C o m m o n w e a l t h
A s s o c i a t i o n o f
M u s e u m s
CAM Bulletin Number 5 - Dec. 1998
With great sadness, we announce the passing of two colleagues of CAM, Denis Williams of Guyana and Brenda Capstick of England. Both made significant contributions to the Association in their own way, Brenda from the beginning and in the early years and Dr. Williams by acting as tutor to several Guyanese students and graduates of the CAM Distance Learning Programme.
We all remember Brenda for so many different things but the Commonwealth Association of Museums would like to pay tribute to the part played by Brenda in assisting myself, Reg Varney, in the discussions at the Paris/Grenoble ICOM in 1971, which led to the formation of the association in 1974.
Brenda's interest and enthusiasm for international links with colleagues in Commonwealth countries was an inspiration to us all. Her unstinting encouragement and support in the initial discussions for the Commonwealth Association of Museums, in spite of much opposition from many quarters of our profession, gave us the courage to carry on.
After initial difficulties CAM has managed to survive and is now a flourishing Commonwealth Association involved in many areas of museum activity, a living tribute to the memory of Brenda Capstick.
Reg Varney, CAM Council Member, London
Emmanuel Arinze adds:
"Brenda will be remembered by our African colleagues for being a great facilitator for the training of young African museum personnel in British museums in the 1970's. We salute her foresight in ensuring that training was brought into focus for African museums. She made herself available at any time to help to solve problems encountered by young professionals during their training periods in Britain."
(Brenda Capstick was to be invited to join the Cowrie Circle. We deeply regret that this invitation was not issued before her passing in 1998).
Dr. Denis Williams, C.C.H. D. Litt., was writer, artist, archaeologist, anthropologist, museum director, and outstanding son of Guyana. In the words of the Management Committee of Castellani House "The achievements of his career have indelibly shaped cultural life in Guyana. His work will remain as an inspiration and a challenge; his loss is immeasurable." Many of us did not know Denis Williams. But one cannot read the many tributes to him without realizing the enormous creativity, intellectual curiosity, vitality and strength, and the power of his vision that led him to work in three continents, in London, Africa (primarily Sudan and Nigeria), and Guyana and to leave behind him a legacy of art, literature and archaeological knowledge. He is acknowledged as instrumental in the development of the National Collection and the National Gallery of Art (Castellani House) and the founder and Director of the Walter Roth Museum of Anthropology. In all, he founded four major institutions in Guyana, the other two being the E.R. Burrowes School of Art and the Museum of African Art and Ethnology - an amazing achievement.
Denis Williams was born in 1923 and knew from an early age that he would become an artist. This potential was realized with his remarkable gallery debut in London in 1950. He spent the years from 1957 to 1967 in Africa, first in the Sudan and then at the University of Ife and the University of Lagos as well as visiting professor at Makarere University in Uganda. In 1967 he returned to Guyana where he pursued research in indigenous tribal art and the archaeology, anthropology and prehistory of Guyana. He became Director of Art, Department of Culture, Founding Principal, E.R. Burrowes School of Art, and in 1977 founded and became Director of the Walter Roth Museum of Anthropology. The museum collection begun in 1974 found its permanent home in 1979.
He is the author of many books and articles on African art, and Guyanese history, archaeology and prehistory as well as two novels. His art stands as a fitting reminder in public locations in Guyana. His book Prehistoric Guyana has been completed and will be published soon.
It is through his enormous contribution to museums and the museum and gallery community in Guyana that he became known to CAM. The Secretary General of the Guyana National Commission for UNESCO, Carmen Jarvis, wrote in tribute: "His work at the Walter Roth Museum has been invaluable and the Museum will always be a living memorial to his initiative." He willingly shared his knowledge and became the tutor of first, Jennifer Wishart and later Jenny Daly and Marcel Limerick Austin in their successful completion of the CAM Distance Learning Program.
We are pleased that Dr. Williams was aware of the honour CAM was to bestow upon him and it was officially accepted on his behalf by Jenny Wishart. We extend our deepest condolences to Jenny, his companion, their daughter Kibileri, and to his older sons and daughters and the entire family.