- 29 Nov 21
Methembe shares his thoughts and experiences as part of 100 Voices: #AllAgainstRacism.
Cooks But We’re Chefs
There's a lot of people that are black – and from other minorities as well – in the music industry, which is great. But there can sometimes be a lack of emphasis on how these people are treated. It’s like they’re hidden here. So, I think things like this campaign will be a chance for people to look at those who come from different backgrounds, listen to their story, understand where they come from, and what they talk about in their music.
You meet a lot of white people in the industry. Sometimes you might feel like a sore thumb sticking out. It’d be better for people to actually understand how it feels to be the only black person or the only Traveller in the room.
As an artist, I feel that, when we go into these environments, we’re trying to blend in with everyone else. But sometimes when you’re black, there’s no blending and people can see you straight away. That’s a kind of recurring thing that I’ve experienced in the Irish music industry.
But it is becoming better. There’s more awareness, especially over the last two years, of people that were in direct provision and the life they lived: coming from a different country; how we got here; trying to feel understood; and the fact that it was hard living in those environments. But we still got a chance to turn that into a positive by playing music and being part of the community.
I came to Ireland when I was six. I was born in Zimbabwe, and I left after my dad had passed away. So my mother and I came all the way to Killarney. There was a direct provision centre there, where we stayed for 18 months or two years, nearly. We were lucky enough to get out, because a lot of people have been there for ages. I have no other siblings, so it’s just me and her, in a new place where she has to start from the bottom again.
She was a geography teacher back home, and my dad had his own business. Things were great. But everything fell apart and she had to start again. I always commend her for it. I was just a happy-go-lucky child, but she’s the one that was really seeing the effects.
It was good growing up in Killarney, because all the kids in the direct provision centre were thrown together, kids from everywhere. But what was weird was that it seemed like the kids in the direct provision would hang around with each other only. There were no community projects, or getting to meet other kids. It was like we were put into a corner.
I do wish there was more little things to get people meeting each other when I was younger. I’d like these things to be talked about more. It shouldn’t just be the narrative that is on the news. Even during lockdown last year, there was a direct provision crisis, with people protesting about it – and then nothing after.
So I would love it if there were more projects for the kids in direct provision, for them to play music and get more involved in the arts. One of my friends, Frank McCarthy, who’s a Traveller, runs workshops for kids in direct provision, and for Travellers, so we’re trying to get more things like that happening.
If people could, once or maybe twice a year, help these kids in direct provision, it’d be fantastic. Hopefully Cooks But We’re Chefs will be doing things like that soon. We did a workshop in Abbeyfeale for some of the Travelling community about a month ago. We need to get more music to those kids because they’ll be the next stars.
Read Part 2 of 100 Voices: #AllAgainstRacism in the current issue of Hot Press:
Special thanks to the Irish Human Rights and Equality Commission for their support in this project.