Hopkinson (Go-Go Live) allows Guyana, the second-poorest country in the Western Hemisphere, to serve as a surrogate for other impoverished communities and to explore art’s role under politically oppressive regimes. The book opens with a colorful chapter on Mashramani, Guyana’s street festival held annually on the anniversary of the slave rebellion led by Cuffy. Information about the country’s history—from slavery and indentured servitude to former president Forbes Burnham’s 1970s celebration of Guyanese art—provides context on the country’s current political climate and the tensions between black and East Indian citizens, who battle for political control. While a well-written analysis of Kara Walker’s Sugar Sphinx statue provides an entryway for discussing Guyana’s sugar plantations and sugar’s role in the slave trade, it’s odd that Hopkinson devotes a chapter to a famous American artist, when a more thorough discussion of Guyana’s own artists could develop the book’s central question: can creative and intellectual work transform communities? Hopkinson’s powerful description of the murder of Courtney Crum-Ewing, the political activist who peacefully protested outside of attorney general Anil Nandall’s home, reveals no easy answers to that question. Hopkinson’s smart analysis of art and politics is worth reading, even if the book’s wandering focus can prove distracting. (Feb.)
Reviewed on: 11/06/2017 Release date: 02/01/2018 Genre: Nonfiction
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