Guyana’s ethnically diversified culture reflects the traditions of Amerindians, Europeans, Africans, East Indians, Chinese, and Portuguese. Guyana is also linguistically and religiously diverse. Although the official language is English, Creole, Hindi, Urdu and Amerindian dialects are also spoken, while 50% of people are Christian, 33% Hindu and less than 10% Muslim. The main cultural events in Guyana include:
- Deepavali (Diwali)
- Folk Festival
Music, Visual Arts and Literature
Guyana’s musical tradition is a mix of Indian, African, European, and native elements. Pop music includes American, Caribbean (reggae, calypso, chutney), Brazilian and other Latin musical styles. Popular Guyanese performers include Terry Gajraj, Mark Holder, Eddy Grant, Dave Martin & the Tradewinds, Aubrey Cummings and Nicky Porter. Among the most successful Guyanese record producers are Rohit Jagessar, Eddy Grant, Terry Gajraj and Dave Martin.
Art takes many forms in Guyana, but its dominant themes are Amerindians, the ethnic diversity of the population and the physical beauty of Guyana. Popular artists include Stanley Greaves, Ronald Savory, Philip Moore and the late Aubrey Williams.Popular Guyanese authors included Wilson Harris, Jan Carew, Denis Williams and E. R. Braithwaite. Braithwaite’s memoir, “To Sir With Love”, details his experiences as a black high school teacher in a white London slum. Edgar Mittelholzer is well known outside of Guyana for such novels as Corentyne Thunder and a three-part novel known as the Kaywana trilogy, which focused on one family through 350 years of Guyana’s history.
Theatre and Film
The beginnings of theatre in 19th century Georgetown was European in nature. In the early 20th century there was an emergence of new African and Indian Guyanese middle-class theatre. In the 1950s there was an explosion of an ethnically diverse and socially committed theatre. There was a struggle to maintain theatre post-1980 despite an economic depression. Serious repertory theatre was highlighted by Carifesta and the Theatre Guild of Guyana.
Wordsworth McAndrew has been prominent in Guyanese theatre since the 1960s.
Guiana 1838, a film by the U.S. based award-winning Guyanese born director Rohit Jagessar, is the historic epic film depicting the abolition of slavery in British Guiana (now Guyana) indentured Indian servants on their first arrival to the Caribbean in 1838. Guiana 1838 was released on September 24, 2004 when it scored the highest screen average of all movies released that weekend at the North American box office.
Guyanese cuisine is enriched by traditional foods from every ethnic group in the country. These dishes have been adapted to Guyanese tastes, often by the addition of spices.
Favourite dishes include pepper pot, a stew made with bitter cassava juice, meat, hot pepper and seasoning; roti and curry; garlic pork; cassava bread; chow mein and “cook up”, a one-pot meal which can include any favourite meats. Popular homemade drinks are mauby, made from the bark of a tree; sorrel drink, made from a leafy vegetable used in salads; and ginger beer, made from ginger root.
Over 400 Guyanese recipes are listed at Guyana Outpost: http://www.guyanaoutpost.com/guyana.shtml.