Indigenous art exhibition honours George Simon
─ highlights the work of the Lokono artists
DPI, Guyana, Sunday, September 8, 2019
This year’s Heritage Art Exhibition pays homage to the work of well-known Indigenous artist and archaeologist, George Simon.
The Moving Circle of Artists (MCA) Retrospective Exhibition (1998-2019) opened at the National Art Gallery, Castellani House on September 7 and spotlights the role Simon played in transforming Indigenous art in Guyana.
Simon was born in Pakuri Village (formerly St. Cuthbert’s Mission) in 1947. When he was 12, he and his adoptive father moved to Essex, England. In 1978, he graduated from the University of Portsmouth with an honours degree in art. He returned to Guyana in the same year and since they have been a powerful catalytic force in Guyanese art. On his return to Guyana, Simon took up a position as lecturer in art, archaeology and anthropology, and coordinator of the Amerindian Research Unit at the University of Guyana.
The show also focuses on the “Six Lokono Artists” whose pioneering work led to a new movement of Indigenous art in Guyana. In the 1980s, Six Indigenous artists banded together to promote, exhibit and market their art. Led by Simon, the other five – Foster Simon, Oswald Hussein, Roland Taylor, Telford Taylor and Lynus Klenkian -became known for what is today called ‘Lokono art’. From towering totem poles to tiny sculptures, they intricately crafted representations of plant and wildlife and indigenous symbols.
Minister of Social Cohesion, Hon. Dr. George Norton said that it would near-impossible to speak of Indigenous art without mentioning the work put in by Simon and the Lokono artists.
“When one thinks about visual art from Guyana, the art from the Indigenous artists stands out as distinct and prominent as it proposed a Guyanese aesthetic. These artists lean on their intimate knowledge of animal life, landscape to celebrate their culture as they share a unique perspective,” he noted.
Delivering the feature address, Minister of Indigenous Peoples’ Affairs, Hon. Sydney Allicock noted that Simon’s journey has helped to promote the Indigenous people of this country. He commended the young artists participating in this year’s show and encourage them to continue in the same vein as Simon uncovering new aspects of Indigenous art.
He also pointed to the fact that they can bring the Indigenous knowledge of living compatibly with the environment to their art and this way help in promoting the message of developing a green state.
“We need this type of information to be shared with others… over the years, we have artists who have used the materials from the forest that are friendly to sustainable living; friendly to the ecosystem; friendly to where life exists,” he added.
Minister within the Ministry of Indigenous Peoples’ Affairs, Hon. Valerie Garrido-Lowe said Indigenous Heritage month provides persons with an opportunity to have a glimpse in the rich culture and philosophy of the Indigenous peoples.
“Our Indigenous people have created a civilization of their own, pyramids, tools, wide array of sculptures, ceramic, all exquisite … these skills were not taught to us in schools, but it is passed down from centuries of artistic techniques that are part of our DNA as Indigenous people,” she added.
This year’s exhibition which is open to the public will run until September 28.