• Culture

Guyanese culture reflects the influence of African, Indian, Amerindian, British, Portuguese, Chinese, Creole, and Dutch cultures. Guyana is part of the mainland Caribbean region. Guyanese culture shares a continuum with the cultures of islands in the West Indies.

Photo by: Guyana Tourism Authority / Cassava Bread

Holidays

Celebrations in Guyana [1] reflect the diverse origins of its people; typical European holidays such as Easter and Christmas, Diwali, and Holi(Phagwah) from Guyanese Hindus, and Mashramani, a holiday to celebrate Guyana’s independence inspired by Amerindian festivals.

Literature and theatre

Colonial society put a greater value on entertainment from Europe than locally produced ones, and for the most part sought to emulate popular Victorian English styles. Abolition of slavery and the end of indenture were factors in a growing middle class, and towards the middle of the 20th century, there was a growing need for arts that reflected the reality of life and people of the Caribbean region.

Music and visual arts

Guyana’s musical tradition is a mix of African, Indian, European, and Latin elements. The most popular type of music is Calypso and its offshoots and mixes, like in other parts of the Eastern Caribbean. The various types of popular music include reggae, calypso, chutney, Soca, local Guyanese soca-chutney and Bollywood film songs (or Indian music). Due to globalization, sounds from neighboring countries can be heard such as Merengue, Bachata, Salsa, with Reggaeton being the most popular. Popular Guyanese performers include Billy (William) Moore, Terry Gajraj, Mark Holder, Eddy Grant, Dave Martins & the Tradewinds, Aubrey Cummings and Nicky Porter. Among the most successful Guyanese record producers are Eddy Grant, Terry Gajraj and Dave Martin.

Film

The story of cinema in Guyana goes back to the 1920s when the Gaiety, probably British Guiana’s first cinema, stood by the Brickdam Roman Catholic Presbytery in Georgetown, and showed Charlie Chaplin-type silent movies. After the Gaiety burnt down around 1926, other cinemas followed, such as the Metro on Middle Street in Georgetown, which became the Empire; the London on Camp Street, which became the Plaza; and the Astor on Church and Waterloo Streets, which opened around 1940.

Architecture

Guyana’s historic architecture reflects the country’s British colonial past. Even current houses when made of wood still emulate aspects of the style. Many of the buildings in Georgetown and New Amsterdam were built entirely of local wood.

Sports

The most-played sports in Guyana are cricket, basketball and football. Key sport organizations in Guyana include the government’s Ministry of Culture, Youth and Sport; the Guyana Cricket Board; Guyana Amateur Basketball Federation; and the Guyana Football Federation. Professional level sports have suffered from lack of funding, lacking access to facilities and training. Guyana plays as part of West Indies team for international cricket since 1928.

Cricket

Cricket has been an important vehicle for cultural unity across the Caribbean. In British Guiana, it represented a way for the non-white lower classes to earn recognition in colonial society. It was introduced to Guyana by British military teams, and has since become dominated by Afro and Indo-Guyanese. The West Indies team victory in 1950 against England at Lord’s, “still remains the single most satisfying moment in the history of West Indies cricket” also inspired a calypso.

Cuisine

Guyanese cuisine is similar to the rest of the Anglo-Caribbean, especially Trinidad, where the ethnic mix is somewhat similar. The food reflects the ethnic makeup of the country and its colonial history, and includes ethnic groups of African, Creole, East Indian, Portuguese, Amerindian, Chinese and European (mostly British) influences and dishes. The food is diverse and includes dishes such as dal bhat, curry, roti and cook-up rice (the local variation on the Anglo-Caribbean rice and peas). The one-pot meal, while not the national dish, is one of the most cooked dishes.

Dishes have been adapted to Guyanese tastes, often by the addition of herbs and spices. Unique preparations include Guyana pepperpot, a stew of Amerindian origin made with meat, cassareep (a bitter extract of the cassava), and seasonings. Other favorites are cassava bread, stews, and metemgee, a thick rich type of soup with ground provision, coconut milk and large dumplings (called duff), eaten with fried fish or chicken. Homemade bread-making, an art in many villages, is a reflection of the British influence that includes pastries such as cheese rolls, pine tarts (pineapple tarts), and patties.

Folklore

Guyanese folklore is similar to Caribbean folklore, mixed with African, Indian, Amerindian, and British/European beliefs. Folklores are the cultural beliefs and demonstrations that bind people from a group and help them to form an identity. These expressions can be in the form of dances, food, festivals, proverbs, stories, legends, music, festivals and costumes. Guyanese myths have their foundations in cultural influences from Amerindian, European, African and Indian backgrounds. Some of these beliefs are similar to the Caribbean diaspora while some are uniquely Guyanese. Some known Guyanese myths include: The Old Higue (Hag)

Language

English is the main language, and Guyana is the only English-speaking country in South America, although many people in neighboring Suriname also speak English. British English is taught in school and used in Government and business. Guyanese creole, a pidgin of 17th-century English, African and Hindi words, is used at home and on the street. It is the same as creoles spoken in the Eastern Caribbean such Barbados, Trinidad and Tobago, and St. Vincent but with different accent or emphasis on how the words are pronounced.

Religion

There are 3 major religions in Guyana; Christianity, Islam, and Hinduism.

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