June 11, 2007

Mary Lloyd Jones on being ‘Between Two Worlds’

To begin, Mary Lloyd Jones considers Margaret Atwood’s work on colonialisation and the problem of survival. In Lloyd Jones’ view, the difficulties facing Canadian writers and artists might be similar to those facing their Welsh counterparts. Lloyd Jones explains that ‘centuries of colonization and exploitation have left the Welsh with a damaged psyche’ and she suggests: ‘All the difficulties faced by disadvantaged groups are compounded for those members of those groups who happen to be female’ (275-276). Lloyd Jones suggests that an artist needs to feel empowered not undermined and she turns again to the example of Atwood. The path of Canadian women authors recommends ‘the experience of their place and time in their art’ while recognising the need ‘to reject the idea that significant work can only be that of dead foreigners (male, white and middle class of course)’ (276).

To adopt a Welsh identity though still has its problems. Lloyd Jones notes how the notion of ‘the archaic peasant still clings to the Welsh artist’ (276). Other negative aspects associated with Welsh culture are listed by Lloyd Jones such as ‘bigotry and ignorance’, the religious tradition’s ‘legacy of passivity’ and ‘a tendency to allow newcomers to take over the decision-making process’ (276). Lloyd Jones states that she ‘cannot imagine this happening in Scotland’ (276).

In thsi account, teh narrative of Wales is ‘a tragic story’, in which: ‘The people of a country provided with enormous natural resources and mineral wealth have not benefitedfrom these but have been the victims of continuing exploitation and many to this day suffer from inadequate housing and poor health’ (277). Lloyd Jones also suggests that the English use the Welsh as a scapegoat, for example the Welsh Labour MP Neil Kinnock. Lloyd Jones concludes that a woman writer can ‘stay in the culture and be crippled as an artist – or escape into nothing’ (277).

Yet all is not quite so gloomy. Wales after all offers a family and as Lloyd Jones explains: ‘Membership of a large family can have a claustrophobic and inhibiting effect, but the confirmation of identity that it gives is priceless’ (277). A relationship with Wales might offer roots, a link to the natural world and the land and the sweet pain of hiraeth, that longing for home that can never be fulfilled.

Our Sister’s Land: The Changing Identities of Women in Wales. Ed. Jane Aaron, Teresa Rees, Sandra Betts and Moira Vincentelli. Cardiff: University of Wales Press, 1994. (273 – 279).

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