National Trust of Guyana

Fort Kyk-Over-Al

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Kyk-Over -Al, a small island, approximately 6070 square meters (1.5 acres) in size, is located at the junction of the Mazaruni and Cuyuni Rivers. This island was once the seat of government for the colony of Essequibo under the period of Dutch occupation in the 17 century. Kyk-Over-Al is said to have been the smallest fort ever built by the Dutch overseas. It represents the industrial creativity of the people, a testimony to the cultural patrimony of the nation. In the late 16 century Europeans began to trade in the West Indies for salt which was at that time considered a luxury item. Some traders established a system of barter. European trade goods were exchanged for indigenous products such as annatto, which was used as a dye in Europe. However, the quantities of items supplied by the indigenous peoples were insufficient and trade was not economically viable. Thus, depots were established to collect and store produce until the arrival of ships. Two small depots were built, one at Nibie, a small village on the Abary Creek, and another on the Pomeroon River, in Essequibo. The latter was soon removed during the early years of the 17th century to a small island at the junction of the Cuyuni and Mazaruni Rivers. A small fort armed with a few guns was constructed. It was named Fort Ter Hoogen in honour of an influential Dutchman. However, this appellation soon gave way to the descriptive name Kyk-Over-Al (See overall). Prior to the appointment of a Commander in 1657, the island seems to have had a precarious existence. In 1666, the island was captured by the British and recaptured and fortified by the Dutch. Activities reached a peak in 1670 when a great deal of trading was done with the local tribes. By 1716, the island became overcrowded and a decision was taken to construct a new house for the Commander at Cartabo Point. Subsequently, the Dutch administration was relocated to Fort Island closer to the mouth of the Essequibo River. In 1748, most of the buildings on Kyk- Over-Al were demolished and the materials used for the construction of a sugar mill at Plantation Lyskburg, which was located along the Essequibo River. In 1999, Fort Kyk-Over-Al was declared a National Monument by the National Trust of Guyana and is currently managed by the agency.