Monday, 8 December 2014

A Jolly Nigger Bank speaks out






Poetry inspired by museum artefacts is nothing new. Keats' Ode on a Grecian Urn is probably the bext known example, and I read recently about Cambridge University's Thresholds project in the Museums Association Journal 

However nobody seems to have been inspired by the Muse to write about any of the items in what my friend Simon Heptinstall called Fairlynch Museum's "delightfully eclectic mix of locally donated period costumes, radioactive pebbles and natural history (ie, stuffed seabirds)" in his amusing 2001 Daily Telegraph article

There are some pretty odd things at Fairlynch, but that's possibly what a museum is all about.  

Anyway, here is what I was inspired to write about one of them:

I’ve got the most enormous mouth, my tongue is round and red.
My eyes are blue, my face is dark, my origin’s unsaid.
Cos I’m a Jolly Nigger Bank,
I sit here every day.
Some people think I’m curious,
And others look away.

I’ve got a hand, I hold it out for people to put in
A penny large and round which I acknowledge with a grin.
Cos I’m a Jolly Nigger Bank,
I sit here all the time
Some people think I shouldn’t be.
They tell me it’s a crime.

You work me with a lever, my hand goes up until
The penny drops and people laugh. They think it’s quite a thrill.
Cos I’m a Jolly Nigger Bank,
I’ve time to sit and think,
And wonder as I listen to
The ancient penny’s clink.

The penny has an image of Britannia o’er the waves,
That makes me wonder why it was they treated us as slaves.
I’m called a Jolly Nigger Bank
By those who know the facts.
I hope you feel embarrassed
By the history of the blacks.

So when you put the penny in and see my rolling eyes
Please think a little, share my thoughts and listen to my sighs.
Just see this Jolly Nigger Bank,
With all those pennies clinking
As the product of a nasty mind
Imbued with racist thinking.

With acknowledgement to The Museum of Belief, curated by Bill Mayblin    http://www.museumofbelief.com   
You can read Mr Mayblin's excellent article about this kind of artefact here

No comments:

Post a Comment