Multiculturalism: Cross-Cultural Encounters in Poetry – Task 3 –  Long answer

According to Cambridge Dictionary, the definition of multiculturalism is “the belief that different cultures within a society should all be given importance” (Cambridge University Press, u.d.).

Multiculturalism involves encounters and interactions of various types between people from different cultures.

The poems “Wherever I Hang” by Grace Nichols and “I Do Not Know the Dances of White People” by Okot P’Bitek, are about the difficulties one may face when different cultures meet.

In this text I will discuss the themes, the messages and the literary devices found in the poems.

The major themes in “Wherever I hang” are immigration and national identity.

The poem is about a Latin-American immigrant’s encounter with England and the experience of moving from one culture to another.

At the beginning, the protagonist feels like she is in the middle of a dream, “I touching de walls to see if they real – They solid to the seam” (Nichols, s. 138).

The quote illustrates how the protagonist slowly ‘wakes up’ after the initial moment of euphoria in which she felt “like in a dream” (Nichols, 1950).

She starts to realize the gravity of the situation and discovers that her new life fails to fulfill her expectations.

At the end of the poem, she expresses that she has accustomed herself to the English way of living. However, she still misses ‘back-home side’.

She concludes that wherever she hangs her knickers is her home.

The conclusion shows us that she has accepted her new life and that she does not belong to a specific country, she belongs to the world.

The theme in “I Do Not Know the Dances of White People” is the conflict between tradition and modernization.

P’Bitek writes about an Acholi woman who becomes bitter and anxious when her husband starts to neglect their native customs because of his new western wife.

The woman is in the state of xenophobia, “the fear and hatred of strangers or foreigners or of anything that is strange or foreign” (Cambridge University Press, u.d.).

She continuously implies that she is unable to practice the white customs, however the underlying message is that she is insecure, jealous and ignorant.