Writing a haiku a day is my daily act of creativity and a part of my  creative practice

Recently, I’ve also noticed that there are parallels I can draw from them for life and work.

This haiku, No. 19, was inspired by a moment shared with my Mum during a visit to the Royal Botanic Gardens, Kew. A day out for her birthday.

This haiku, and more specifically the moment that prompted it, is a reminder of the power of cultural markers (landscapes/geography, language, food, symbols etc.) to evoke remembrance and a sense of belonging.

How Memory Survives

It was also a lesson in how memory survives and can be unlocked. In those few moments under the leaves of the banana tree , I heard stories from my Mum that I had never heard before. I wanted to get out my phone and press record, but then we started walking again and the subject changed. —I do intend to return to it.

Seeing Themselves

While writing this post,  The West Indian Front Room, an exhibition originally curated by Michael McMillian, came to mind.

It’s success may have been down to the fact it resonated emotionally with visitors, particularly black and brown people for it was the first time many were able to see themselves within a museum display and to have their place in British social history recognised. Their response to the exhibition was overwhelmingly positive prompting many to share their experiences of the West Indian front room or personal stories of migration.

The Front Room Exhibition at the Museum of the Home, Hackney

I remembered that my Mum visited this exhibition in 2022, when it was a part of  the Life Between Islands exhibition at the Tate Britain in 2022.

The West Indian Front Room

As my Mum stood in that roon, remembrance, reminiscent and the unlocking of memories flowed. My remembrance of that moment later led to some haiku poetry in honour of Windrush Day, 2023.

Being in spaces and places where ones cultural heritage, identity, and so on are represented and reflected is vital. Both individually and collectively. In the personal and the professional.

Cultural Competency

Cultural competence is a set of congruent behaviors, attitudes, and policies that come together in a system, agency or among professionals and enable that system, agency or those professions to work effectively in cross-cultural situations.

Cross et al, 1989 as cited by the  National Center for Cultural Competence

Williams (2001) defined cultural competence as “the ability of individuals and systems to work or respond effectively across cultures in a way that acknowledges and respects the culture of the person or organization being served” p.1.

What is Cultural Competence and How to Develop It? | PennState Extension

For the Banana Tree, and a myriad of other plants, to grow and thrive in the Palm House at Kew, the conditions of the glasshouse need to be intentionally tailored (and monitored) to their specific needs.

The same principal and intentionality is required with regards to recognising, acknowledging and honouring  the importance of people’s cultural heritage.

Cultural competence requires that organizations:

Have the capacity to (1) value diversity, (2) conduct self-assessment, (3) manage the dynamics of difference, (4) acquire and institutionalize cultural knowledge, and (5) adapt to diversity and the cultural contexts of communities they serve.

National Center for Cultural Competence, 1998, modified from Cross et al

It’s Good For Our Health

I found it interesting that when searching for definitions of cultural competency, specific to the UK, the  the top results were primarily from within the health and social care context.

At the heart of cultural competency is evidence that demonstrates that healthcare professionals are working effectively in cross-cultural circumstances, meaning they can address an individual’s health needs more effectively.

What is Cultural Competency | Grenfell NHS UK

The link between a demonstrative understanding of an individual’s  culture and their health (and  well-being), is clearly being made.

Additionally, in recent times there have been many reports on the impact of racism—an absence of cultural competency a given—on the health of Black and Brown people.

It’s Good for Business

Having lived, worked (at an NGO) and led cross-cultural teams in Southeast (SEA) Asia, garnering an understanding of  the cultural landscape is challenging. It is also very frustrating at times.

You are navigating  worldview, politics, religion, perspectives on gender, stereotyoes of ‘Westerners’, environmental factors and more, and all in a language that isn’t your mother tongue!

However, if—in my case as a community development practioner—you really believe in living and working contextually, it was and is necessary.  In order to work towards the desired positive and sustainable impact you are hoping for.

One of my greatest joys from my time in SEA, is seeing how people who started as interns, became employees, to founders of their own NGOs. Having a far greater and long-lasting impact and reach than I, as a foreigners, could have.

The Business world also recognises the benefits of culturally competent and diverse teams. Organisations who cultivate such teams are said to have increased innovation profits access to new markets and networks

The Power of the Banana Tree

When I began this piece, I didn’t intended to write so much. It’s roots grew and spread, but I trust remained coherent.

Who knew that a priceless moment shared with my Mum under the Banana tree would lead to all of this.