St. Cuthbert’s women keeping their tradition alive

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(DPI Feature)

Approximately twenty women from the Arawak Village of St. Cuthbert’s Mission (Pakuri), Region Four, have joined forces and have embarked upon a programme to revive their traditional indigenous craft.

This is in an effort towards making a more significant contribution to not only their families’ but their village’s economy. The women are learning, from scratch, the process of producing hammocks, belts, floor and table mats, baskets and hats. They are involved in stripping their own straw from the ite palm and spinning the required amount needed to make the various types of craft.

Minister within the Ministry of Indigenous Peoples’ Affairs, Valerie Garrido-Lowe, who has direct responsibility for indigenous women, took the initiative of bringing about a new passion for the production of indigenous craft by the talented women there.

Minister Garrido-Lowe recently visited the village where she encouraged the women to be active participants in the group since for centuries the indigenous people have used their many talents not only for economic gains but also for keeping their traditions alive.

“For many of us, Arawaks especially, we have lost our tradition, but thanks to mostly our elders, our customs and traditions have survived … and we have survived as a people because of the same things. So, we should not throw it away. We should strengthen it and pass it over to our children. Our children should then teach their children and the indigenous people will continue to be.”

The Minister said now is the opportune time to capitalise on the many opportunities being made available, especially for the women folk, and craft production can aid in building a robust village economy. She said the womenfolk of the village must play an active role in the process.

The women shared their desire to remain members of the group and their anticipation that they will be able to equip themselves with the knowledge to move the village’s economy forward.

Remarkably, the leader of the group is an elder from the village, eighty-two year old, Charlotte Oselmo, who said she is willing to share her knowledge with the much younger generation of women. She has long been encouraging the women to become involved  in handicraft production.

Asked how she has maintained such an active lifestyle at the age of eighty-two “Mi” as she is fondly known in the village said, “It’s the way you care yourself, exercise your body.”

Mi said she began straw work at a very young age from studying how her mother spun the tibisiri to produce beautiful craft pieces. One of the challenges she faces is her deteriorating eyesight.

Minister Garrido-Lowe assisted by ensuring Mi saw the best ophthalmologist in Georgetown and during the visit to the Mission, presented her with a brand new pair of spectacles compliments of the Ministry of Indigenous Peoples’ Affairs. Mi thanked the Minister for her timely assistance adding that she will be able to better perform her chores at home and, more so, be of more assistance to the women.

Meanwhile, Margret Cornet, a craft and catering facilitator of the Hinterland Employment Youth Service (HEYS Program), is currently in the village on a one-week training exercise working together with Mi in mentoring the group. The women’s first foray at an exhibition will be on May 26, when Guyana celebrates 52 years of Independence and which gives the women the perfect opportunity to demonstrate their independent ability.

St. Cuthbert’s Mission, which will soon be restored to its traditional name Pakuri, is located approximately twelve miles off the Soesdyke/Linden Highway and approximately sixty-five miles up the Mahaica River. The riverside offers the perfect venue for a Sunday family picnic or a peaceful, tranquil retreat for anyone who needs it.

It is home to more than one thousand seven hundred Lokonos, with its main economic activity being subsistence farming and logging, while most of the men folk seek job opportunities in the mining sector.

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