‘palé avem, kalbėk su manimi’

 ‘talk to me’ with Rosé Marie Paul in the 2nd Ghetto Biennale

Port-au-Prince, Haiti 2011

‘a language is not an organism but a set of patterns in speakers’ minds and behavior’ William Z. Shetter

Acquiring a new culture through learning its language seems essentially important. A person who understands another person without interpretation (translation) or often misleading third language can reach close communication by the means of language. Unfortunately, most languages nowadays face extreme pressure of politically dominant ‘prestige’ languages. If a person decides to learn a second language, they will usually learn one of the world’s dominant languages to get a ‘practical’ advantage. In this way, according to Andrew Dalby, a language dies every two weeks. With the death of a language, unique ways of thinking and living are lost permanently. Linguistic diversity is much more related to the world’s biodiversity than we could imagine – extinction of languages also causes irreversible effects to the entire ecosystem of the world.

My project in Port-au-Prince implemented in an authentic ‘as it is’ environment as opposed to a hypothetical one and to the reality formed by mass media evolved from lively interaction with the local community and involving communication with Rosé Marie Paul.

It is worth noticing that Creole is not as small language as Lithuanian, but, surprisingly, we could not find any newspapers in Creole and most of books were written in French although the majority of people I met were native Creole speakers.

At the beginning of my stay, while interacting with local artists, I introduced my project to Mabelle Williams and we tried to see if it was possible to construct ‘Lithuanian-Creole’ dialogue with the help of English (we both knew this language more or less and under given circumstances it was impossible to act as if we did not). Event though Mabelle had shown a phenomenal ability to pronounce Lithuanian words correctly, already during the second session our conversation started to resemble planned theater rehearsals in the Park hotel that showed little authenticity (which was initial and principal purpose of this project).

After coming back to the neighborhood at Grand Rue, which also was the Ghetto Biennale’s hosting place, I met Rosè Marie Paul, and since then I collaborated with her and spent days together at her place. Rosé Marie did not speak any English or Lithuanian, and I did not speak Creole or French, so first of all we started to communicate and learn about each other in a nonverbal way. Our communication evolved and transformed into learning through new practices, joint activities, sign language and emotional involvement. Languages we used were Creole and Lithuanian; however, it was obvious that I was the one being taught and learning some Creole. Lithuanian was used for healthy curiosity to hear and listen to the sounds of Other distant and unknown language. Perhaps this communication might have led to a new language creation if the process had continued. We decided to cook a meal for a group of people for the Biennale’s opening day as a material expression of our communication. The participants, visitors and people from the neighborhood were invited to share the food.

I am asking myself if the collaboration with Rosé Marie could be called ‘a project‘ as it evolved as an honest enriching relationship and friendship. Besides, through this experience, I had a possibility to get closer to an extraordinary culture. The melody of this new language will be sounding in my head and, who knows, maybe one day I will speak this language too.

The Ghetto Biennale doubtlessly is a place of challenge and a platform of serious reconsiderations.