Guyana pulling out all the stops for Mash

By Gerald V. Paul

Don Gomes, seen with a Peter Tang Mas creation for Carnival in Toronto, is promoting the Guyanese version called Mash, happening on Republic Day, Feb. 23, in Georgetown.
Don Gomes, seen with a Peter Tang Mas creation for Carnival in Toronto, is promoting the Guyanese version called Mash, happening on Republic Day, Feb. 23, in Georgetown.

Canadian Don Gomes is looking forward to a successful Mashramani in his native land of Guyana come Feb. 23, celebrating 45 years as a republic.

Mashramani, known as Mash, is akin to Mas. It’s fitting that it happens during Black History Month in Ontario because Mash is all about roots, culture and identity for Caribbean people, whether living in Guyana or Canada. Guyana, which became a republic in 1970, usually marks Guyanese Republic Day on Feb. 23.

Gomes is a leading Mash man and cultural exponent in Guyana and a recipient of the Medal of Service. He’s been involved in a Mas camp / band in the parade in Toronto during Caribana, the Scotiabank Toronto Carnival.

“Mashramani means a national celebration after a co-operative effort to achieve a better standard of living and tolerance and respect to our many cultural backgrounds as one culture, Guyanese,” Gomes told The Camera last Tuesday.

Gomes said Guyana will have 45 bands on the streets of the capital of Georgetown. He suggested visitors also do some eco-tourism after Mash as Guyana, at 83,000 sq. mi. is two-thirds virgin forest.

He said Mash is more than a ‘wine and wave’ as there will be several competitions showcasing Guyanese talent on steel pan, in calypso, chutney, masquerade and many other areas.

Gomes noted Al Creighton’s Guyana’s Mashramani – Origins and Development, the first scholarly publication about Mash, says: “Carnival and masquerade are parallel traditions with similarities and differences. They both belong to the cultural form described as carnivalesque because of the style of public theatrical performance, street parades, exhibitions of masques which may include dramatizations, costumed figures, effigies or symbols, and may include dance and music in an exhibition or performance on the streets.

“While this large practice of the carnivalesque is a tradition that exists across the entire Caribbean region, only some of the territories developed a carnival.”

Creighton writes that while carnivalesque tradition exists across the Caribbean, only some territories developed a carnival. Gomes is confident this will be the best Mash since its inception as it’s happening during an election year that’s hoped to result in greater freedom and democracy.