Hiliaeth a Chymreictod: “Sugar & Slate” Charlotte Williams

Hiliaeth a Chymreictod: “Sugar & Slate” Charlotte Williams
gan Hwntw Arall

Yn ei llyfr “Sugar & Slate”, adrodda Charlotte Williams atgofion personol a hanesion sydd ynghlwm iddynt. I’r Cymry gwyn, dyma storïau anghyfforddus – yn enwedig i rai (fel myfi) sy’n ffansio eu hun a’u cenedl yn radical. Amhosib fydda gywasgu’r llyfr, ond dyma ychydig o ddyfyniadau o’r hanesion sydd yn ymwneud â Chymru:

” “A CONGO COLONY IN WALES
Daily Graphic of Wednesday July 13th 1892

One of the prettiest spots of the many pleasant places on the main line between Chester and Holyhead is Colwyn bay, not inaptly termed the “Naples of Wales”. There the Congo Training Institute has been established under the patronage of King Leopold of the Belgians [1], to train African converts as missionaries, schoolmasters, and useful handicraftsmen. This Institute, which is only in its infancy as yet, owes its origin to a Welshman – the Rev. W. Hughes – who was sent out to the Congo by a missionary society, and was there when Mr. Stanley went to found the Free State. Seeing how rapidly the Europeans became victims of the climate, and how little could be done to Christianise and civilise the vast continent by the exertions of a few scattered workers, he cast about him to devise a plan for carrying on the work more efficiently and with less cost of human life. Before, however, he had matured a scheme he was relcutantly compelled to embark for England, nearly in a dying state. He took with him two coloured youths, one of whom he had redeemed from slavery… This opened a path by which the problem of civilising Africa could be carried out.

The two boys [o’r Congo] were stars wherever they went. They preached the mission in parish after parish throughout north and south Wales, where posters announced that the Reverend Williams Hughes would speak of his missionary travels and that the bechgyn duon would sing in Welsh, English and their native tongue. In the chapels they took up the hymnal and sang:

Doed Paganiaid yn eu tywyllwch,
Doed y Negro dua’u lliw,
Doed addolwyr yr eilunod,
I weld tegwch Iesu’n Dduw
Deued llu heb ddim rhi’
Fyth i ganu am Galfari.

[Hymn 419, Vs 3, Llyfr Emynau – Y Methodistiaid Calfinaidd a Wesleaidd]

I think I know what it is like to be stranded at an outpost like Colwyn Bay; dislodged, dislocated. I imagine their lives played out in the little town with its ideas and images of the black man created through Bible culture. I know what its like to be a curiosity. To be loved for your quaintness and your difference in a way that means you will never be normal. When I recreate this past I touch home with a particular kind of dislocation.

But there is more to the Congo boys story than this. It lets me see an Africa with the eyes of Wales. I see the Welsh memory that comes from missionaries stories of their travels, that comes from the chapels, the chapel hymns and the Sunday schools, from the collection boxes; from Ma – a story of Africa that passes on and on and on down generations in which strangely I have two parts. A story in which somehow I am both looking at and looked upon.

I guess it’s that type of story of Africa and black people that seeped into the cultural portraits of Wales. The missionaries went in the hundreds to the Dark Continent and all over the world, and brought home their tales to the parishes. Their ambitions were laid down forever in the lines of hymns – the most famous of all – “Draw, draw yn Tseina“:

Draw, draw yn Tseina a thiroedd Japan,
Plant bach melynion sy’n byw
Dim ond eilunod o’u cylch ym mhob man
Neb i ddweud am Dduw
Iesu, cofia’r plant,
Iesu cofia’r plant,
Anfon genhadon ymhell dros y môr
Iesu, cofia’r plant.“”

Mae fy nhad yn cofio canu’r emyn olaf hwn. Aiff Charlotte Williams mlan i ddisgrifio meddylfryd y fath genhadon:

” There were lots of them, men and women – Evan Evans, Eluned Morgan, Betsy Cadwalader – writing home about their travels and their yearnings for home. Like the Reverend Williams Hughes they worked hard to take the word of God to people with gods of their own. At the same time they had to present what they did in a way that might be palatable to their own people. They had to tell about their work in a way that condemned exploitation and plunder and disassociated itself from the forces of colonialism. These travelers must have seen themselves as leaders of a superior style of Empire building, a moral crusade. They used the same maps as the colonisers, took the same routes and byways, but … Their mission was of a higher order. They managed to be both saviors of the natives and at the same time bolster a sense of Welsh pride and self-identity that had been so cruelly robbed and pillaged by the same English colonialisation. They could boast that their work was unsullied by ruthless imperialism and so claim the moral high ground.”

Rhaid cofio mi oedd yna Gymry â rhannau blaenllaw yng ngweithredoedd colonialaeth Prydeinig. Nid oedd hyn wedi’u cyfyngu i’r grefyddol. Roedd gweinyddwyr a milwyr, cyfalafwyr a gwladychwyr, caethfasnachwyr a chaethfeistri Cymreig a Chymraeg. Mae’r cyfenwau Cymreig, y Jonesys a’r Robertsys, sydd gan ddisgynyddion caethweision yn y Caribî heddiw, yn dyst i hanesion Cymry gormesol [2]. Mae cyfoeth adeiladau crand yng Nghaerdydd ac Abertawe a mannau arall yn gofnod arall. Wrth gwrs, dydi Charlotte Williams ddim yn gwadu hyn, ond hytrach yn dangos fel mae’r naratif o Gymry bach, Cristnogol, “moesol” yn un sydd yn cuddio cyfranogaeth waedlyd y Cymry i golonialaeth, cyfranogaeth yr oedd y cenhadon yma yn un rhan arall ohono.

Yn hwyrach, mae Williams yn adrodd darn o farddoniaeth Cymraeg,

“…a Children’s poem by Talhaiarn called “Brenin y Canibalyddion” – “King of the Cannibals”. It appeared in children’s books up until recently. It’s a lively raucous poem that thunders alog at a pace like drumming:

Mi draethaf chwedl fach i chwi
Yn loyw, hoyw, ffraeth a ffri,
Am frenin mawr ei fraint a’i fri,
Sef Brenin y Canibalyddion.
Ei hyd oedd ddwylath a lled llaw,
A’i ben ‘run llun a^ phen hen raw;
‘Roedd ganddo swyddogion, wyth neu naw,
A’i balas a wnaed o bridd a baw;
A’i enw oedd Brwchan-wchan-iach,
Llumangi-hyllgi-wichgi-wach,
A’i wisg yn crogi fel hen sach
Am Frenin y Canibalyddion.

Yn howcio, cowcio, llowcio’n lli,
Chwipio a hicio a chicio’r ci,
Yn strim-stam strellach yn ei sbri
Bydd Brenin y Canibalyddion.

‘Roedd trigain o wragedd yn ei dŷ,
Pob un yn ddu, pob un yn hy,
A deugain o hyll-dduach ddu,
Gan Frenin y Canibalyddion.
Ac felly i gyd ‘roedd ganddo gant
I foddio ei fyd ac i foethi ei fant;
A genid bob wythnos ddau o blant,
A’r Brenin a ganai gyda’i dant,
Gan ddawnsio i Wisgan-isgan-aw
A Sipog-llethog-lwythog-law,
Nes syrthio ar ei gefn i’r baw –
Ow! Frenin y Canibalyddion.

In later verses the grotesque King ends up eating his entire harem and several of his princes. “And their throats were cut one and all, every hideous horrible man and woman”.”

Yn wir, cynhwysid “Brenin y Canibalyddion” yng nghasgliad newydd “Mwy o Hoff Gerddi Cymru” yn 2010. Sawl flwyddyn ar ôl cyhoeddiad “Sugar & Slate” mae rhai dal yn gweld y darn yma o farddoniaeth fel un o’n ffefrynnau llenyddol. Dylse’r Cymry gwyn cydnabod y fath hiliaeth Gymreig a Chymraeg â siom, nid ei dathlu.

Mae Williams hefyd yn sôn am ei phrofiadau o ymgroesiad (neu ddiffyg ymgroesiad) brwydrau dros yr iaith a brwydrau yn erbyn hiliaeth, a hanes terfysg hil 1919 Caerdydd:

” I arrived back to find Wales was itself in an angry mood. Twenty years of Welsh-language politics had risen from a simmer to a boil. The conflict about housing had shifted to jobs. Whilst English-owned holiday homes weren’t being burned down anymore, the battles were being played out behind closed doors in County Hall and on the front line in the public offices and in the schools. I went back to lecturing at the university and continued to dangle uncomfortably between the English/Welsh animosities. It was an old battle that I had been caught up in before during my own student days. At that time there had been a moment of student activism of the type we hadn’t seen in Britain since the Sixties, only Britain didn’t seem particularly interested. I suppose it’s fair to say Britain was distracted. Toxteth and Brixton had been set alight as race politics moved onto the streets. It all seemed very far away, too far away for me to identify with.

It’s hard to believe that the first major race riots in Britain were in Wales. The Cardiff riot in 1919 was one of the fiercest racial out-breaks in history. Hundreds of people took to the streets in a melee of racial violence. Black people were attacked in the streets and in their homes by lynch mobs led by soldiers who had been drafted in to quell the violence. Ugly crowds rampaged through the streets rooting out black men, damned for working and damned for having relationships with local women. The disturbance led to the laying off and repatriation of hundreds of African and West Indian sailors who were blamed for trying to defend themselves. Suzanne’s grandfather was one of them.

What a lot of people don’t know is that the Cardiff riots triggered an upsurge in black consciousness in the West Indies and a major insurrection against British colonialism all over the Caribbean. It began when some Trinidadians who had been caught up in the conflict returned home. Within days they started rioting against white sailors in Port of Spain. The conflict grew and became a major dock strike that almost brought the Empire to its knees within days. Soldiers in Belize began an uprising against the white British, and in Jamaica, seamen were out fighting hand to hand with British sailors. There was so much unrest all over the West Indies that the Colonial Office was forced to take steps to protect British subjects in the region. The protests had links with struggles in America and spread across continents in the Pan Africanist movement. At home the memories of the Cardiff race riots were etched into black consciousness and became the touchstone for black people fighting against the colour bar in Britain during the Twenties and Thirties. None of this was part of our course at university. We were sitting in warm lecture rooms listening to lectures about Marx and the class war whilst out in the quadrangle Welsh-speaking students were painting anti-English slogans and noisily protesting about English oppression of the Welsh.

Language politics filled the air. I remember experiencing the sense that things were changing but that I wasn’t included in the battle. I couldn’t empathise with it all because for the great mass of us the agitation was unexplained, decontextualised, something to do with a history in which there were only two sides – Welsh or English – and for those of us who didn’t sit comfortably on either, there was no role at all. This great movement for Wales wasn’t taking us al along with it. On the contrary, out of necessity or neglect it was fast excluding us.”

Wrth i ffasgiaid ceisio gorymdeithio eto a thrais hiliol yr heddlu parhau, nid yw brwydr 1919 drosodd. Anoddach efallai yw cydnabod dyfnder hiliaeth a goruchafiaeth gwyn, ei bresenoldeb nid yn unig yn ffasgydd neu heddwas “draw fynna”, ond hefyd yn ein perthnasau pob dydd a’n mudiadau radical “fanyn”. Mae geiriau Williams yn pwysleisio her fawr ac anghyfforddus i’r Cymry gwyn sydd ynghlwm a’r frwydr dros yr iaith a brwydrau eraill.

Ond mae hefyd digon o obaith yn llyfr Williams. Tua diwedd “Sugar & Slate” dengys, heb ddileu gwahaniaethau brwydrau gwahanol na chwaith israddio un i’r llall, bod gelynion tebyg a phosibiliadau o unoliaeth a chyd-frwydro.

” I am compelled to go back in time and meet up with the ancestors in the shadow of a great slateocracy, compelled to visit my history. I walk with them across a hundred years in the grounds of Penrhyn Castle from where Richard Pennant, the first Lord Penrhyn ran an empire built on profits from land ownership and a massive industrial wealth. … The twist for me is that this whole empire would not have been possible at all had it not been for the huge fortune Richard Pennant made from what he called his West India interests. It was the cruelly driven slaves; men, women and children who toiled and sweated for the huge sugar profits that built the industries in Wales. Out of the profits of slave-labour in one Empire, he built another on near-slave labour. The plantocracy sponsored the slateocracy in an intimate web of relationships where sugar and slate were the commodities and brute force and exploited labour were the building blocks of the Welsh Empire. My slate memories and my sugar memories are forged together. In the chapels on the high street of Bethesda the people turned over the pages of the abolitionist pamphlets and found the quarryman and the slave were like on in their resistance of the oppressor. The shared plight of the factory slaves at home and the plantation slaves elsewhere had an echo right across Wales with the quarrymen, the iron smelters, the black faced miners, all knew what it meant to be robbed, beaten down, have their language, their culture, name and place stolen from them”.

O’r gobaith hwn, ni chawn ddelwedd o genedl pur heb wahaniaethau, heb orthrymder, heb hanesion siomedig ac anodd. Yn hytrach, cawn Gymreictod cymhleth, â’u aml-berthnasau i’r brwydrau gwahanol yn erbyn gormes. Cymru llawn boen a ffraeo, a Chymru allwn fentro hoffi.

” I know why it is that I like Wales. I like it because it is fragmented, because there is a loud bawling row raging, because its inner pain is coming to terms with its differences and its divisions, because it realises it can’t hold on to the myth of sameness, past or present.”

 

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[1] Am ychydig o gydestun erchyll o ran gweithredoedd Leopold II, gwelwch https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Leopold_II_of_Belgium#Exploitation.2C_atrocities.2C_and_death_toll .

[2] Gorfodwyd enwau “Cristnogol” ar gaethweision – yn aml gyfenwau’r meistri.

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