The Emancipation Act (of 1833) stipulated that the slaves would continue to work on the plantations as “apprentices” for a further period of six years if they were field slaves and for four years if they were house slaves. They were to work for seven and a half hours a day, or forty five hours a week. This was a deliberate action to ensure that the plantation owners were provided with free labour even after slavery was abolished. Much of this arrangement was not explained to slaves after the Emancipation Act was passed.
In British Guiana, the 1 August 1834 was declared a public holiday by the Governor. While many slaves celebrated emancipation by making merry, others went to their churches to offer prayers.
On the following morning, the “freed” Africans were more than surprised and very angry when they were ordered by their masters to return to work. On many plantations they refused to work, and the Governor himself had to visit quite a few plantations in Demerara to explain the apprenticeship regulations to the African workers. By the 5 August, the situation had reached such a crisis that he had to issue a proclamation ordering all the “apprentices” to obey the regulations.
The Africans were thus forced back to work, but they did so reluctantly. From time to time short strikes occurred, and there were acts of sabotage, as during the slavery period, on plantation property.
Harsh punishment, including flogging and imprisonment, was inflicted on disobedient apprentices. Some were also sentenced to cruel punishment on the treadmill. Even the British Government became concerned that the Africans were being unfairly treated and, as a result, it appointed “stipendiary” or special magistrates to listen to complaints from both Africans and planters. In general, however, these magistrates took the side of the planters and did little to halt the unfair treatment. In many cases, local planters were appointed as temporary magistrates by the Governor until the arrival of the appointees from England.
It was generally felt by the ex-slaves that the special magistrates were biased towards the planters. This happened because in some cases, punishments imposed by the planters were supported by the magistrates. Also, if an apprentice broke the law, such as refusing to work, the case was passed on to the regular magistrate who generally imposed very harsh punishment such as whipping and imprisonment. But a few of the special magistrates were not popular with the planters since they frequently upheld the appeals of the apprentices.
Pork-knockers can serve as a metaphor for rugged, Caribbean-style resilience and just plain toughness. Pork-knockers are a tough breed of individuals, independent prospectors for gold and diamonds in the rivers and earth of Guyana’s Bush, traditionally equipped mainly with shovel, pick and pan, and at least at one time or another sure to have ended a hard day eating pickled pork after facing the prospect of such as malaria and the natural and supernatural wild with grace and grit.
Dai-Dai is a legendary Amerindian spirit said to be common to the jungles of Guyana. Most commonly known as Bush Dai-Dai, it is said to be hideous in appearance. Bush Dai-Dai is also described as being short and squat. Bush Dai-Dai seems primarily to be a protector of mineral and natural resources, and sightings and more of this demon or forest spirit may not be unusual especially in gold and diamond rich areas of the Bush
According to legend, a Choorile is the spirit of a woman who has died during childbirth, leaving her baby alive. The separation from her baby makes her restless, and so the choorile roams throughout the night, crying mournfully.
The choorile is one of the Guyanese Jumbies that are slowly being forgotten, and the older generation of Guyanese are the ones who still remember the choorile. Many of the younger generation have never heard of the choorile.
The massacooraman is a huge, hairy, man-like creature that lives in rivers in the interior of Guyana. The massacooramaan allegedly capsizes small boats and eats the occupants.
Amerindians and miners who work in the interior of Guyana often speak of the massacooramaan. It is much taller and bigger than a man, and has sharp teeth. It is unknown whether or not the massacooramaan lives in the river or dwells on land, but it is certain that it can swim very well and attacks boats in the river at whatever chance it gets.
Good luck with your 2012 Fall Semester, you guys.
Study hard, get those A’s, and then party hard.
- - fyGY’s blogger/college nerd/so screwed for this semester (me, duh).