The Chinese heritage in Caribbean literature
Arts on Sunday
Today is celebrated as the Chinese New Year which ushers in ‘the year of the snake,’ a year in which Guyana commemorates the 160th anniversary of the arrival of Chinese in Guyana. As the nation and the Caribbean reflect on the Chinese presence, the cultural heritage of a people and their contribution to what is supposed to be the one unified multi-ethnic society, one recalls the baker’s story.
It is narrated by the baker who describes himself as “black as the Ace of Spades and ugly to match.” He lived in Trinidad and grew up in a colonial society where to be black was to be disregarded, stereotyped and unprivileged. “Black and ugly” was a standard curse in the national aesthetics, the racial, social and economic hierarchy. He could not enter most houses and buildings through the front door as his place was as a servant, a menial and not a social equal, and so he was condemned to entering from the back door. Naturally, he struggled to make a living and survive.
He discovered, however, from working in bakeries, that he had one serious talent. He could bake. He was a master of the occupation although, as a worker, he was gaining nothing from it, and the Chinese bakers who employed him would never allow him to be seen in the front of the bakery. So, as a good Christian, he sought inspiration from God. He prayed and God answered him briefly, saying “Young Man, just bake bread.” He took that very literally and decided to open his own baker shop. He was an expert baker; his bread was good, but business was bad. He toiled but very few people would come to buy. On the point of giving up in despair, …..To continue reading, login or subscribe now.