Thoughts on translation

This arts-language project is both practice and research – and we have been through a full ethical review process at the university. We have created documentation relating to the research elements of this work and also to the visual arts elements. We are asking participants if we can take photographs, if we can record our conversations about ‘welcome’ and if we can, eventually, produce a short film. Although we have tried to keep the documentation concise – it has, inevitably, become a four-page document. One of our project volunteers has translated the document into Farsi and Kurdish, and asked a couple of her contacts to translate it into Arabic and Urdu. She did this over the course of just one weekend – and we are so grateful for her input. She also translated a poster and some words and phrases for the artists to use during their workshops.

As the participants arrived for the workshop this morning, we started to give out the documents. A large proportion of the group wanted the Arabic version – and it was a relief that we were able to provide this for them.

Translation became something that took place throughout the workshop. The activities themselves – the preparing of the silk, the sketching out of the image/text, the ‘guttering’ process, the painting – all needed to be explained and translated. This was done through a range of different modes. Through demonstration. Through an example. Through explanation. And in the conversations that I had throughout the workshops, which will eventually form part of a book around the theme of ‘welcome’ in ‘utopia’, became conversations about translation. About words for welcome, and where these words come from. What these words mean and where and when they are used. Where do the words come from – two of the workshop participants talked about ‘welcome’ being ‘in your heart’ – which reminded me of Brigitta Busch’s work on the lived experience of language (see here, for example).

For the silk painting workshop, the group were given examples of the kind of work that they could do – using words or pictures. Most of the group started with a word – the word ‘welcome’ in English, the word ‘welcome’ in Arabic. Then images, then colours. One of the participants drew a house, with two clouds in the sky, raindrops falling. He said, my house is for sheltering people from the rain – this is how I welcome.

We will start to gradually put some of the images of the work on this blog.


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