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Feeling Like a Stranger in Guyana, Even Though you Were Born There

3 min read

This poem was written from the voice of the post-colonial Indo-Caribbean country of Guyana. It is written to the ones who immigrated to other countries. When I wrote this, I was deeply immersed in art about immigrant women. “A Study” switches between “proper” English and English Creolese, the common tongue of Guyana. In 2017, during a visit to my native country, I felt like an outsider. Even though I was born in Guyana, I felt as though I didn’t belong there. This feeling continued to follow me as I traveled around the island, even as I rode along the seawall, a barrier that protects the country from sea flooding.

“A Study” touches on the civil unrest and racial tensions in present-day Guyana. It boldly addresses the ones who left. The end phrase, “wan wan dutty ah build dam,” means “every mud clay brickworks together to build a dam.” This is my way of imagining the country saying, “don’t worry, we got this, with or without you.” It is the voice of the country saying, “we know you think this place is worthless, but we will continue, past all post-colonial struggle, past all those who have left us, with no regard for the fact that no reparations were ever made, and will continue to build this place.”

[Read Related: ‘Gyal Dem’ Artist Amrisa Niranjan Creates Vibrant Reimagined Realities of Caribbean Women in First Art Show]

A Study

There is no order here in the belly of abandon
But maybe all color skin and eyes still see one moon
Dis place a wha happen when you try cook ten kind food
All ah de same time but with no pot spoon

There is no country here for you now you know
When you cannot even survive the scotch bonnet in curry
All of here mek from ting da grow dis way, da way, up suh
Just ah try leff dis place in one heap of dust – tek it visa an hurry

There is no owner in the land of many people
See when you overthrow old rulers you don’t run to crown king
Over here see we done know already any shade man in power
All in time guh rot an turn de same ting

There is no time here in the world of rivers
Must laugh ‘ca first world problem ah third world joke
Here people dem a struggle from bai and gyal picnee
And you ah start holla like blackout can choke

There is no solid foundation here in the mud
House ah rise an’ float up above hammock and ground
When you see this you think how odd and unstable
We ah study how a basement ah flood and you house still stay down

There is no one here who will change this place
Jumbie El Dorado, never here just gold deep in mud to mine
Mud here chase white man away long time now
And just like now none body yet come an’ atone for no crime

There is no hope for revenge in the country without karma
Dem big voice only ah talk bout progress and plan
See de land how it mek here yuh gaffa call dutty
Nah worry because wan wan dutty ah build dam

[Read Related: Artist Amrisa Niranjan on Virtual Art, Mental Health During the Pandemic and Her Latest Exhibit at Lips Café]


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