The late Edgar Mittelholzer, considered the first professional novelist to emerge from the English-speaking Caribbean, and Martin Carter were literary geniuses who helped shape the consciousness of Guyana, the country of their birth.
Professor Emeritus Dr. Frank Birbalsingh, who taught post-colonial Literature at York University for three decades, recently celebrated their accomplishments at the annual appreciation awards event of the Queen’s College (Q.C.) of Guyana Alumni Association (Toronto).
“Most nations in history are known for their writers and artists,” said Birbalsingh, who attended Q.C. from 1949-1956. “Writers tell us something about our inner selves and trying to define, explore and express. Ordinary people live the experience, but they don’t have the words or ability to understand themselves and we need writers like Mittelholzer and Carter to tell us that.”
Birbalsingh said Mittelholzer was, in his opinion, Guyana’s first major writer.
He wrote 23 novels, a travel book and autobiography before committing suicide in England in 1965 at age 56.
“He wrote so many different kinds of books, from detective and adventure to ghost stories before taking his life at the height of his career,” said Birbalsingh, who regards Mittelholzer’s Kaywana trilogy as “his most supreme books”.
Carter, who died in 1997, is best known for a powerful protest poem, I Come from the Nigger Yard of Yesterday, which he wrote in the 1960s.
The alumni association awarded Lynette Dolphin memorial bursaries to Ayanna Boyce, Shamika Moses and Praim Nauth Persaud.
Boyce, a graduate of Westdale Secondary School in Hamilton is a first-year Health Studies student at the University of Waterloo while Moses, who graduated from St. Thomas Aquinas Secondary School in Brampton, is enrolled in the first-year Psychology degree program at York University.
The first Q.C. alumnus to be awarded the bursary, Nauth is a first-year Medical Studies student at the University of the West Indies St. Augustine campus in Trinidad.
Dolphin taught music at Queen’s College and chaired Guyana’s National History and Arts Council before her death a decade ago.
The alumni group, founded 20 years ago, also awarded honorary life membership to Conrad Griffith and presented service awards to Gerald “Boots” Alleyne, Patrick Chan, Victor Moses, Leyland Muss, David Singh and Vivian Wong.
Michael Wishart was the recipient of a life membership certificate.
Established in 1844 as a boys’ grammar school, Q.C. became co-educational 35 years ago.