Shamshad Khan, ‘Pot’, Manchester Museum

ShamshadKhan_photoAs Shamshad Khan explains in the Moving Manchester Writers’ Gallery, ‘Pot’, from the collection Megalomaniac, “has a direct link with Manchester. It was written as a commission for the Manchester Museum. The poem is written in a conversational style as though I, the performer/poet am speaking directly to the pot. In writing the poem I imagined how the pot might have felt being taken from its home in Nigeria and being and brought to a strange place (the Manchester Museum). I speculate about how that journey might have been made, and the lack of choice the pot is likely to have had. I use the plight of the pot as a way to comment on the issues of identity, colonial practices, migration and the slave trade. There is a sense of tenderness and empathy towards the pot’s fate. I identify with its pain and dislocation, drawing on the experiences of my parents who were born in Pakistan and my own as a second generation British Asian…”  Read more…


Some of the pots in Manchester Museum's Living Worlds Gallery.

Some of the pots in Manchester Museum’s Living Worlds Gallery.



so big- they said you shouldn’t really be moved

so fragile you might break


you could be from anywhere pot

styles have travelled just like terracotta

you could almost be an english pot


but I know you’re not.


I know halfof the story pot

of where you come from of how you got here


but I need you to tell me the rest pot


tell me


did they say you were bought pot

a looters deal done the whole lot sold

to the gentleman in the grey hat


or did they say you were lost pot

finders are keepers you know pot


or did they say they didn’t notice you pot

must have slipped onto the white sailing yacht

bound for england.



somewhere will have missed you pot

gone out looking for you pot because

someone, somewhere made you finger nails pressed

snake patterned you pot washed you pot used you

pot loved you pot


if I could shatter this glass

I would take you back myself pot.


you think they wouldn’t recognise you pot

say diaspora you left now you’re not really one of us.


pot I’ve been back to where my family’s from

they were happy to see me

laughed a lot


said I was more asian than the asians pot

I was pot


the hot sun on your back

feel flies settle on your skin

warm grain poured inside


empty pot

growl if you can hear me


pot? pot? pot.

Dedicated to all museum artefacts, in particular a Nigerian pot currently incarcerated in The Manchester Museum, Oxford Road, without charge or access to legal representation.


Shamshad, who is a highly successful performance poet, writes (Moving Manchester Writers’ Gallery), “It is interesting to note that in performance I usually make the dedication before performing the poem, so the audience is able to contextualise the poem and the ending is lighter. In publication it seemed more appropriate to end with it, the opportunity to re-read the poem being there for the reader.”

You can hear Shamshad reading one of her other poems, ‘Heart Wrap’, on The Poetry School site, which includes a video of her performance.


Manchester Museum, Oxford Road

Manchester Museum, Oxford Road