Thursday [January 11, 2018] will mark the beginning of a language revitalisation project in the Arawak community of Wakapoa. For some time now, observers both inside and outside the community have noted that the only people who can and do speak Lokono, the traditional language of the community, are the elderly. The Toshao and Council of Wakapoa, in order to reverse this situation, approached the Guyana Languages Unit, an informal working group at the University of Guyana (UG), for help.
The Working Group in turn made contact with the International Centre for Caribbean Language Research (ICCLR), at the University of the West Indies. And the ICCLR agreed to fund a 10-day visit to Wakapoa by Lokono language scholar, Daidrah Smith. Ms Smith is scheduled to carry out activities, with full support from UG’s Learning Resource Centre, that include documenting the language in everyday use through demonstrations of traditional skills, arts and crafts narrated and explained using Lokono. In addition, she will be working with the community to decide on the final details of an orthography (writing system) they find most acceptable for the language, and will finalise plans to spread the use of Lokono in everyday speech amongst the young people and children of the community.
She is also expected to participate in a major community activity on Monday, January 15, to complete a programme of activities to revitalise and revive the use of the Lokono language in Arawak communities such as Wakapoa. Students and lecturers from The University of Guyana and The University of the West Indies will be on hand to witness and participate in the January 15 exercise.