Two woman creating their cultural space

Across from me in the café I see two woman arriving. They have an appearance which some people might consider ‘foreign’. There is anyway something particular about how they inhabit and arrange their space. They have brought from the counter a tray with cups, saucers, coffee, and confectionary on plates. One of them carefully and delicately arranges all of these items on their small round table, I think, from her body language, very much with the other, seemingly older woman in mind. It is as though she is trying to make it as the older women would like it. The table is only just large enough for everything to fit. It takes some time, trying different arrangements, moving things back and around, until it is finally sufficiently right and they can both begin to enjoy and consume what they have brought.

This to me is small culture formation on the go. Between them, and between them and all the other people who might be noticing them. Perhaps no words are spoken. But there are concepts in their minds, brought, or imagined, perhaps, from a distant land and history, or from a different sort of household just down the street. 

In my grandmother’s house, there was a wealth of initially, to me, ‘foreign’ body language, verbal expression, arrangement of furniture, use of rooms and ways of eating when compared to my childhood home. Indeed, all the things on the dining table were arranged differently; and even the cutlery and crockery had ‘foreign’ forms, textures and places. Like the younger woman, my grandmother held and moved things, used her hands differently to what I’d seen before.

So this memory is one of many threads with which I can connect with the two women. Perhaps the thread that leads to others more obvious. Indeed, perhaps the younger woman finds the older woman somehow ‘foreign’ – from another, an adopted or even her own family – trying so hard to make things as she imagines the other would like. Perhaps the older woman is just watching and silently going along with this, wondering why the other is trying so hard. Between them, they might never get to the bottom of this. Small culture formation on the go must never finish. The varicultural world can provide endless possibilities for making sense, finding unexpected threads, as we struggle to avoid Othering. 

It was me wondering what the two women were doing that made me remember again and make new sense of my grandmother’s house, and then back to them. And then thinking again about how we all create our cultural space – in watching others.

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *