Refugees, Migration, Language
4th March, 2016
Conception: Lars Henning, Rita Sebestyén, Louise Søeborg Ohlsen
Workshop leaders: Lars Henning and Louise Søeborg Ohlsen
Presentation: Rita Sebestyén
Your clothes are not Greek. Foreign robes of finely woven fabric… covered in gems… nothing like ours!
Where are you all from? No women from Argos or the rest of Greece wears such clothes.
You must be brave, coming here unannounced like this, with no friends and no one to guide you!
Ah! I see branches on the altars and by your sides. That tells me that you are suppliants and you seek protection from me but that’s all that a Greek can gather from that. I’ll have to make my own assumptions about everything else, unless you tell me in your own words the rest of your story.’
(Aeschylus: Suppliant Maidens, transl.: George Theodoridis)
Organized by the research program: “Art, Culture and Politics in the ‘Postmigrant Condition’” (funded by FKK/Danish Council for Independent Research) in collaboration with CISPA (Copenhagen International School of Performing Arts), we offered a workshop as a part of Symposium on Language and Migration, which incorporated researchers from different universities in Denmark and independent researchers from Germany within the fields of International Actor Training, Linguistics and Art, Culture and Politics in the Postmigrant condition.
As a continuation of and inspired by the Otherness Dialogues workshop that we held in Miercurea Ciuc/Csíkszereda, RO, in August, 2015, for cultural operators, this workshop aimed to give the participants a body-mind-soul experience of language. We worked with the first play on migration: The Suppliant Maidens by Aeschylus and through this text implicitly experienced both the view point of the migrant and the “settled”.
Through different exercises, starting with the breathing, communicating with organic sound, and de- and reconstructed components of a few lines from the Ancient Greek text, the participants investigated engaging in a dialogue in a totally alien language, where nevertheless the sheer reciprocated effort of trying to bridge the gap to the other through embodied sound and (alien) language brought about moments of wholeness and communion.
Lars Henning, artistic director at CISPA
The base of the workshop for me as a participant from the actor side was a short excerpt of AESCHYLUS’ “SUPPLIANT MAIDENS” in English. As a preparation I learned the text by heart and researched the plot of the play. In contrast to that, we worked on an excerpt in the Ancient Greek original text and language during the workshop, dissecting it from the base of just one word and its individual syllables up to using the whole excerpt in Ancient Greek. One thing that strikes me at the first stage of non- or deconstructed language is that connection with the partner, listening and responding, communication is possible without a common, spoken, language. Or simply just through body language. Be it socially constructed patterns of behaviour or instinctual behaviour patterns.
Moving on through using more and more of the Ancient Greek, even though still not understandable on an intellectual level, it becomes apparent that the sound and body of the language still carry a meaning and emotional depth. There is a certain power and majesty carried through by the way the language begs to be embodied, spoken, regardless of comprehension by the speaker.
Constantin Gindele, 1st year student
It is impressive how much language reflects the culture There are some important differences between Greek language and English or Scandinavian languages in the feeling that is created while you speak the words concerning how direct a language is. I have thought about that before, but it became even more obvious during the workshop. Greek is my mother tongue, so I could not be certain if I feel that because I express myself better in Greek or because the language itself is more direct. After having some discussions with other participants I realised that they had the same experience without even knowing exactly the meaning of the phrases. Another difference that I observed is that in Greek it is easier to refer to something without using all the time the object we are referring to, while in English we always have to refer to the object we speak about. This gives more freedom in Greek to create new expressions. Probably, that is why poetry is so different in Greek than in North European and western languages.
In addition, the communication between us (the participants) in an (almost) foreign language was exciting because the body language and the movements were significant in order to have a dialogue. I would love to know more about the concept of otherness as well, since I found it quite important for human and society development from a cultural and psychological point of view.
Lydia Xourafi, assistant researcher