By Kojo Mc Pherson
Art, for one, is a tool. It is a tool for articulating identity. Art is a tool for planting the seeds of aspirations. Art is a tool that can steer communities – from neighborhoods to nation states – towards an expanded sense of current reality and what is possible just around the turn of our hopes, expectations and insecurities. My contribution to this ‘Towards a Good Life’ column will seek to explore how the arts, in its many disciplines, can contribute towards the pursuit of ‘a good life’. Even though I am more familiar with literature, spoken word, photography and film I’d like to start off my end of the discussion with music.
The settings: the peaceful blue wetlands of the Pomeroon; the immense Rupununi – from the forest and mountains that cradle Moco Moco in the north through the savannah to Ashailton in the south; the Mazaruni River stretching into some of the remotest areas of Guyana (and by some accounts, planet Earth); Paramakatoi, like some mountain refuge out of a Tolkein saga; the Upper Berbice River dotted with its quiet hamlets. What links these places? For me it is a song. Whether on the river, in the forest or atop the mountains of our beautiful natural Guyana I find that there is a song that often comes to mind, that excites my imagination with possibilities for Guyana. That song, written by Damian Marley, Nasir Jones and Dennis Brown, is ‘Land of Promise.’
Here’s a sample:
“Imagine Ghana like California with Sunset Boulevard
Johannesburg would be Miami
Somalia like New York
With the most pretty light
The nuffest pretty car
Ever New Year the African Times Square lock-off
The Congo like Colorado
Fort Knox inna Gabon
People living in Morocco like the state of Oregon
Algeria warmer than Arizona bring your sun lotion
Early morning class of Yoga on the beach in Senegal”
I love this song for its bold aspirations and a sentiment that says to me that we too can arrive, can enjoy some of the finer or glitzier things in life without having to dust off our passports.
Yes, the song speaks specifically to the desire of the Marley and Jones to repatriate to Africa but that doesn’t stop me from translating or transposing the imagery presented in the song, and everything it implies, into a Guyanese context. I am encouraged to look at my present environment – natural and man-made – in starkly different ways. This is what is called ‘veja du’ (the opposite of déjà vu), the experience of seeing familiar things, things that we take for granted, in a completely different light, as if we had new eyes.
Thus begins the thought experiment that has been ongoing in my imagination since my first excursion away from the coastland and into the hinterland. So, when I look at the placid water of the Pomeroon River at ‘golden hour’ (the last hour before the sun sets when the light is warmest and softest) and recall young boys skiing atop the water on makeshift water skis, in my minds eye, I can see what the Pomeroon might be.
It almost seems a forgone conclusion that some day this will become Guyana’s own Riviera where tourists, local and foreign alike, will spend lazy afternoons drifting on boats smaller than yachts, bursting their bellies with the very sweetest coconut water you will ever find in Guyana. Or maybe those tourists will sit on the water’s edge sipping just-harvested Pomeroon coffee while they watch the setting sun wash its gold into the river.
Traveling through northern Rupununi over reddest earth, under greenest mountains I see a ribbon of asphalt threading through the savannahs, roadways that invite our people to partake in a splendor so beautiful that it is said that even our most acclaimed writers have struggled to find the words to capture the scenery. Such a highway need not degrade the natural beauty of the area.
While the United States has its Route 66 and Pacific Coast Highway, in my mind’s eye, I can see a Route Rupununi or an Atlantic Coast Highway in Guyana that serves much the same purpose – an economically vital yet scenic thoroughfare that becomes a national treasure by virtue of increasing both the quantity and quality of life. I can see these things in my mind’s eye in large part because of the bold imaginings of songwriters like Marley and Jones, like Dave Martins, and even composers of our national songs.
In biomusicology – the study of music from a biological point of view – there is a phenomenon known as entrainment where one rhythm can cause another to fall in sync, or to ‘fall in time’, with it. If only we could all dance to the beat of a particular drum.
As we forge a green economy pathway for Guyana, remember the ‘good life’ we seek would be better achieved if we maintain Guyana’s scenic and natural beauty into a perfect harmony of man and nature living together and providing inter and intra generational longevity.
In my next article I will seek to explore how film can shape a society’s perception of physical, social and natural environment. (Kojo McPherson is a writer, spoken word artist, photographer, an award-winning filmmaker and father of two).
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(Reposted from the Guyana Chronicle)