Zimbabwe, India and Jamaica may not readily be associated with Gatehouse of Fleet but The Bakehouse’s “Homelands” series of poetry readings is certainly bringing the world to Galloway’s doorstep.
The idea for a series of poetry events that address the multi-culturalism of Scotland today was the brain-child of Bakehouse Directors Chrys Salt and John Hudson.
“We discovered many voices in the tapestry of Scottish culture when we published poetry in our magazine, Markings. We featured work from poets living in Scotland but born and brought up from all around the world,” comments John. “We realised Scotland is a cultural crossroads and home to people from Culcutta to the Carribbean. We couldn’t resist the challenge of bringing these voices to The Bakehouse stage.”
The second of the readings took place last Saturday. Tawona Sithole is a writer from Zimbabwe, and with support from his brother Earnest, he recited poems from memory to music and told an enchanted audience of his childhood in Harare.
He came from a rural family recently moved to the big city but he would return to the countryside to rediscover his roots, visit the witch-doctor in his cave and learn the ways of his ancestors.
Much of his poetry deals playfully with the deep respect for nature that his own cultural traditions have instilled in him, and also the cultural misunderstandings that have taken place as Europeans and, later, Americans introduced their ideology and values into African culture.
Particularly remarkable was Tawona’s non-judgmental and balanced understanding of the difficulties that result from a clash of such diverse cultures. He told stories of the difficulties of simply understanding well meaning helpers who offered directions in Glasgow streets and how, not wishing to offend, he would not ask people to repeat instructions but rather wait and ask someone else the same question.
On the Sunday Tawona Sithole lead a workshop, again at The Bakehouse which was attended by thirteen writers from across the region.
Tawona’s reading and workshop followed on from last month’s reading and workshop from Indian poet Bashabi Fraser who told her own story of what is was like to be born into one culture and to take up residence in Scotland.
The final reading in the “Homelands” sequence comes from Kei Miller, an award winning writer from Jamaica which will take place on Saturday 26th March at 7pm at The Bakehouse.
Tawona Sitole, Bashabi Fraser and Kei Miller
Photographs of Tawona and Bashabi by Kim Ayres