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Nov 18, 2004

New Garifuna museum opens in Dangriga

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Under threatening skies they gathered this afternoon to mark an important milestone in the cultural life of a people…and nation. I cannot imagine a better way to bring in Garifuna Settlement Day.

Janelle Chanona, Reporting

It has been a museum in the making for the past four years. But sharing the story of the heritage of the Garifuna culture…from freedom in St. Vincent, exile to Roatan, and later, migration to this country, has long been a dream of the Garinagu of Belize. Now a symbol of the culture?s survival, it has been named in honour of a child who struggled to preserve her people?s traditions.

Michael Polonio, President, National Garifuna Council

?Gulisi was the twelve year old daughter of our chief Joseph Chatoyer who survived all those hardships that I discussed. She was among the first migration to Belize, one of our settlers of one of our southern commodities that was settled by the Garinagu. Even more significantly, the story survived today because she made sure of it because in her old age, she took it upon herself to wake her grandchildren in the middle of the night so they wouldn?t forget. She related the entire story of her life to them; names, date, details, name of the ship which she came, the name of the captain and what happened. She made them promise to pass on this legacy.?

With technical support from the National Institute for Culture and History, experts selected important documents, pictures and artefacts to build the museum?s displays.

Yasser Musa, President, NICH

?Joseph Palacio, the well known anthropologist, assisted with a lot of the timeline, the language and the script for the exhibits and Sebastian Cayetano helped a lot with a lot of the actual objects and displays and of course we got help from other sources. Even Channel 5 provided us with some very rare footage foreample the 1983 footage of Pen Cayetano and the Turtle Shell Band in Dangriga. That is a part of history. Things like that should be in a museum. So we compiled all those resources and brought it into the museum.?

According to Michael Polonio, President of the National Garifuna Council while this story is told from a Garifuna?s perspective, there is a message for everyone.

Michael Polonio

?I think it?s a lesson for all cultures, all Belizeans that how important it is for us to relate to our children, the stories of our ancestry; the proud parts of it that we do not give up our cultures; the fabric of our cultures, the Mayan culture, the Garifuna culture, the Creole culture, the East Indian culture. We should not give it up for the more modern day foreign values. We can incorporate the good parts of the foreign values, but retain the important parts of our history.?

Yasser Musa

?This museum reflects a growing interest in our public for different types of museums and we at NICH are very hopeful that in the future we will be able to get other kinds of museum on stream. It is just a matter of the interest of the people coming forward with a plan, a goal and a dream and we will be happy to assist.?

The Gulisi Garifuna Museum is sponsored and supported by the Government of Belize, Republic of China on Taiwan, Simon Quan and Family, Belize Telecommunications Limited, the National Institute of Culture and History and the National Garifuna Council. It will be open to the public Monday to Friday from nine to five.

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