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Two Black Dolls, One Bermudian Woman and a New Place to call Home

By Roiyah Saltus-Blackwood
October 2002, Cardiff
A digital story from Capture Wales

Memories of Bermuda

Roiyah tells us about her memories of Bermuda and her new life here in Wales. Even though she is far away from her former home, she finds comfort in her dolls.

Humming in the background

"I've spent nearly half my life away from home.

I was born and raised in Bermuda with my parents, my brother John and my sister Julia. My first memories however were not of playing or swimming in Bermuda but playing in the garden of our nursery school in England and of my dad and mom coming to visit us.

My first boyfriends were Bermudian boys but I married my first husband while I was living in Israel and it was when I was studying in England that I married Bernard, my great love.

I have Bermudian friends I've known all my life but I've met friends during my travels who were just as important and special to me.

Still, living away from home is hard at times. When I'm feeling unwelcome, afraid, alone or sad, my dolls comfort me. I can look at them, pick them up, smell them, hold them and be reminded of where I truly belong.

But now I've moved to Cardiff. Cardiff for me is another place I can call home. Living in Cardiff means that I belong to one of the longest resident black communities in Britain. This fact makes me feel strong. I feel that I have a place here; that I have a right to be here. I feel that I have a role to play.

When I walk the streets of Cardiff I feel a part of the city's history as well as the city's future. I feel like I feel about Bermuda ... connected."

Please tell us a little about yourself.
I am a Black Bermudian woman, aged 37, married, and generally happy with my lot. I am presently based at the Research Unit of the School of Care Sciences, University of Glamorgan. I am active in various organisations and societies. Bermudian society remains my key personal research interest. Who am I? A little of everything I do, plus a little like my mother - which, all in all, is fine!

What's your story about?
My story is about my relationship with myself, with Britain and with Cardiff, my new home. I was born and raised in Bermuda, but since the age of 18 I have lived away from the land of my birth. During this period I have carried with me symbols of my home and my travels - rocks, fabric, pictures, sand (pink sand of Bermuda) calendars and yes, my two dolls. My story is about transformation and homecoming. The homecoming is finding Cardiff and becoming part of one of the oldest Black communities in Britain. The story is about introducing myself to Wales, saying 'I have arrived and my God - I love this place!!!

Why did you choose this particular story?
I wanted to work out the feeling of contentment and peace that I feel - to try and express why I wanted to live here and what I have to offer. Equally important, my story is about finding a way to explain to my husband why we can never leave!

What was the experience of making a digital story like?
Initially, the experience was troubling, because I am aware of the long history of Black people's material being 'stolen' and was not keen to sign away 'forever' my rights - in this or any other matter. I stuck it out, however, because I wanted to see what sort of exchange could be brokered and I am glad I did. As the particular workshop I was in was run during Black History Month and was specifically for Black and Minority Ethnic people, I was able to meet and get to know a number of people. All in all, a good experience.

Your comments

" I am a passionate black dolls collector. I have over two hundred black dolls. I love them all. They remind me of how black people have always been influential in European social developments. Some of my dolls have black features some, have european features, some have over the top African features. I really enjoyed listening to your story of how you find comfort in your dolls. Thank you." Margaret Smith, Dec 2007.

"This story was sent to me my another black women who is living not far from this area here where I am. I am also Bermudian and she collects black dolls. I found it to be interesting. I can understand how she feels about wanting to stay right where she is. I feel the same way myself about here where I am. Many people say they do not understand how I could want to stay anywhere but Bermuda since it has so much beauty and it is a warm climate. I feel that just like the young lady in this story that I am very much at home here. This is not a black community however, blacks are far and few between but when you are at home you are at home, warm, cold, tropical beauty or beauty of the freshly fallen snow on bare trees. I believe it confirms the saying,'Home is where the heart is.' " Mae Wales, Woodstock, Canada, Sept 2007.

"I find the story very interesting because of the comfort your black dolls bring. I wish that I could have printed pictures of your dolls for the program on black dolls. I am presenting to my doll club on Wednesday, July 19! " Karen Rae Mord, Savage Minnesota USA, Sept 11 2007.

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