The “My Story – My Words” Day at NUI Galway

We talked about it, we prepared for it, we sent out invitations, we shared ideas, and then it happened: on September 29, academics, artists and NGO workers came to NUI Galway on a rather rainy day to talk about language and migration.

It was a pleasure to host so many different perspectives on the topic that we have been working on. It was great to have so many different backgrounds coming together to talk about their right to call this island ‘their’ Ireland. Last but not least, it was great to have academic and non-academic voices interact on the same platform.

We started w20170929_094226ith our more specificaly social/sociolinguistic panel. Mary Gilmartin started by illustrating some of the narratives that she and Bettina Migge collected from migrants in Ireland. It was very interesting to see how the ‘placeness’ of this place can mean so many different things to different people.


Then, Lisa McEntee-Atalianis explored one of the most pressing issue20170929_095045s in Europe nowadays, the refugee crisis, from the point of view of the press and social media. What is lacking in the way in which the refugee crisis is usually narrated is precisely the migrants’ voice.

Speaking of voice, Unn Røyneland presented us some divergent voices from Oslo: rappers who claim their Norwegian identity, and the debate that ensues online about varieties such as the so called ‘Kebab Norwegian’. Who can really decide the boundaries of a language, and who can grant access to it?

20170929_101919In the following panel, Stefan Nowotny talked about the task of the translator in relation to the challenges of the time and of history, and the difficulties of relating this particular and very important task to the needs of our age of borders and incomprehension.IMG_20171002_112654

Ozgecan Kesici-Ayoubi talked about her task as a translator; from her translation of Kazakh poetry from the 19th century to her own work as a poet who lives in Dublin but takes Kazakhstan, Turkey and Germany with her.IMG_20171002_112626

Marta Golubowska (we talked about her project Be-Longing in July) showed us some of the interviews that she made in her project which brings together members of a community in Kildare to talk about their homes.

After lunch, it was time for theatre, poetry and film. OT Platform  are a community effort, and so they took the stage in three: Bernie, Maud and Rula. They talked about grounding their theatrical efforts in Dublin 8, the need to build an expressive space in the community, and the projects that they developed around it.

Jijo Sebastian, a film director who works in Dublin but whose film speak mostly Malayalam, is starting a collaboration with them soon. In Galway, we had a chance to hear his ideas on making locally grown cinema, and to watch a few minutes of his darkly comic film “Box“. Due to time constraints, we had no time to show scenes from “Parakayapravesham”, but you can watch it here.IMG_20171002_112609

Also, Kasia Lech (who teaches at Canterbury Christ Church University, but was also one of the founders of Polish Theatre Ireland) gave a very appropriately titled talk: “They came here and stole our jobs and then they took our language”. In its works, PTI have always tried to intercept different linguistic directions and suggestions, and play an interestingly complex linguistic picture of contemporary Ireland.IMG_20171002_112619

Anne Mulhall talked about her experience with establishing a Women’s Writer Network, which included refugees and migrant women and which challenged borders of expression on so many levels.

Christodoulos Makris read passages from his essay “Travelling Light: Shedding Poetry’s National Baggage” which resonated with so many things that were being said. The key question is: do we really need to pigeon-hole poets into national slots, and have them compete as if it was the Eurofestival? What are the choices available to a poet who wants to bypass all of that?

Nithy Kasa also talked about borders: both in her native DR Congo, and in Dublin; all of this in very powerful verse. While Nita Mishra presented some of her poetry about misconceptions, stereotypes and the necessity of finding a voice. She also talked about the difficulty of rendering her Hindi words in English.

Fiona Bolger, who was of great help in reaching out to poets across Ireland (thank you Fiona!) talked about the upcoming anthology All the Worlds Between. And another anthology to be presented was Migrant Shores, of which we wrote a few days ago.

As you probably know, we have been walking the streets of Ireland in the past few months, talking to migrants about their languages, their hopes, their needs and aspirations (more of that in the future). We have been lucky to work with Teresa Buzckowska from the Immigrant Council of Ireland, and she was here with us to talk about the many things that her organisation does.

The symposium was concluded by the O Briain lecture, for which we invited Patrick Stevenson. His latest book is a very compelling exploration of the language stories in a building in Berlin. The students of the NUI Galway course in drama and theatre helped us bring it to life (thank you guys!).

We would like to thank the speakers who came from near and far, the Moore Institute and the Immigrant Council of Ireland; the office of the registrar, Professor Pól Ó Dochartaigh who funded the O Briain lecture; the many interns and staff of Italian at NUI Galway who gave us a hand; and many others whom we have encountered on our journey so far. Our journey is not over: stay tuned for more updates!






The programme of the “My Story, My Words” day is here!

Hello everyone, I am pleased to announce that our programme for the symposium is ready. It will be a full day of study, conversation and performance about language and migration. Scholars of linguistics, literature and geography; poets; NGO workers; theatre companies; film directors and visual artists are coming to NUI Galway on September 29 to talk about the role that language has in the experience of migration, and how to create a conversation among all the components of a multicultural society.

The symposium takes place in the Hardiman Research Building, in room G010, and it will be concluded with the prestigious Máirtín Ó Briain Lecture.

All welcome!




OT Platform will be at our Symposium

We are happy to announce that Outlandish Theatre (OT Platform) will join us on September 29.

_ot-blackThis theatre company is based in Dublin 8, and it has a deep and comprehensive focus on the everyday life of its community. Influenced by absurdist art (Artaud, Kafka, René Magritte, Needcompany, Forced Entertainment, Quarantine), they research the social, visual and aural landscape around them to build a collaborative theatre experience. As they indicate in their mission statement:

As we experience the fault lines between old and new communities, often clearly segregated by social, economic and cultural boundaries, we feel working with the residents of our culturally and socially diverse community is important. As a company we see the need to engage with the un(der)represented members of our society in theatre, working together to creating multi-layered and complex work, which avoids flat stereotypes.

In the rapidly changing urban landscape, they often focus on the experience of migration, displacement and adaptation in Dublin 8. Projects include Between Land and Water (2014), where they collaborated with 5 Muslim/Arabic women to investigate the memory and adaptation to the new landscape; and the recent Megalomaniac (2016) which follows the life of a Syrian immigrant in Dublin, between the new land and war-torn Syria.

OT Platform are Maud Hendricks, artistic director; Bernie O’Reilly, writer and performer; and Fiona Bolger, poet and Facilitator. Joining them in Galway, there will be a member of the D8 community with whom they collaborate daily. We look forward to hearing about their inclusive practice and how it involves working with people from different social, cultural and ethnic backgrounds.

Polish Theatre Ireland joins our symposium

Founded by Kasia Lech, Helen McNulty and Ania Wolf in 2008, this Dublin-based theatre organisation has produced both original plays and new translations of Polish works, always inhabiting the space between languages and cultures, always involving a highly multicultural cast. It will be a pleasure to welcome Kasia Lech in Galway on September 29.

Working on theatre as a way of bridging cultural divides, they were born with the intention to “promote Polish texts – both classical and contemporary – on Irish theatre stages” and challenge audiences to “feel, think and interact with the Polish diaspora in Ireland within the dramatic context.” Their activity quickly expanded, involving also productions and actors from different backgrounds.PTI logo

Their past productions include translations of Polish playwright
Radosław Paczocha’s Scent of Chocolate (2010) and Delta Phase (2012) Chesslaugh Mewash (2011), a play based on poet Czesław Miłosz where the English language encounters Irish, Polish, French, Lithuanian and Slovakian; and Bubble Revolution (2016), a coming-of-age story set before and after the fall of communism.Delta Phase by by Silver Merick Studio

In their work, they always paid attention to language: the language we inhabit, the language we encounter every day in Dublin, the language of the company members and the language of the written texts they were working on. Polish Theatre Ireland is a multi-lingual, multi-cultural company; we cannot wait to hear about how they approach this aspect of an art form that combines the universality of the human body on stage with words that are pronounced in a given language, which in turn comes from a given place, and sometimes travels a long way to reach the audience.  Kasia Lech, by Tomasz Lazar





(Pictures courtesy of Kasia Lech. Copyright by the respective authors.)