President Donald Ramotar Monday evening unveiled the 1823 Monument which commemorates the 190th anniversary of the 1823 slave revolt, saying he hoped it would be a symbol of partnership for Guyanese.
“May this monument inspire all Guyanese to join hands in partnership for peace, progress, and prosperity,” President said.
He said that in unveiling this monument, Guyanese are formalising the honour that they have kept, and as a united people, acknowledging the contribution of their ancestors’ quest for justice, dignity and liberty.
The revolt took place on Plantation Success, East Coast of Demerara on August 18, 1823 and quickly spread to other estates. It was led by freedom fighters such as Quamina, Parris, Hamilton, Achilles and many others.
It was the second of only two major slave revolts in Guyana’s history, occurring 60 years after that of 1763 in Berbice, then a Dutch colony.
President Ramotar in his address said that the monument is a dedication to Guyana’s historical past and the national recognition of the acts of valour by enslaved ancestors, who made the supreme sacrifice to secure freedom for themselves and their descendants.
“If 1763 put a doubt in the minds of the colonisers that slaves were willing to end slavery, then 1823 put the question beyond doubt. History suggests that this revolt hastened the decision for emancipation…it intensified and aggravated the anti-slavery pressures in England,” the Head of State recalled.
He said that after 190 years, Guyanese have to continue to struggle to make this position absolutely irreversible. He noted that Guyana is a poor, developing country, operating in an international environment that is generally not in the favour of such countries.
“There are still many invisible chains that try to exploit us and this is where we must use the experiences of our ancestors to work with others in similar circumstances, to try to improve conditions for development and end the inequality that exists so much in the world,” the President exhorted.
Meanwhile, Minister of Culture, Youth and Sport, Dr. Frank Anthony said that said that history, if left forgotten, will rob citizens of a significant part of the legacy of the struggle that their ancestors left.
The Government of Guyana, in 2011 undertook several initiatives in commemoration of the United Nations (UN) designated International Year for People of African Descent (IYPAD), among them was the construction of the 1823 monument.
In April 2011, the Ministry of Culture, Youth and Sport launched a national competition for the design of the monument and five designs were received. Renowned sculptor, Ivor Thom’s design was adjudged the best by an esteemed technical panel.
Minister Anthony said that traditionally Guyana’s capacity to construct a bronze sculpture has been very limited; however, as a result of this project, the Burrowes School of Arts is now equipped with the skills and equipment to make monuments of this type.
A site select committee was formed under the chairmanship of Assistant Director of Culture, Colonel Linden Ross and several advertisements were placed in the local newspapers for proposals of possible sites for this monument, but no response was forthcoming.
Because of the history of this uprising, the committee then identified 10 villages along the East Coast of Demerara including: Bachelor’s Adventure, Chateau Margot, Le Ressouvenir, Elisabeth Hall, Melanie, Cove and John, Nabaclis, Doch Four, Bee Hive and Good Hope.
Additionally, a number of places were identified in Georgetown, including: Parade Ground, Victoria Court of Law, National Park, and the Sea Wall road site. After reviewing all of the sites, the committee decided on the latter, which was endorsed by the Ministry.
Minister Anthony explained that when works started at the site, requests were then received from individuals that the site should be changed. However, that belated request could not have been accommodated because the works on the site were far advanced.
“We regret the controversies that erupted around the site; nevertheless, I think it’s time we focus on the purpose for which the monument was built. That is to remember the resilience and resistance of our ancestors in the 1823 uprising,” he said.
The 1823 Monument will be handed over to the National Trust of Guyana shortly.