Deep South August Games–bringing people together through sport

DPI, GUYANA, Saturday, August 18, 2017

The Deep South August Games is the most anticipated event of the year held south of the Rupununi, Region Nine. The games began in 1997 by two individuals who had a love for sports and a vision of bringing people together. These individuals are former Toshao of Aishalton, Tony James and former educator of Morarunau Adrian Gomes.

Toshao of Morarunau Patrick Gomes in an exclusive interview with the Department of Public Information (DPI) said the games were birthed to replicate the annual Mass Games which was held in Georgetown in the 1980s and1990s. The idea was to have students and teachers involved in the activity. This is one of the main reasons that games are held in August.

A meeting was subsequently held among six villages to have the games hosted in the Rupununi. These villages included Awarewanau, Maruranau, Shea, Aishalton, Karadunau and Auchiwib. Parabara and Masikinari joined the event later.

To get the games off the ground, a meeting was held among the villages, after consultations and the sharing of ideas, Gomes said that “it was agreed that there needed to be a social event that will bring people together”.

The games were first held in Maruranau and in the years, that followed different villages would be selected to host. The village council of the host community would have to ensure that there is a proper venue for the games to be held and sufficient accommodation for persons coming from far distances.

“Every village took part; they came walking, on bicycles, bull carts and horses. That time they had no tractor or no means of other transportation” Gomes stated. This meant participants sometimes took three to four days to reach their destination, depending on where the games were being hosted.

Cricket, football and volleyball were the very first events featured but as time went by, traditional activities such archery with traditional arrows and bows, cotton spinning, basket weaving, cassava grating and cari drinking were added to the list. This was followed with the addition of cultural events and a pageant.

According to Gomes, since the games began 20 years ago, it has grown enormously and has attracted thousands of athletes and spectators. “It has grown in strength, it has grown from then to now tremendously… it looks like what I would say, an international event where you have like a mini Olympics. You have parades, march pass, a formal opening and speeches” he explained.

This year, the games were held in Awarewanau, which is located some seven hours over land from Lethem. One of the coordinators and a representative of Aishalton, Patrick Da Silva also echoed similar sentiments that the level of competition has risen significantly from previous years. “Since they have started the level of cricket, football, and volleyball have risen in all the villages because they have been highly competitive games” Da Silva stated.

Thomas Perry, a spectator agreed, “To me it is better than before because of the lights in the nights, this is the first time it happen in our villages like this” he explained.

While some persons camped out at the venue, others chose to travel back and forth daily. However, the journey is indeed not one for the swift as Perry is testimony to that, “I am coming to support my village, 10 miles from here. I am from Maruranau and I does go back like 8 or 10 o’clock (at night), depends when they finish and in the morning, I does come back again with my family to enjoy myself here.”

Aside from the athletes and spectators, the games have over the years attracted a number of traders from across the country. These traders come from as far as Berbice, Region Six and the Essequibo Coast Region Two.

Gharbarnan Sookraj, from the Essequibo Coast said that he has been attending the event for the past nine years. The trip takes him and his family three days to a week depending on where the game is being hosted.

Sookraj explained that he “came to rodeo one time, then I came another time on business in Lethem and they had heritage, so we do a little sale by the benab and I decided to buy a truck. Well I had the goods so I decided to come here”.

The games continue to also attract persons from the coast, like Totaram Gunpat from Berbice, who attended the games for the first time to trade. He heard about the games through word of mouth.

Gunpat said “I heard about it in Lethem, the boys told me and them man bring me up here, they went the day in front me and I come the day behind”. Gunpat said that of all the competitions he really enjoyed the volleyball games. He was also keen to point out that he will be returning for the games next year.

By: Isaiah Braithwaite

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