Celebrating culture, celebrating Guyana

Joelton De Oliveira in the costume that won in the Individual Costume category of the Regional Children’s Mashramani Competition (Photo compliments of Mischka White)

School of the Nations excels at Mashramani Costume Competition

By Gibron Rahim
MASHRAMANI is once again upon us. This year Guyana celebrates its 48th Republic Anniversary under the theme “Let’s Cooperate and Celebrate Republic 48”. An undeniable highlight of the annual celebrations is the Children’s Mashramani Competition and the Children’s Mashramani Costume and Float Parade. These activities grant our country’s young people the opportunity to showcase their talents and celebrate the melding of cultures that is at the heart of the festivities.

These last few weeks have been marked by an array of activities all leading up to the Children’s Float Parade which was scheduled to take place on Saturday, February 17. There have been Regional Mashramani Competitions in each of the 10 administrative regions. The activities saw schoolchildren from various schools across the country performing individually and collectively in the areas of dance, music and costume, to name a few. Among the schools that participated and won in Region Four’s competition was School of the Nations. The school was among the winners for Individual Costume in the topical category.

The Pepperpot Magazine was able to speak to the school’s principal, Mischka White, about the school’s participation in the competition. She explained that the Individual Costume was not the only Mashramani activity they were involved in this year. At the national level, School of the Nations was also set to be a part of the Children’s Mashramani Costume and Float Parade. The school was interested in participating in even more activities at the national level but, unfortunately, missed deadlines for the regional dates prevented participation this year. Internally though, the school has been involved in a number of other activities centered on Mashramani. These include a Spelling Bee competition and an inter-class Mashramani costume competition.

White noted that the students have always responded favourably to the school’s Mashramani activities. The win in the Individual Costume competition has filled them with even more enthusiasm and excitement. From the start of the activities, they have been very actively involved in the different aspects of the preparations. They have worked on adding the finer details to the costumes for the parade. Additionally, all the work on the costumes for the inter-class competition was theirs. They have reacted to the win by working even more diligently on their costumes and all their other Mashramani preparations.

School of the Nations’ winning costume is entitled “Eco Paradise”. The costume, White said, is a celebration of the rich biodiversity of Guyana’s interior. It is a reminder of the importance of our rainforests and of their need for protection. She emphasised the importance of acknowledging Guyana’s unique composition of flora and fauna. To reflect this, the materials used for Eco Paradise were biodegradable or recyclable.

When the Pepperpot Magazine spoke to White, further improvements were still being made to the costume to have it ready for the parade on Saturday last. Among the improvements was the discarding of the traditional wheeled float design. White explained that the main float would be worn by a student instead. It was their goal to try another method and one that would distinguish them in the parade.

Mashramani honours the coming together of Guyana’s many cultures into a collective. That multicultural aspect resonates with the school. Indeed, White explained that the celebration and preservation of various cultures are at the heart of School of the Nations. “We have more than 25 different nationalities in our school so culture for us is very important,” she said. Celebrating and learning about different cultures from an early age helps the students to appreciate the values of other persons and cultures. In turn, she said this leads to tolerance, sharing and building relationships. The earlier this exposure and learning about culture begins, the greater the anticipation among the students for the celebrations of various cultures that make up their identities.

The various cultures of the different students are incorporated into the school’s curriculum. In the case of Mashramani, the costumes for the inter-class costume competition are also being graded toward the students’ art assessment so that, at the same time they are enjoying themselves working with feathers and other materials, they are simultaneously learning and being graded.

In this same vein, there are various celebrations at the school throughout the school year. As an example, this past Valentine’s Day was also the school’s Spanish Culture Day where students from the nursery level upwards, dressed in attire inspired by Spanish speaking countries and an afternoon programme was conducted completely in Spanish. Such activities are very common at the school White said. These celebrations are used to allow the students of various nationalities to share their history and culture with the rest of the school’s population. In that way, “We all learn,” White said. This has been the case with Mashramani.

Mashramani is once again upon us. Even as the celebration has over the years sought to discover and remake its identity, the themes of cooperation and multiculturalism have always found their way to the forefront. The celebration of culture and acceptance, as School of the Nations has been doing, is intrinsic to the concept of Mashramani. We need to strive toward building on this ideal as we continue our “celebration of a job well done”.