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Edward Brathwaite discussing the fate of African culture in. the post emancipation Caribbean described it as coming. under attack from several quarters including the, missionaries and the education process Of the latter in. relation to the ex slaves he comments, They began to learn to read and write so that they. were diverted from the oral tradition of their, inheritance they became literate in a language which. was foreign to them 1974 75, Thus a dichotomy was early established between the spoken. word of the Afro creole culture and the written word of. Anglo creole culture It reflected the dichotomy between the. the public Eurocentric and the private Afrocentric worlds in. which the ex slaves functioned Within the cultural space of. the Anglo creole world the received information with regard. to African culture was that Africans had lost it in the. Middle Passage The fact in Brathwaite s 1974 73 words. African culture riot only crossed the Atlantic it, crossed survived and creatively adapted itself to its.
new environment, It is important to note the received information and to. appreciate the extent to which t h African culture was either. denied or simply overlooked by the brokers of power in. plantation societies It helps to explain the conflict of. cultures certainly in the personality of the educated. descendants of ex slaves and their ambivalence towards. things African, A century after emancipation Edward Baugh West Indian man. of letters and literary critic would comment on that. dichotomy including in it considerations of colour He. refers to a clash in West Indian writers between, the publicised European culture of the elite and the. supressed native African culture of the, underprivileged between literature and history on the. one hand and the oral tradition on the other, The creative literature gave implicit support to an.
improbable but politically real situation in which the. language and culture of the numerically greater was always. less highly valued than that of the numerically smaller the. cultural artifacts of the minority considered mainstream. and those of the majority parochial The critical literature. eventually characterized it in the Prospero Caliban. dichotomy which became the commonplace for describing that. But even in the acceptance of the Prospero Caliban. characterization there was a signal that the status quo. could change After all Caliban eventually learnt, Propspero s language and was able to use it to his. The present paper isolates one significant location from the. supressed culture the balm yard and examines it within two. texts Olive Senior s short story Discerner of Hearts and. Erna Brodber s novel Mya Its treatment in these texts is. seen as inversion of the received reality subversion of the. received texts calibanizing of what has been Prosper s. domain In both texts a cultural coup is achieved by writing. in the perception of the supressed within a discourse. tradition formerly reserved for the supressor In both the. Euro tradition becomes other within deceptively ingenuous. narrative and dialogue Senior contrasts two views of the. balmer and his balmyard in conversations which the audience. overhears between the child whose socialization has been. Euro creole and the household helper whose socialization has. been Afro creole In Brodber s work the comparison is less. explicit the centrality of the Afro culture taken more for. Some discussion on the yard in general the Balm Yard in. particular and the Balmer healer is in order, The yard in the context of Caribbean poverty is an. extention of the house The house is small and used mainly. for sleeping Most other activity of work as well as. recreation takes place in the yard, Anne Raver in an article in the New York Times compares the. swept yards of Nigeria with those of Georgia in the south of. the USA The photographs accompanying that text could easily. have been taken in the Caribbean The clean swept yard. entirely bare of grass is represented in that article as. part of the tradition that the ancestors of slaves. brought from the Gold Coast 1993 1, The balm yard is clean swept like the yards of Nigeria and. the American south But it is more than just another yard. It is the residence of the man who heals, In English balm is a noun that describes an ointment for.
soothing pain In Jamaican it is in addition a verb. describing the act of physical or spiritual healing So the. Balmer or Balm man who operates in the Balmyard balms the. individual and makes him her whole, The Dictionary of Jamaican English defines the balm yard as. The headquarters and ritual site of a Balm man It goes. on to describe some of the ritual that may take place in a. balm yard In the further definition the balmer becomes a. religious leader This is interesting in the context of. Afro Caribbean culture Brathwaite in the article referred. to above makes some statements which might usefully be. considered together here, E veryone agrees that the focus of African culture in. the Caribbean was religious 1974 73,A study of African culture reveals almost without. question that it is based upon religion that in fact. it is within the religious network that the entire. culture resides S tarting from this particular, religious focus there is no separation between religion. and philosophy religion and society religion and art. Religion is the form or kernel or core of the culture. The balmer is a religious man though not necesarily a. Christian man The balm yard is the centre of operation of. this person who represents what remains of a cultural whole. which came through the crucible of the Middle Passage as. fragments His location is centre for one part of the. society the part that has largely ignored the invitation of. the cultural west, Olive Senior s short story Discerner of hearts uses.
Mr Burnham Father the balmer and his balm yard as symbols. of the powerless black majority which must function in the. shadow of the powerful brown majority She points also to. the doubtful faith of that majority that things will at. some point change At the end of the first movement of the. story Cissy the helper in the house of the brown reprimands. her charges for their disrespectful attitude to Father. U nno can gwan run joke Think Father is man to run. joke bout Father is serious man But unno is just like. unno father Have no respect for people Unless their. skin turn and they live in big house and they drive up. in big car But one day one day the world going spin. the other way though And then we will see, Divergent ways of seeing this man as an illiterate trixter. and as a great healer supply the tension that informs this. story As with most of Senior s stories the wisdom is given. the reader by children In this case the children know that. Mr Burnham is illiterate because he brings documents for. their father to read Their father also is the scribe who. writes his letters, Once a month Mr Burnham pays for his milk always with bags. of bright sixpences an act which has a certain significance. for those who know that spiritualists in Afro Jamaica are. paid in small silver coins On occasion their father might. laugh and quip You old reprobate and Mr Burnham would. laugh as well and say Good day Justice, While Justice is a term used to address the Justice of the. Peace the local representative of the law in a small. village it is semantically significant here poised against. reprobate Prospero jokes with Caliban addressing him with. a negatively valued word Caliban jokes back using a. positively valued word, Cissy representing the black majority describes Mr Burnham. Father as a great man a famous healer and says that. people come from all over the world to have him read them. The literary artist works a major pun on the item read. The illiterate Mr Burnham reads people far and near. Reading here is about forecasting people s futures or. telling them about past events he could not under normal. circumstances know about He is at worst a magician at best. a seer Finally he is a physical and psycological healer. Note the following significant dialogue between Cissy and. Theresa one of her charges the little heroine of the. What s a balmyard Cissy,Where people go for healing.
What is healing,What people need when they have sickness. Why they don t go to Dr Carter,There is sick and then again there is sick. But Mister Burnham isn t a doctor,There is doctor and there is doctor. These views are so interesting to the inquisitive young mind. that when at last the opportunity presents itself she visits. Mr Burnham s house which might have been described as a. lair by those who call him reprobate, Senior takes the opportunity to describe the artifacts in. the surroundings icluding calabashes perched on top of. bamboo poles dovecots full of birds plants growing. everywhere What attracts her most however is a building in. an area like that described in Raver s article mentioned. earlier The authorial comment runs, But what really drew her was the building right behind.
the house separated from it by a clean swept yard It. was a rectangular structure much bigger than the house. itself The narrow side nearest the house was walled in. wattle and daub, The artifacts she could see inside the room suggested a. world entirely outside of her experience,every inch including the door cut into it was. covered with paintings she recognized scenes from the. bible Jesus and his disciples and signs and symbols. like those in her church But they didnt look quite. like the religious scenes they got on their Sunday. School picture cards For one thing they all ran into. one another with nothing to define each one and they. were much more colourful and lively And all the,people Jesus included were black. The last sentence is of great cultural significance and must. be read bearing in mind Cissy s reference to the colour of. those people who are considered to be anybody in contrast. with her own colour Note for example,Eh just because my skin black people think I am. idiot eh People think I fool Just because I couldn t. get to go to school like some hackra people children. my emphases, Mr Burnham s qualifications written on a large board near.
to a platform are impressive,Father Burnham M H C G M M W D D K R G D. Bringer of Light,Professor of Peace,Restorer of Confidence. Discerner of Hearts,and his service Consultation and Advice. The story Discerner of Hearts is about a young woman. Cissy and her striving for and eventually obtaining with. the help of Father Burnham a child by a man she loves who. has another claimant to his affections But the true text is. the changed vision of an inquisitive young mind brought up. with Euro creole sensitivities concerning a, spiritual cultural leader from within the Afro creole world. the kind of leader usually ridiculed by her kind, In fact Theresa s interaction with Mr Burnham has a.
positive effect on her Although she had gone about Cissy s. welfare he took the opportunity provided by her visit to. build up her confidence He told her to stop worrying that. she was not pretty pointing out that flowers clouds and. butterflies did not worry He complimented her on her big. heart and advised her to stop feeling negatively about. herself She lost her shyness and grew up overnight And she. was not ashamed to treat Mr Burnham with the respect all. adults deserve whenever he came to pay for milk, Much to their astonishment when next Mister Burnham. came to pay for the milk she ran out from the side. verandah where the girls usually hid to giggle as they. watched him pour out silver sixpences and rushed to. greet him at the gate before he even opened his mouth. Good morning Father Burnham she called in her strong. If Theresa is the representative of a new generation the. story hints at hope that with exposure might come respect. of the Afro tradition by people socialized to the other. Brodber s novel Myal goes further in the direction taken by. Senior s story The task of saving a nation is given to. another balmer in another balmyard, Anna Rutherford 1992 vi includes Erna Brodber among. those writers who challenge the accepted histories and. Myal is the story of a young brown mulatto woman who. marries a white film producer What he produces as a result. of his entry through her into her cultural world is not a. description to inform but rather something like a minstrel. show for white people to laugh at So upset is the young. woman by the misrepresentation of her world that she falls. seriously ill, Helen Tiffin 1992 434 summarising the action in Myal notes. that the heroine becomes ill with an apparently incurable. internal swelling as a result of being horrified by the. violent misrepresentation in which construction she can. now perceive her own unconscious collusion, Ella O Grady is eventually cured not by Western medicine. but by the ancient Afro Jamaican skills of Mass Cyrus who. in another commentary Puri 1993 109 is described simply as. a herbalist, Brodber s conceptualization is elaborate The swelling in.
the young woman s belly is the sum of the Euro cultural. baggage Ella must discard before she can be whole She is

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