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Dilemmas of Forging Black British Identities in Kwame Kwei-Armah’s Elmina’s Kitchen

  • Journal of Modern English Drama
  • Abbr : JMBARD
  • 2019, 32(3), pp.31-58
  • Publisher : 한국현대영미드라마학회
  • Research Area : Humanities > English Language and Literature > English Literature > Contemporary English Drama
  • Published : December 31, 2019

KIM, YOO 1

1성균관대학교

Accredited

ABSTRACT

This paper explores the dilemmas of forging alternative Black British identities in Kwame Kwei-Armah’s 2003 play, Elmina’s Kitchen. Kwei-Armah, the established Black British playwright, presents the intergenerational differences in the community of Afro-Caribbean immigrants in London, encouraging the audience to examine the dilemmas involved in creating a sustainable community within the mainstream white society. Elmina’s Kitchen centres on the predicament of Deli, a reformed ex-con who tries in vain to stop Ashley, his rebellious son, from joining a local gang. The final scene finds him helplessly watching Ashley being killed in the gang warfare. Ashley’s murder is avoidable, and the play is intended as a serious warning to young black males drawn rapidly into the inner-city black-on-black crime. However, the play moves beyond its moral framework as Deli’s dilemma comes to the foreground. As a second-generation immigrant, Deli swerves away from the established stereotype of ‘irresponsible’ and ‘deviant’ black fathers, challenging the mainstream audience’s prejudice against Black Britons. He is the only character that aspires to instill a positive sense of black identity for the third-generation black youth. He has to re-define ‘blackness’ as well as to combat political and economic impotence, the negative legacy of the first-generation. Without the benefit of African cultural heritage and rejecting the ‘rube boy’ culture, the Caribbean subculture based on repressive black masculinity, he sometimes comes close to internalizing the idealized white norms and values. Deli’s failure to save Ashley is both personal and generational. It demonstrates a dilemma associated with the situation of the second-generation immigrants forging viable black identities in the poverty of the mainstream black culture.

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