Those who have set standards against overwhelming odds | In remembrance of Rudy Seymour

Based on information provided by his son Brian, Rudy Seymour died overseas on April 15 2020 from complications due to COVID-19. Like most things significant in Guyana, milestones are ignored and most importantly not contextualised, providing a chronicle of our evolution and the challenges faced in each capsule of time; providing an understanding of struggles private and mass, towards the archives of been better informed. Rudy Seymour is undoubtedly the father of the comic book genre in British Guiana/Guyana.

His comic book ‘The Preacher’ came out sometime in the 1960s and immediately was popular among young grassroots comic book enthusiasts whose best reach to new books came from exchanging, upon strict examination, the Preacher was a novelty. So I didn’t hesitate to part with two Commando comics for a Preacher. I can’t tell how many books Seymour did, but we liked it as children, it was our own. The problem came from adults in my family particularly my father, who awoke me to the recognition that the Preacher was against Big Mama, okay, so…so? So my father elaborated with his friend Moshe, as I sat the only student of this lesson in his work-shop, uncle Moshe would later teach me the symbolisms of the Masquerade band, they both challenged me to be aware of the society I was living in, which up to then and still is, functioning at that level in guarded, subtle and occasionally blatant levels of rejection. To be aware of the mask of accommodation without embracing, accompanied by a network of sabotage hidden behind smiles. Big Mama was brought into life by dad as Aunt Iris, Uranie and other turbaned citizens that were familiar and friendly to me and were my mother’s friends, they quoted the bible called Lucifer the king of the evil spirits, and always saw dreams in symbolic terms, but was wise enough when I made up a dream about certain Christmas gifts to laugh it off and humour me about it. So why would this man attack them? Well it was uncle Moshe who in dispelling this information, told me first about the Jordonite Elder who predicted that the British empire would fall and was thrown into prison for those utterances in the late 1930s-early ’40s, and prisoners incited to cause him harm in different ways, so they concluded to my relief that if he had replaced Big Mama with a past Plantation owner that worshipped Satan as he had indicated Big Mama was doing, then I would not be reading the book, because no one would have published it. It was confusing to a pre-teen, because long after the conversation, there were many “why, why, and whys??” which from my own experiences much later, Father Time would provide me with profound answers.

The fact is, that ‘The Preacher’ existed, had inspired many of other illustrated storytellers, like me, Shanks and Tyrone Doris and many others who had talent but didn’t want to cross the rapids in search of getting published, which still is a tremendous task on its own. We also didn’t know Rudy Seymour personally, but we read his cartoon strips in the Chronicle and New Nation, and the Illustrated ‘Story of Burnham.’ However, in the 1980s, I met Seymour, or was in fact introduced to him by someone else, I did ask him about ‘Big Mama’ and without knowing my dad, my god-father or uncle Moshe, he explained the exact circumstances they had narrated to me many years ago. He had migrated by then. I could remember relating to him how members from a family of artists who contributed to the media had written letters condemning, (the letters were not published by either of the newspapers, though I was informed) my folklore character titled ‘The Elder’ accusing me of using occult philosophy in a story revolving around a Charlestown scenario, he told me that he was related to them, and those people practised that kind of stuff. By all means, Rudy Seymour stands apart; that he dared, that he did it, against overwhelming odds, that he was responsible for generating the conversation in my dad’s joiner shop, which awakened me much later to what is not, at all well, and enabled me to surmount many of the unpredictable obstacles I encountered, does make him extremely relevant towards the creative field, and the creation and importance of well-grounded Imagery in the national context that defines the Guyanese identity.

His son Brian informed me that the elder Seymour had won an award in the mid-1970s from the Ministry of health for doing a comic book for School Children on World Health Organization day and cryptically he had spoken about a coming pandemic and the fight for a vaccine. “Ironically he died from Covid -19 about the same day in April that he received that award In the 70’s” Brian Seymour concluded. What is sad is that no research facility houses the biographies of Cultural personalities for young minds and researchers so inclined, this has escaped administrators completely, like the proverbial ‘stone upon the water, its relevance had sunk beneath their minds’.

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