the first commemoration ceremony took place under a tree at the western end of the complex. In April 1992 a national design competition was launched.

Mr. Roopak Kothari, an architect, from India visited Guyana from 1-6 May 1992 and together with Mr. Albert Rodrigues and a select panel judged the entries submitted.

Though many themes were submitted it was the idea of a ship representing the immigrants journey to Guyana that most enthused the Committee. Armed with a proposal for the design of the monument and its garden, the Committee approached the Indian High Commissioner, Mr. Ramiah Rajagopalan for assistance to erect this monument.

In March 1993 the structural works and the landscaping of the gardens commenced and in August 1996, the bronze sculpture of the Whitby designed by Mr. B. K. Guru arrived in Guyana. This commendable work of art was unveiled by Mr. Yesu Persaud on 5 May 1997.

Inside this Issue

Our Activities……………………………. 2

Urban Heritage…………………………. 3

Guyana’s Architecture………………. 4

Publications

Five brochures on Fort Nassau, Enmore Martyrs Monument, City Hall, Mission Chapel Congregational Church and St. Peters Church were launched as part of the public awareness campaign to sensitize Guyanese to the nation’s patrimony. 1000 copies of each brochure were printed and are available free of cost at the Trust

A Look at the Archaeology of Guyana, a fruit of the collaborative effort between the Amerindian Research Unit of the University of Guyana and the National Trust of Guyana was launched on Wednesday 4 June 2003.

This package consists of a booklet, A Look at the Archaeology of Guyana: 50 Years After Osgood, which contains a brief history of archaeological research in Guyana and a cataloguing system for archaeological sites in the ten administrative regions.

One can easily identify all of the sites on each of the ten maps included in the sachet. 1000 copies were printed and are available at the cost of $2,500 at Austin’s Bookstore and the office of the National Trust.

Ms. Jennifer Wishart of the Amerindian Research Unit delivering the feature address at the launch of
A Look at the Archaeology in Guyana.

Fort Nassau
The environs of Fort Nassau were recently enhanced with the erection of nine interpretive markers, which were designed and installed by contractor, Mr. Malcom Browne. These markers depict a map of the site, a brief history of Fort Nassau and its environs, descriptions of the Western Grave Plot, the Eastern Grave Plot, The Court of Assembly, the Brick Bridge, the Steps of the Inn steps, the Barracks and the Lutheran Church.

These markers will provide the visitor with further knowledge of the rich history of this pristine national monument.

1763 Monument
The lawns of the 1763 monument were recently manicured by the Trust as part of its mission to conserve the nation’s heritage. Mr. Ian Fraser the gardener of the National Trust executed these

Competition for the Design
of a National Monument

The National Trust of Guyana announces its intention to erect a National Monument, which is a reflection and is truly representative of the nation of Guyana.

Please visit www.nationaltrust.gov.gy or call 225-5071 or 223-7146 for further details.

The City of Georgetown has a unique urban heritage. A study of the City’s urban heritage should not only be based on its beautiful wooden ensembles but should include the environment in which they are located. The public open spaces, urban landscapes and streetscapes, engineering structures such as bridges and canals all represent a fine example of mutual heritage, blending planning and building traditions of Dutch, British, African, East and West Indian origins.

This beautiful heritage is rapidly disappearing due to neglect, lack of resources and socio-economic changes, resulting in an increasing fragmentation of the urban tissue and disappearance of not only the wooden ensembles but also our open spaces. As a consequence an era of multi-storey glass and concrete structures has emerged.

An inharmonious skyline of historic and modern buildings is destroying a once aesthetical streetscape. It seems as if our citizens no longer have regard for our City and thus are showing a total lack of respect for building and planning standards. Modern constructions do not adhere to current building by-laws.

Existing building lines are being violated and high-density constructions are becoming more common, thus posing a strain on the already insufficient sewer system.

The Greater Georgetown Development Plan proposes the:

  1. Avoidance of further demolition and mutilation of our historic wooden ensembles.
  2. Elimination of unsightly and out of character constructions within the city.
  1. Avoidance of inharmonious skyline and streetscapes.
  2. Elimination of the loss of existing public open spaces to residential and commercial uses.
  3. Ensuring compatibility between historic and modern constructions.

Application for new constructions will undergo a different approach when processing. A more focused development control system is proposed. Policy directives will replace the out dated zoning scheme. This is to ensure that new constructions are treated individually and its’ surrounding is considered.

In most cases details capturing the layout of adjoining buildings and their accesses along with the streetscape showing the masses and relationship to the same will be required. In the conservation areas application will be subjected to a more stringent study. In this instance, very detailed plans and drawing depicting form and density, material of construction, roof-scape and skyline in relation to locality and street scenes and features of facades of the proposed construction in relation to the overall street frontage will be required.

The overall aim of the GDDP in to restore and enhance the City of Georgetown. In doing so we need full cooperation of the engineers and architects. The Central Housing & Planning Authority and the City Council cannot do it alone. Our society needs the assistance of professionals to implement proposal.

Guyanese Architecture’ is derived from many European peoples. Originally initiated by the colonisers, plantation owners, and put up probably by some of their own builders; the task of erecting and eventually designing and erecting domestic as well as other building types soon passed to local carpenter/contractors.

While the buildings required by plantation owners were new forms requiring the use of tools strange and new to our Indigenous and African peoples, the principal material of construction was timber, the use of which was familiar to both peoples. The Indigenous peoples, however, had rejected enslavement and remained in the interior country, perfecting their design and technology but somewhat isolated and cut off from the mainstream coastal development.

In the years after the erection of the last Sharples’ building, imperfect timber curing methods, increasing problems of termite attacks increasing cost of maintenance and in keeping with the importation of evolving construction technology, developers showed a preference for concrete structures. Brick columns and foundations were the first to be replaced by reinforced concrete footing columns. With open ‘bottom houses’ termite runs were easily spotted and destroyed. Only the timber staircases, usually built from timber mudsills remained an easy point of entry for termites until the timber sill and first two treaders and risers were replaced by brick or concrete construction

The problem of termite infestation, however, was aggravated by the action of farmers who, realising that ducks fed well off these insects, were in the habit of driving a stake in the middle of their duck ponds and fixing a termite nest on top. The nests were brought out from farmers’ second or third depth land holdings. As the nests fell into the water the ducks ate them up and some escaped being eaten and landed safely, then found the nearest building. Some however, ate their way down inside the timber stakes and out in the soil under the water to find their way into nearby buildings.

This situation is not helped by our failure to use galvanised iron nails, nor by insurance rates.

The Insurance companies demand ‘hard top’, while shingle or asbestos cement roofs are prohibited.

The character of our principal city has thus been passing through a metamorphosis.

Our task now, with the guidance and thrust of the National Trust, is to preserve the best of our remaining examples of fine Guyanese architecture, which it is attempting to do with some measure of success.

The splendor of Guyana’s Architecture

The pressure is great however, and ‘one solution’ has been suggested whereby, on an acquired large section of land well above impending flood level, house lots, streets and ‘city blocks’ be set out in readiness for the re-building of fine examples of Guyanese timber architecture which owners may have giver or sold to our Government. By different means and methods our fine buildings are being lost. Rather than letting this happen, they should be measured, dismantled with parts numbered and catalogued and transported to their new site to help this new ‘town’, which will become a tourist attraction, displaying the fine examples of Guyanese Architecture in an urban setting that once earned for Georgetown the title ‘Garden City’.