To many, Independence means merely the formal conceding of political and constitutional power by the imperialists to representatives of the local populace. Some may go further and contend that to be real, it must also mean local control of the new nation’s economy and economic destinies. Few, however, address their minds to the need for cultural and artistic independence; to the need for formulating cultural and artistic goals for the new nations.
In our own Guyana, we have produced our poets, our authors, our dramatists, our painters and our sculptors, but what attempts have been made to relate our works to their history and the evolution of a distinctive culture? What has been done to commit to writing and interpret our social history? Who, hitherto, has thought of discovering the roots of our peoples and the community of origins which we share with our brothers of the Caribbean, the Negroes of North America and the nations of Africa and Asia.
Like so many other people achieving independence in our generation we have had our lives and our habits influenced and shaped by centuries of colonial rule, as a result of which our society has remained a complex of complexes, causing us to ignore and sometimes consciously condemn our own achievements and distinctive cultural patterns. We have been satisfied to accent the European description of our forefathers’ revolutions and struggles as mere riots and rebellions against lawful authority, instead of part of a pattern of a subject people’s struggle to recapture their freedom.
Whence have we sprung? Where are we going? Who are our brothers? What contributions have we got to make as members of the family of man? These are the questions that must excite us as we move into independence.
It is because this independence issue of the New World attempts to answer some of these questions and to paint Guyana on the canvas of the Caribbean, the Western Hemisphere and the world, that I consider it a pleasure and an honour as Prime Minister of Guyana to welcome this publication.
Men of culture from the Caribbean have come together to bear witness to the independence of my country and to pay tribute to the dignity and pcrseverence of the people of Guyana. One of them, Wilfred Cartey of Trinidad has aptly described the feeling of many a Guyanese patriot:
“……after many years, independence has come to the Land of Guyana, a land which by its sweeping vastness and its wide expanses breeds freedom. It is a holy land, purified by the blood of many peoples – Indian, Portuguese, Dutch and Negro and East Indian and Chinese, sanctified by a history of violence, as these peoples fought for possession of themselves and of the land”.
This is a moment when our feelings must transcend electoral rivalries and ideological differences, and when we must acknowledge the urgent and essential role of the intellectual worker in the process of transforming our society and nations. It is not without significance that included in this work are pieces and poems not only by Guyanese or English-speaking West Indians, but also by world figures from other parts of the Caribbean like Martinique and Cuba. The net has been cast wide and the catch has been of the highest quality, and of greatest portent for the future. We can now see ourselves as part of a regional and world movement. We can be the haven for new and revolutionary thought and the place where there can be free exchange of ideas and concepts.
I welcome again this participation by our friends and brothers in the celebration of this historic event, Independence. Theirs to use are the fruits of our efforts. Our achievements are theirs to claim. We know that our history and culture will be richer for their contributions.