Honoring Rajkumari Singh (1923-1979)
Rajkumari stands out as major pioneering Caribbean woman writer, political activist, educator, and distinguished cultural leader in her native land Guyana, where she received national honors. She was respected and praised by her contemporaries for the quality of controversy, criticism and debate present in her works, for which she received many literary prizes and awards; she is revered by numerous younger poets, writers, scholars, artists and performers, to whom she was a patron and mentor. Rajkumari was concerned with Indo-Caribbean identity finding their place in a region undergoing harsh disappointing political, cultural and social change. These critical issues found their way into her literary work.
“... an unmistakable spirit concerned with roots...the truth is that long before the obsession with ‘roots’ became the ‘thing’, Rajkumari Singh clung to her Indian Heritage with all the vitality she could muster, in all this, never allowing her nostalgia for the life-style of her forbears to so cloud her raison d’etre that she thought the thing to do was to go back to the Indian Sub-Continent ...” - Raschid Osman, Guyana Chronicle, 1979
"Her involvement with the arts, politics, and the politics of culture was lifelong and was invariably a surrogate cultural and artistic mother to younger writers and artists." - Dr. Jeremy Poynting, South Asian Journal, 1980
"Crippled by polio at age 6, Rajkumari truimphed over her physical handicap - Parallel to her artistic and creative life, she was deeply involved in educational, cultural and social welfare work, and raising her own 8 children, all from a wheelchair." - Gora Singh, The Sound of Her Bells Publication, 1995
As poet, dramatist, editor, and encourager of the arts - particularly a generation of younger poets, writers, artists and performers - has been highly significant." - Alison Donnell and Sarah Lawson Welsh, Routledge Reader in Caribbean Literature, 1996
1940–57 British Guiana Dramatic Society - President, Secretary, Producer-Director
- To promote and develop dramatic arts in B.G. and the Caribbean
1941-57 British Guiana Maha Laxmi Sabha - Founder-Member, Secretary, Advisor
- The upliftment of Hindu women in education, social welfare and religion
1953-54 Women’s Progressive Organization WPO – Founder-Member
- The political emancipation of women for democratic socialism in B.G.
1955-57 Kaie Players – President
- To promote the dramatic work of Classical Theater with related techniques
1961-67 The Balak Sahita Mandalee – Member, Adviser
- To provide educational and social facilities for needy mothers and children
1961-67 Radio Demerara Needy Children Fund – Member, Advisor
- To provide social facilities for needy children
1964 Commission for Inquiry into Wismar Riots – Governor’s Nominee
- Tribunal set up to investigate the riots of the town of Wismar in Guyana
1964 Wismar Refugee Relief Fund - Manager
- To aid victims and refugees of the political and racial riots (May’64)
1965-72 National History & Arts Council – Vice President
- To promote and develop all areas relating to the historical
and cultural development of Guyana
1965-67 Guyana Sanatan Dharma Maha Sabha – Vice President
- The upliftment of religious, social, educational and festival activities of Guyana
1966-72 Guyana Independence Celebration Commission – Member-Advisor
- Formulating, implementing and monitoring all activities relating to Guyana’s
Independence Celebrations – May 1966 and Anniversaries.
1966-72 P.E.N. International (Guyana Writer’s Group) – Founder-Member
- The promotion of Literature – journalism, writing, publications
- active involvement in developing activities in Guyana related to
World Organization of Poets, Essayists and Novelists.
1967-70 The United Nations Human Rights Committee (Guyana)
Founder-Member, National Secretary, Advisor
- To establish human rights in Guyana and the Caribbean
1967-78 Council on the Affairs of Women – Government Nominee
- To investigate the status of women in Guyana, to rectify their roles
in regards to nation-building and their contribution to society.
1967-69 Guyana Argricultural Exhibition Committee - Member
- To outline and display methods for agricultural development in Guyana.
1970-78 Guyana Republic Celebrations Commission – Government Nominee
- To plan and implement activities related to Republic Week.
1972 Carifesta Secretariat – Advisor
- To formulate and plan all activities for the first Caribbean Festival of Arts
with30 participating countries from the Caribbean and South American Art
- To promoting historical literature, arts and crafts of Folk Culture in Guyana
1973-78 Guyana Messenger Group – Founder-Member, President
- Promoting historical literature, arts and craft related to Folk Culture in Guyana
1974 Planning Unit, Guyana National Service – Founder-Member
- To formulate and plan the nation-wide National Service
1975-78 Guyana National Service – Captain, Cultural Coordinator, Advisor, Consultant
- To implement, supervise and evaluate culture programs within the structure
related to training in arts, crafts, sports, lectures and libraries.
1975-78 Women’s Revolutionary Socialist Movement – Founder-Member, Advisor
- To promote involvement of women in development of the Caribbean Region.
1975-78 United Nations International Year of Women Conference, Mexico - Delegate
- To develop an international charter dealing with the affairs of women, as stated
in the United Nations Charter, 1975
1976-78 Guyana Wheelchair Association – National Secretary
- To assist handicapped persons in professional, cultural and social welfare.
- To provide counseling and equipment needed.
Professional Activities (1943-1978)
Radio Demerara: Children’s Programs
Guyana Broadcasting Corporation: Adult Programs
Government Information Service: Educational Programs
Journalist: Articles relating to cultural, political, & social themes:
Guyana Graphic, Guyana Chronicle, Mirror, New Nation, The Corpsman,
Amar Jyoti, Heritage
Teacher: English Literature - High School, General Certificate of Education: Guyana Oriental College, Guyana Cooperative College, Kindergarten School for Handicapped Children
Headmistress (Principal): Guyana Cooperative College: High School
Broadcaster: British Broadcasting Corporation: Overseas Programs
Commissioned Officer: Guyana National Service: Rank of Captain
Special Awards and Talents 1948-78: Poetry, short stories or children & adults, radio & stage plays
For the Young at Heart- Quartet of Children’s Stories
Sardar Birbal Singh- Adult Short Story
Per Ajie: Tribute to the First Indian Immigrant Woman- Poem
Roraima- Radio Play
The Sound of Her Bells (Inki Ghungru Ki Awaaz)
Major Award: The Golden Arrowhead of Achievement - Orders of Service of the Cooperative Republic of Guyana - The First Republic Day Honors List with citation for “an outstanding contribution of an exceptional nature, beyond the normal call of duty towards the people and Nation of Guyana.”
In the United States: Rajkumari Singh received awards and recognition from the Guyana Cultural Association, Guyana Folk Arts Festival, the Jahajee Sisters' 2nd Annual Indo-Caribbean Women's Summit, posthumously, and her legacy of caring for the folk through excellence in the arts is continued by the Rajkumari Cultural Center.