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Saturday, 26 April 2008

R.I.P. Wordsworth McAndrew, 1936-2008

The Guyanese writer, folklorist, and broadcaster Wordsworth McAndrew--"one of the most influential advocates for the collection, preservation and celebration of Guyanese folk life", as today's Stabroek News puts it, in some ways the Guyanese equivalent of Louise Bennett--died yesterday in New Jersey, at the age of 72. The Signifyin' Guyana blog has posted a tribute to McAndrew by his friend and colleague John Rickford:

I learned a lot from Mac over the years. He had an absolute love for Guyanese "culchuh" as he put it--and an infinite interest in every variant of every tradition (queh queh, obeah, cumfa), song, story, game, way of cooking, eating, celebrating, and so on that Guyanese and West Indian peoples of every ethnic group had inherited and transformed. I learned a lot from him about how to do fieldwork well. For instance, if someone said they played a game called "Airy Dory," and asked if he'd ever heard of it, he'd either say "No," (although I knew he had heard several accounts of it already) or otherwise indicate that he wanted to hear this particular person's version. Invariably, some new detail, some local variant would emerge in the course of the narration, and his understanding of the full range and complexity (and perhaps history) of that cultural institution would be enriched in the process.

Signifyin' Guyana collects a number of other tributes here. See also this 2004 profile by Vibert Cambridge, and read McAndrew's best-known poem, "Ol' Higue", here.

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