Umana Yana

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In 1972, members of the Non-Aligned Movement and Third World nations chose Guyana to host the first meeting of the Non-Aligned Nations. Guyana as host to the prestigious event was unable to afford the construction of a brick or concrete building and time did not permit for the erection of a new wooden building and the idea of an Amerindian benab found favour with the Officials. The lawn of the former Mariners Club, at the North Eastern end of High Street, where it meets Battery Road, was selected as the ideal location for the Umana Yana. It was constructed in the classic pattern of the one built at Konashen by the Wai-Wai people. Wai-Wai Chief Elka and 60Amerindians were recruited and the plans were prepared for the building. A circular area of the lawn, about 26.8 metres in diameter was cleared of grass and excavated, the soil levelled and compacted to a smooth finish by the Wai Wais. Sand was then placed over the area and a concrete foundation slab; complete with holes for the insertion of poles was laid to protect the structure from dampness. Poles straight as arrows, round wood saplings, vines and lush green troolie fronds culled from palm trees were used to construct the classical benab. After only 80 days, the Umana Yana was completed at a modest cost of $26,000. On August 8, 1972, the flags of more than 80 nations fluttered proudly along the eastern edge of Umana Yana’s compound as the meeting of the NonAligned Nations commenced.