Grace Albert

Grace Albert

North Rupununi District Development Board

What did I expect from my third visit to Katoonarib?

A field report from the South Rupununi

May 29, 2014

This is a personal account by Grace Albert, community research assistant on the Cobra Project for the North Rupununi District Development Board. She made her third visit to the South Rupununi indigenous community of Katoonarib from the 12th to the 17th May, together with Géraud De Ville (IES) and Lakeram Haynes (NRDDB).

I went to sleep the evening before the travel day, with so many thoughts about the team in Katoonarib. I have to admit I was a bit stressed out because we hadn’t made proper travel arrangements until the week before. I spent much of my evening packing and went to sleep for about an hour. At about 4:00 am, I was awakened by the sound of a bus that was coming by the house where I live. Confused and sleepy, I almost jumped on the bus thinking that it was there for me! Fortunately, I soon realized my bus was not due for several hours!

1Later, I boarded the bus with my two colleagues and we began journeying on this Rupununi brown laterite road for 2 hours until we arrived at a small town called Lethem. The trip was relaxing but, as we got closer to the community, a form of anxiety also grew inside me.  I was nervously anticipating what the Katoonarib COBRA team’s work would be like compared to what they had done for our previous visit, in March.

We finally arrived in the community in the middle of the afternoon, and met the COBRA Team of Katoonarib under the shade, relaxing with cool refreshments after carrying out a cultural transmission activity. As I stepped out of the bus, I saw plenty of smiles on everyone’s face. We understood that our presence was very welcome and that the team was happy about what they had achieved; what a relief! We then briefly chatted with the team about the next day’s activity.

The next morning began with a discussion about the team’s experiences and the challenges they had faced since our previous visit. The team gave us very positive feedback; they were ready to work with us. We then started reviewing their footage and, wow! We were impressed by the quality of their work. Of course, as is often the case, the sound quality remained a challenge on some of the videos, but they had developed a great technique consisting of hiding the microphone in the interviewee’s clothes to minimize noise.

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As we started editing the first video on the management of bush islands, we noticed that additional training was still necessary to cope with some of their weaknesses. We realized that using a computer was the main challenge, and assisting them in editing the video required a lot of patience and educational skills.

Despite this, I have to say that the team has done a great job. They have now built their capacity to edit and do more things with the equipment. At the end of our stay, a community movie gathering was organized where we talked about the project and the team screened the work they had done so far. There was plenty of positive feedback, which was really good. The wider community encouraged the team there to continue working despite the challenges with the technology.

What made me feel good about the project in general was how the COBRA approach of community-owned solutions was very well understood by several members of the community, and that they seemed to be applying it to deal with other challenges whether they be family, community or political matters

We left Katoonarib with great confidence that they would continue working as a community, and with the assistance of the COBRA team, to explore their own solutions to current and future challenges.

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