Black History Month Reading

Elmina’s Kitchen

A harrowing drama about two generations of black men dealing with what it means to be black and British. The language is strong but it is a good attempt to capture the authenticity of spoken language in the area. The characters in the play are imprisoned in a world of crime and violence they struggle to avoid being sucked into the dark underworld. Love and respect are powerful themes that significantly challenge the traditional father son relationship in the drama.

There is a noted absence of female characters in the play which on the whole allows many sexist and misogynistic comments to go unchecked. The huge portrait of Elmina Deli’s mother watches over the action but she is helpless to prevent the dark criminal underworld encroaching on her family.

The antagonist Digger is an ever present malignant force but at times reveals a vulnerability. He is aware he is an outsider as his friendship with Deli is based on fear and intimidation. Digger successfully grooms Ashley into his criminal and violent activities with money and expensive gifts which eventually makes him choose where to place his loyalty.

The play opens with the song Sufferer by Bounty Killer – the song captures the many years of injustice and racism endured by the characters in the play. There are choices presented about how you deal with the injustice, through: crime and violence; hard work and self determination, wider reading and education. Ashley’s dumping of his school books in the bin is symbolic of him choosing the fast route to ‘success’ regardless of the consequences.

The writer also presents the values and beliefs of the older generation through Bayjee and Clifton. Bayer never married but he is prepared to take advantage of any woman on his rounds as a travelling salesman. Whereas Clifton was married to Delie’s mother Elmina but left her for another woman. There are no happy marriages/rela

The ending of the play shows how the values and belief systems of the early West Indian pioneers have been distorted through the character of Ashley.

A summer of pointless stabbings across London of young black men adds poignancy to the themes and ideas in the play – now a prophetic voice warning of the bloodshed on the streets.

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