Accusations against the Prize are false and without merit (Part 1)

first_imgDear Editor,I refer to the claims made in letters to the national newspapers by Rev. Gideon Cecil and Ras Aaron Blackman:* That the Guyana Prize for Literature privileges Guyanese writers resident overseas• That it awards prizes only to a small clique of friends in that circle of overseas- based writers• That local writers and unpublished manuscripts are overlooked• That local writers do not stand a chance against the foreigner ones; and• That local writers are denied opportunities for recognition and development as writers.The Guyana Prize was established “to recognise and reward outstanding work in literature by Guyanese and Caribbean authors, in order to:(1) Provide a focus for the recognition of the creative writing of Guyanese at home and abroad(2) Stimulate interest in, and provide encouragement for, the development of good creative writing among Guyanese in particular, and Caribbean writers in general.Since it began in 1987, the clear majority of winners have been resident overseas. The Prize Awards have always been meant to go to the best of the nation’s literature, and the harsh reality has been that, since the 1950s, the vast majority of practising and professional writers left the country, most of them settling overseas. This means that the bulk of the best Guyanese literature is being produced in the UK, Canada and the USA. It should not be surprising that that is where most of the winners have been.In spite of that reality, it is plainly not true that there was a bias towards those writers “in exile”, and a neglect of local residents. The judges have proven themselves ready to recognise the best talent when it is resident in Guyana, and have not hesitated to award the Prizes to them. Contrary to what has been peddled, there have been outstanding cases of local writers, most of them with unpublished manuscripts, defeating well known names who have been established overseas.Here are some examples: Harischandra Khemraj was an unknown writer – a school teacher in D’ Edward Village in Region Five, West Coast Berbice, with no previous publications when he won the top prize – the Best Book of Fiction in 1994 with Cosmic Dance. Among the vanquished were celebrated literary high flyers based overseas Fred D’Aguiar, David Dabydeen, Beryl Gilroy and Cyril Dabydeen. That was a major find, an emphatic advance for Guyanese literature at home.Harold Bascom has now advanced to be a playwright with four Guyana Prize victories and one Caribbean Award. He resides in the USA. But he was a local writer and dramatist in Lodge, Georgetown when he received his greatest recognition up to that time – the Guyana Prize for the Best Book of Drama in 1994 for his unpublished manuscript of the play Two Wrongs. What is more, he repeated the achievement in 1996 while still a local resident, when he entered his playscript of Makantali.Yours faithfully,Al CreightonSecretary, GuyanaPrize.last_img read more