Words by Jesse Serwer
Photos by Martei Korley
This story is part of an ongoing series highlighting life and culture in Guyana, the “Land of Many Waters.”
For as long as anyone in Guyana can remember, the Sea Wall has been the place to lime on a Sunday night.
People congregate up and down the length of the Sea Wall, a 280-mile-long embankment shielding Guyana’s coastline from the rough Atlantic surf, all week long, and especially on weekends. But the most “action” can be found in the vicinity of Georgetown’s Kitty area, near Vlissingen Road and Sheriff Street. Easily accessible, it offers a breezy reprieve from the city heat, day or night.
On Sundays, beginning around sunset, the area truly comes alive, as thousands of Guyanese from nearly all walks of life take up a position atop the sea wall itself, or in the parking area across the street. Now, the people watching begins. Teens, naturally, arrive in the greatest numbers, but families with young children are also present, and older couples are not uncommon. Motorcycle and car clubs are part of the tableau, as are vendors selling beer, soda, hot dogs and fried fish. Trucks outfitted with mobile sound systems supply a soundtrack of new and classic dancehall, soca and hip-hop. Occasionally, fairs with rides for children are also set up in the parking area.
Construction on the Sea Wall was begun by the British in the 1850s, after a house formerly used as a residence by the colony’s governors washed away in a storm. Built in fits and starts, it was completed in 1892, using labor from a nearby prison camp.
It’s been a meeting place ever since. Hand-painted advertisements on the Sea Wall itself, weathered by the elements and time, attest to its significance in Guyanese commerce. Driving along the Sea Wall Road in GT, it can seem like nearly every local business in the city is represented.
The Sea Wall is a place of great romantic significance, in several senses. Generations of Guyanese have lost their virginity here. Older couples come to rekindle the passion of their youth; cheating spouses set up adulterous encounters.
As busy as the Sea Wall can be, its sprawl also permits some level of privacy, especially along the underutilized beach. Brawls and robberies, too, are not uncommon, as can be expected anywhere large numbers of unrelated groups congregate openly.
The Sea Wall has been the setting for at least two films. The Sea Wall: Tales of the Guyana Coast, a 52-minute-long documentary made in the early 1990s, highlights the environmental risks faced by Guyana’s shoreline, which sits mostly below sea level. More recently, it was the backdrop for a nine-minute dramatic short, simply titled The Sea Wall, which became the first Guyanese film to screen at the Festival de Cannes in France in 2011. The director, Mason Richards, plans to turn it into a full-length feature.
While in Georgetown for Guyana’s Golden Jubilee celebration in May, LargeUp made sure to take in a Sunday night at the Sea Wall, Banks beer in hand. Trinidadians may tell you otherwise, but the Guyana Sea Wall could just be the liming capital of the world.
Special thanks to Rustom Seegopaul and Kurt Leu for their assistance.