Centre Blog

Yasmin Begum – Mixed race and Cymraes: Stori Yasmin

At the end of the 19th century and the beginning of 20th century, one of the largest linguistic groups in Butetown were Welsh people. Welsh was spoken everyday and by a whole range of people from different areas. Cardiff is a port city with a huge proportion of mixed race people. 

Despite this, conversations on Islam, ethnic minorities and Welsh language speakers are posited in terms that often forget Wales’ strong multicultural history. Studying at the Centre for the Study of Islam has turned those images of the vicarious past to images of the future. It’s really something to read the work of leading scholars in the field and later be directly taught by them. Once I have finished my degree, I am looking forward to giving back to my area, and helping to strengthen the ties between Cardiff University and communities.

I was contacted by Hansh of S4C, the Welsh-language public broadcaster, to do a short piece on my experiences as a Welsh language learner and as someone who is a person of colour. We met in Lahore Kebabish, a takeaway in Grangetown, South Cardiff. Grangetown is Wales’ most multiracial area. It’s also the area I grew up in.

[youtube https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=IluDDGvttDU]

Yasmin has provided the Centre with an English translation of the text in the piece above.

Hi, my name is Yasmin, and I come from Cardiff in Wales. I am third generation Pakistani. My dad’s family is from Faisalabad, Pakistan. My Mum is from Cardiff. I went to Pakistan when I was seven, but I haven’t been back there since.

I think my experience is really different compared to other peoples’ experiences. I feel, as a queer, working class, Welsh, black and minority ethnic who speaks Welsh, that people see me, as a Welsh speaker, as a “diverse woman”.

People, generally, do not think that ethnic minorities speak Welsh. I have had lots of comments that make me feel uncomfortable. I am keen to bust conceptions wide open. I do not identify as ethnic. The word comes from the Greek language, and it means stranger. I was born and brought up in Cardiff, therefore I went to a Welsh language nursery, but I went to an English language speaking school as a child. At the moment, I am doing my Masters in the Centre for the Study of Islam in the UK at Cardiff University.

I have had so much experience learning Welsh in Wales. I have had access to information, to courses like Uwch (Welsh for Adults) in my university. To be honest, my Welsh is better than my Panjabi. I do not have an experience of learning or studying Panjabi in my school or university. It’s high time people learn their mother tongues. I think a people without language is a people without heart. I saw some graffiti (in Welsh) once in Canton (an area of Cardiff); I liked that.

Using Welsh as an ethnic minority woman, or whatever, it’s unusual. It’s quite rare, but BME people have been in Tiger Bay for 200 years. I wrote an article for a magazine called Burnt Roti on my identity as a Taffistani. Taffistani refers to the South Asian diaspora who live in the area immediately around the Taff in Cardiff.

Yes, I have had negative experiences in Wales. I think it’s important to laugh. My negative experience has led me to work with people of colour in Wales. I worked with the Ethnic Minorities and Youth Support Team (EYST) as a research assistant working with African and Asian diaspora communities who live in Wales who are a mixture of first- and second-generation immigrants.

It’s important to talk about difficult things in our society, things that might be difficult to discuss.

Yasmin Begum is studying for her MA Islam in Contemporary Britain at Cardiff University.,