speak up!

December 17, 2014

red wheelbarrow, white chickens

This is a post about a mural, a poem and an ambitious idea that could involve you, if you speak Croatian, Kiswahili, Gujarati, Kiche, Lakota or any of the scores of other languages on the “translators needed” list: Mural Speaks! Project: One Poem, 144 Languages.

Here’s how the project is introduced by its founder, Ben Miller, Fellow, Radcliffe Institute for Advanced Study at Harvard University 2014-15: “In Meldrum Park in Sioux Falls, South Dakota, a mural by Dave Loewenstein celebrates the astonishing diversity of a city where more than 140 languages are currently spoken. When viewing this vibrant artwork, conceived of first by children in the Whittier neighborhood, an interesting notion occurred — a joyful way of extending the collaborative spirit the images embody, as well as connecting people across the nation to the Midwest of the current moment. What if Sioux Falls citizens stepped in front of the mural one morning, each proudly reciting, in turn, the same seminal American poem translated into a different language — showcasing the variety amid unity that is the genius of the melting pot?”

Miller chose “The Red Wheelbarrow” by William Carlos Williams as the project poem and put out a call for translators. While the list of languages represents those spoken in Sioux Falls, the call for translators reaches “across the globe.”

Here are the guidelines (directed, especially, to the novice translator):

  • Translating is challenging yet intellectually rewarding work, and all translators go through the same processes of doubt and second-guessing. Much of translation is about what feels right to you (the translator) in the context of the artist’s intent.
  • This is especially true when dealing with a short poem like “The Red Wheelbarrow.” Translating all words directly will most likely yield a poem very different from the original. It is important to consider rhymes, syllable counts, and the different sounds that occur frequently in the poem. However, capturing how the poem touches you personally is a chief concern here.
  • This work will not be published without your consent. It is for the purposes of a community event, and you retain all rights: use is strictly informal.
  • When you have finished the translation, e-mail it, including the name of the language you’ve used and a three-sentence biography (including your current place of residence), to muralspeaks@gmail.com. This information will appear in the event program. If you would like to participate in the actual event in some fashion, please note that as well. We would love to know if you have ever visited South Dakota or have family or personal or business connections there.

Here is the list of languages (Miller notes that Hebrew and sign language should be added to the list):

  • European: Belarussian, Bulgarian, Croatian, Estonian, Greek, Latvian, Lithuanian, Polish, Russian, Serbian, Shqip or Albanian, Slavic or Ukrainian, Slovak.
  • African: Acholi, Afar, Afrikaans, Akan, Amharic, Anyuak, Arabic, Avokaya, Baki, Bari, Bassa, Bhojpuri, Burundi, Creole, Didinga, Dinka, Erapice, French, Fulani, Grego, Hausa, Hindi, Igbo or Ibo, Jur, Kabila, Kenyarwanda, Kikiyu, Kirundi or Rundi, Kisio, Kiswahili, Krahn, Krash, Kuku, Kunama, Lakoka, Lango, Lingala, Luganda, Madi, Mai Mai or Bantu, Mandinka, Mawo, Mondari, Moru, Murule, Ndogo, Nubiar, Nuer, Nyambara, Nyangwana, Oduk, Ogoni, Oromo, Pojulu, Rafica, Ruel, Rwanda, Shilluk, Sholuk, Somali, Swahili, Tigrinya, Toknath, Toposa, Turkish, Urdu, Wolof or Senegal, Zande, Zulu.
  • Asian: Armenian, Azeri or Azerbaijan, Bangla, Bhutanese, Cambodian, Cantonese, Chinese, Dari, Farsi or Persian, Filipino, French, Gujarati, Hayaren of Armenia, Hindi, Indonesian, Kazakh, Khmer, Korean, Kurdish, Lao, Lergdie, Malay, Nepali, Oriya, Pashtu, Russian, Tagala, Telugu, Thai, Urdu, Vietnamese, Zhongwen of China.
  • Central and South American: Castellano of Chile, Kiche, Mam, Quichua of Ecuador.
  • North American: Ojibwe or Chippawa, Dakota, English, Lakota, Nakota, Navajo, Omaha, Ponca, Winnebago.

Here is the project timeframe as of now:
October 2014 – August 2015: Generate and collect translations
September 2015 – April 2016: Sign up readers; Publicity
May 2016: Event staging

To learn more, read Jon Walker’s article about the translation project in the Argus Leader, visit the Sioux Falls Mural Project blog and watch Nicholas Ward’s short film, “The World Comes to Whittier.”

Ben Miller adds, “the sooner the translations come in, the better!” So if you have something to add, speak up!
. . . . .
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