National Weekly celebrates Guyana's 46th anniversary of independence through a kaleidoscope of artists.
As Guyana celebrates the 46th anniversary of independence on May 26, Guyanese worldwide grieve the recent loss of pioneering sculptor and painter, Philip Moore.
This week, the beloved artist was honored with a public viewing at the Square of the Revolution in Georgetown, under the shadows of his landmark statue of national hero and slave rebellion leader Cuffy. The often controversial piece has been interlinked with Guyana's independence celebrations, ever since its unveiling in 1976 to mark Guyana's 10th year of Independence.
In honor of Moore and Guyana's independence anniversary, the National Weekly looks back at his work and at some Guyanese artists from his influential generation, who helped define a national identity.
Philip Alphonso Moore was born on October 12, 1921 in Manchester Village on the Corentyne Coast of Guyana. Ever since a divine encounter in 1955, when hands reaching out from the heavens commanded him to become an artist, Philip Moore has been infusing spirituality, ancestry and craft into his art.
Considering himself a "spirit-taught" artist, Moore's work captured the rich heritage of his homeland, exploring the nation's complexed history of race, religion and colonialism. For his signature statue of Cuffy, Moore merged the artistry of a West African breastplate with a pre-Columbian helmet for his Guyanese warrior. And in honor of independence in 1966, Moore painted the Hindu god Hanuman cradling Guyana in his arms.
Moore also resisted the commercialism of art. Strongly believing in art's public value, Moore sold the bulk of his work to the Castellani House at the National Art Gallery, where his work can be viewed for generations to come.
A poet, painter, educator, sculptor and classical guitarist, Stanley Greaves is another father of modern Guyanese art. Born in a humble tenement yard in 1934 in Georgetown, Guyana, Greaves went to study art with Guyanese art pioneer Edward Burrowes in the Working Peoples' Art Class in 1941. He later studied at the University of Newcastle-upon-Tyne in the UK and at Howard University in the U.S.
Describing himself as "a maker of things," Greaves channels his education into an imaginative, off-kilter vision of Guyana, from street-side entertainers to lampoons on local politics. Greaves has also been dedicated to teaching the next generation of regional artists through the Division of Creative Arts at the University of Guyana and at the Barbados Community College.
Fascinated by Guyana's unique flora and fauna and the country's pre-Columbian heritage, Aubrey Williams has long portrayed and celebrated Guyana's rich heritage. Williams was born in Georgetown, Guyana in 1926 and later studied at the Working People's Art Class under Edward Burrowes.
This education would be mixed with his experience living for two years among the indigenous Warrau people in the north-west rainforest of Guyana, where Williams says he "started to understand what art really is."
Ever since his formative years in 1960s London among the Caribbean Artists Movement, Williams has constantly championed for a distinct national art with an important place on the global stage.
Both a painter and archeologist, Denis Williams' dedicated understanding of West African and Guyanese indigenous art has influenced generations of Guyanese artists. Born in Georgetown, Guyana in 1923, Williams went on to study painting at the Camberwell School of Art in London in 1946.
It is his years however studying archeology in Sudan, Nigeria and the indigenous communities of Guyana that most defined his life's work. He became Director of Art and Archaeology with the Department of Culture, Ministry of Education and Culture in Guyana in 1974, where he influenced generations of other painters to explore their artistic ancestries. Through this historic insight, Williams believed that Guyana's artists could become "aware of our uniqueness and the problems and the opportunities it creates."