The Trinidad And Tobago Post Office has released a set of 4 stamps (I do not yet know the actual date of issue) to commemorate the 40th anniversary of CARICOM and the CARICOM Heads Of Government Meeting which took place in Port-Of-Spain between 4 and 6 July 2013. The set comprises 4 stamps from various previously issued sets all with rather crude overprints and surcharges applied to them which suggests that their issue followed a last minute decision to commemorate philatelically the leaders' meeting in the Trinidadian capital or that the Trinidad and Tobago Post Office is becoming somewhat strapped for cash, like so many other postal administrations in The Commonwealth, so that instead of producing newly designed and printed stamps to commemorate the event they have resorted to the much more cost effective using up of old stamps suitably overprinted and value adjusted to current postal requirements by surcharging (see above illustration and the 3 other values depicted below).
Guyana is another Commonwealth Caribbean state which has been reduced to surcharging old stamps to meet postal needs even though its New York-based philatelic agents continue to pour out numerous "stamps" for purchase by stamp collectors; such stamps usually depict foreign celebrities, events and anniversaries (see below and Blogs 255 and 263). Now, pleasingly, Guyana has issued 2 local stamps on 17 July 2013 which are in locally relevant values, $20 and $80 (way below the face values on the items which emanate from the agents in New York). The stamps commemorate the 170th anniversary of the Evangelical Lutheran Church in Guyana. I think the stamps were either sponsored by, or purchased by, the local Lutheran Church and apparently a total of 80000 were produced. The New York agents website mentions the 2 new stamps but does not carry an illustration of them but the designs apparently depict the Guyana Lutheran Church's official emblem, shown below, which features a swan against a copy of The Bible and a cross.
Apparently the symbol of the swan adorns the fronts of most Lutheran Church buildings in Guyana and the tradition of depicting the bird is said to have originated with the Czech religious reformer, Jan Hus, who was burned at the stake for heresy in 1415 and is supposed to have said, as the flames engulfed him, "You may roast the goose but in a hundred years a swan will arise whose voice you will not still". He sometimes referred to himself as "this poor goose" and the word "hus" apparently means "goose". A hundred years after his death Martin Luther began to preach the teachings that had resulted in Hus' death so it was felt that Hus' dying cries were proven to have been correct. Hence the swan of the emblem represents Luther himself after whose traditions the Church is named.
The church was founded in Guiana, when the Dutch ruled the territory, at a meeting at the plantation owned by a Mr. Abbensetts which was located about 85 miles up the Berbice River on 15 October 1743. The first pastor arrived in the territory in 1752 and held services at Fort Nassau on the Berbice River but died just 2 years later in 1754. The third pastor was forced to flee during the Berbice Slave Uprising, led by Cuffy who has appeared on previous Guyanan stamps, which took place in 1763 but after the rebellion was crushed much bitterness remained and from 1779 to 1818 a notice on the door of the Lutheran Church bore the most unchristian instruction "Slaves and dogs not allowed".
The British took over the Dutch territories in 1803 and the Dutch settlers moved towards the coast from their inland plantation settlements and established a new church in the new town of New Amsterdam. In the years to follow however the Lutheran Church in Guiana had problems in recruiting pastors to come to the territory but the first native Guyanan-born Lutheran pastor, Rev. John Mittelholzer, preached his first sermon as Pastor of Berbice in 1878 and worked for the Lutheran Church in the country until his death in 1913.
There are 47 Lutheran congregations in Guyana today spread around 13 parishes and in all there are about 13000 baptised Lutherans in the country. A stamp issue therefore seems very reasonable and, in the absence of an illustration of the actual stamps, I depict the Church's swan emblem below which is featured in the stamp design. Birds-on-stamps collectors, particularly those with an interest in swans, will want to add these 2 modest stamps to their collections.
I think that this issue is a perfect illustration of how a country's history and culture can be illustrated by postage stamps and I wonder why postal agencies just cannot try harder to make their productions more relevant to their client territories instead of depicting subjects which have no relevance to their clients especially the depiction of US culture and popular celebrities. Increasingly, with the vast Chinese philatelic market in mind, Chinese culture and events too are appearing on the stamps of some of these countries as illustrated by the item depicted below which is said to have been issued on 1 May 2013 to commemorate "Horticulture Expo 14" which I presume to be some sort of exhibition to be held next year in China:-
It is quite a remarkable item since it appears to be entirely inscribed in Chinese script apart from the country name so I suspect it is not intended that the stamps in the sheetlet are for use by the average Guyanan person as postage stamps on their mail - I doubt that many members of the local Guyanan population can read Mandarin - but it does appeal directly to Chinese collectors who will be prepared to part with their money to obtain this item. I will return to other issues of Guyana below but now illustrate a sheetlet which contains 4 different stamps and an accompanying miniature sheet which has recently appeared from Nevis on the subject of "Turtles of the world". I do not yet know the date of issue:-
Why not issue a set of stamps which depicts turtles which appear in the seas around Nevis? Does that mean doing extra research on the part of the designer which might be asking just too much of them even though one is paying 21 Eastern Caribbean dollars to buy the set? And what about this next set, another recent "issue", this time from The Gambia which commemorates the 75th anniversary of the first flight of the Boeing 314 Clipper Flying Boat? What relevance does this commemoration have to this small west African country?
And the most bizarre recent issue of all from The Gambia, one of 2 miniature sheets released with 6 stamps in 2 sheetlets on 4 April 2013, which depicts Stonehenge as an example of prehistoric art:-
Perhaps the design is considered to be relevant to The Gambia since the country has its own "Stonehenge", a much more recently constructed, and less impressive, stone circle which is of interest to tourists who visit the country. Somehow, I think that this suggestion is crediting the people who produce stamps for The Gambia with more knowledge about the country than they really possess.
But back to Guyana. This really is a year for attempting to capture a place in the Chinese market. A sheetlet of 4 stamps was produced for Guyana and is said to have been issued on 29 April 2013 which commemorated the Year Of The Snake:-
This proved an inadequate contribution to the celebration of the Chinese New Year since Guyana also had a sheetlet of 20 stamps (16 of one design plus 4 different designs) produced for it which also was released on 29 April 2013:-
This is seen to be a similar item to that which was produced for the greedy little Isle Of Man Post Office, to which I have previously drawn attention, which appeared on the market on 8 February 2013. I think this illustrates the depths that the Isle Of Man has sunk to as a means of extracting money from stamp collectors and boosting financial profits in the same way that the postal administration rushed to beat all others to announcing a Royal Baby issue - it did not matter that the baby himself did not actually feature on the design. Even the New York-based agency responsible for most of the issues depicted above at least waited for a day or so in order to depict Prince George on the stamps which they produced for their client territories. Isle Of Man may make short term profits but its popularity as a previously respectable philatelic entity must be on the wain.
And yet another China-related issue for Guyana - a miniature sheet, said to have been issued on 1 May 2013, which depicts the Jigong Mountains in China. Although this issue at least is inscribed in English, the text on the sheet gives no explanation of the reason for issuing the item:-
Other recent issues from Guyana are now depicted:-
3 April 2013 - 1 sheetlet of 3 different stamps and 1 accompanying miniature sheet which commemorate World Environment Day. The design makes no attempt to link the event with Guyana:-
17 July 2013 - One "gold" stamp on the subject of the late Elvis Presley, an American music performer. Again, a subject entirely to do with a foreign culture and nothing to do with Guyana:-
It is fascinating how all of the above Guyana issues, apart from the Lutheran Church issue, are totally irrelevant to Guyana's internal postal requirements and do nothing to address Guyana's shortage of $20 stamps which can be used on local mail and which has required surcharging of old or previously unissued stamps to be carried out. In that context they are not really "postage stamps" but philatelic collectables with a theoretical postal validity. With that in mind, none of them, apart from the Lutheran Church pair, will be finding their way into my collection.
Ghana, too, has had an item produced on its behalf which is clearly aimed at the Chinese philatelic market - a miniature sheet for the "Horticulture Expo '14" Exhibition. There is some English text on the stamp itself but the sheet borders bear only a Chinese inscription; again, I'm guessing, that Mandarin is not widely understood on the streets of Accra:-
From Namibia, one of my favourite new issues of the year - a miniature sheet released on 3 July 2013 which depicts local donkey cart transport. It is a charming design:-
Previously mentioned, but now illustrated, more China-orientated items, this time from the British Overseas Territory of Turks And Caicos Islands. As previously described, this sheetlet of 4 stamps (2 different designs) and accompanying miniature sheet commemorate the Year of the Snake. There are 3 species of snake to be found in the islands, none of them poisonous, and these are the Bahama cat boa, the Richard's worm snake and the Caicos Islands pygmy boa. The snakes featured in the stamp designs are not identified and I can not convince myself that they resemble photographs on the internet which show what the local snakes look like, so I'm guessing that another opportunity for a worthwhile issue was missed by illustrating a generic snake rather than showing what the local species look like. Pity.
Canada has reissued the 2013 royal portrait stamp with new security features in the backprint:-