GINA, GUYANA – CARLA Hopkinson, fondly referred to as “Aunty Carla” is an indigenous woman of Carib origin. She is from a small village called Dogg Point in Bartica, Region Seven. She is a wife, mother and grandmother.
Aunty Carla makes cassava bread, cassareep, tuma, piwari and a variety of craft items for sale. This industrious woman knows that “no work is easy” and she urges women to work alongside men in areas of logging and farming.
Aunty Carla told the Government Information Agency (GINA) that “she grew up seeing her parents making the very things that she now handles. She said that her parents were farmers and fishermen, so she knows about the tough life from a very tender age.
Aunty Carla and her products
Aunty Carla has been living in Bartica for 42 years. She is not a resident of the town by birth, and while being employed at the National Insurance Scheme (NIS) for 27 years her Indigenous way of life is still very much alive in her heart and it is evident from the way she lives.
Her business is self-integrated. She has two cassava farms in Dogg Point village. The raw material for her cassava bread and all the other products made from that staple comes from her farm. Materials for her craft items come from surrounding indigenous villages. Her cassareep comes in 24-ounce bottles, and is on sale on ‘market day’ in Bartica which is on a Saturday, and when there is village day.
Items such as the tuma and cassava bread are sent into the ‘back dam’ for sale.
In her line of work, her husband plays an integral part. He takes his wife’s finished products to the market to be sold. He handles all the transportation, she said.
Aunty Carla takes pride and joy in everything that she does. “If I have to grate cassava, I will get up at five and bathe and go over to my working area and begin to work. My lunch would catch me right in this area.”
She said that the process is long and sometimes tiring, depending on the quantity of the orders. “You are in the smoke all day, and at the end you smell like a smoked fish. On a busy day, my house sees me till night. And the work doesn’t stop there because even though I have orders to take care of, I still have to take care of the home, ensuring that it’s clean and food is cooked among other things.”
Aunty Carla said that her children were her priority. She told GINA that she has six children alive. She said that educating them was at the top of the list for her and her other half. She would ensure that her children have food and all that is necessary to attend school. She would also ensure that her husband was taken care of to go to work. “I would ensure that his clothes are pressed, lunch is kept warm and the house is clean because as you know men like to come home to a clean house and a warm meal.”
She added: “I am proud of myself from where I started to where I am now. It has not been easy, but God has blessed these two hands of mine and it would be selfish of me to go back to Him and not have done anything with it,” Aunty Carla said.
She told GINA that since the commencement of her business she has built her house, and she also has a grocery shop.
Like Aunty Carla said, her hands are blessed. She is also versatile in cooking such foods as fried rice, curried chicken and roti, dhal puri, pholurie, and cassava ball.
Aunty Carla’s cassareep can last a lifetime. The process to make one bottle takes three hours. The cassava is grated, placed in the matapee where the juice is extracted. The juice is then placed on the fire and the “cream” is taken off and that liquid is cooked for hours until it reaches the consistency of the cassareep.
Her craft items which are on display and for resale throughout the year include fans, matapees, graters and shifters; they are completed at different times due to the size and quantity of the orders that are placed.
In terms of market for her products, Aunty Carla said that if assistance were offered to her to have her products and work become more recognisable, she would accept. She said “Guyana has beautiful items to offer, not just internally, but on the international scene as well.”
Aunty Carla is also encouraging persons to be thankful for what they have and what God provides on a daily basis for them. This proud, strong Carib woman entrepreneur encourages others, especially women, “to get up and get going and ask for advice.”
She noted that young people were not humble enough to ask for advice. However she would still like them to know that life is about learning.
Aunty Carla can be contacted on 679-4673 for orders.
(By: Gabreila Patram)