Zoe Wicomb


At first it was easy to answer this question. I said that I wrote because I could not speak (a curious answer from a garrulous person) - because as a black person, an outsider in Britain, I somehow did not have the right to speak. When health visitors or shopkeepers spoke to me in pidgin they constructed for me the choice of silence, of replying in their pidgin, or of replying in a caricatured voice of Her Majesty. Never in my own. My license to speak as a teacher or to speak in the domestic domain never transferred to that of the public, to the arena outside the immediate classroom or the home. This silence rendered me ineffective within institutions, marked me as an outsider and writing seemed to offer a way out of it. I have always tried to write, as a child and as a student but never sustained it. There is a huge leap between having the potential to write - most literate people do - and actually producing a text, an act which also always depends on material conditions.



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