Slanguages is exploring the creative way artists employ and take inspiration from languages such as Arabic, Hindi, Patois, Pidgin, Polish, Punjabi, Russian, Urdu, urban sign languages, and Yoruba. The project is wide-ranging and includes exhibitions, performances, and collaborations with artists, creative professionals and partners such as Punch Records, Birmingham Museum and Art Gallery, the Birmingham Repertory Theatre, and Sputnik Theatre Company, London.
In the words of Simon Redgrave, Head of Creative Development at Punch Records, "Slanguages is about different languages climbing into each other’s cars and driving away. It's about the collision of languages."
Follow the project on Twitter with #Slanguages.
The Slanguages in the Creative Economy research project – undertaken by Beatfreeks and Slanguages – spoke to 10 artists from the West Midlands who use other languages as part of their work. The ensuing report sees the beauty and power in using different languages, slang and dialect across a range of artistic disciplines. It shows how, in spite of preconceptions, xenophobia and tokenism, multilingualism – and the multiculturalism that it engenders – can be a force for good to change our creative industries and their related economy. In the report you will read about languages from around the world, creative forms which span across genres and styles, and from people with a variety of backgrounds. What unifies them here is the impact that using languages has on their creativity.
#BlackLivesMatter Language Commissions for Black Creatives & People of Colour
In July 2020 Slanguages partnered with Beatfreeks and Don't Settle to create a call for the '#BlackLivesMatter Language Commissions for Black Creatives & People of Colour'. Details are available here.
Click on the images below to find out more about the different Slanguages projects.
The Slanguages exhibition, curated by our Languages in the Creative Economy Strand in collaboration with Punch Records, featured the work, archives and ephemera related to the work of three Birmingham-based artists who use different languages in their musical and artistic work: RTKAL, a grime artist, Rinkoo Barpaga, a deaf comedian and film maker, and Lekan Babalola, a percussionist and musician
"Oxygen – a new Russian play meets UK hip hop"
In October 2018 Dr Noah Birksted-Breen and Professor Rajinder Dudrah began working with artists Lady Sanity and Stanza Divan to produce a hip-hop theatre version of Russian play Oxygen, written by Ivan Viripaev and translated by Sasha Dugdale.
Performed as a part of the Slanguages project in February 2019 at Wolfson College, the Yoruba Sonnets pair spoken word poetry and mime from Dr Olu Taiwo with live music from Lekan Babalola's Sacred Funk Quartet.
Conferences and workshops
In February 2019, academics, artists, performers and cultural practitioners came together at the Birmingham Repertory Theatre to watch, discuss and debate what it means to perform languages as a part of the Performing Languages Conference.
In June 2019, Wolfson College, Oxford, hosted the ‘Poetry in Motion’ showcase of artistic proficiency and cultural splendour with academics, students, artists and creatives. The event was part a one-day academic workshop, Found in Translation – Bringing Russian and Punjabi Culture to British Stages, organised by Creative Multilingualism's Creative Economy strand.
The Languages in the Creative Economy Symposium in November 2018 bought together a diverse group of theatre-makers, performers, and academics to think about the relationship between creativity and multilingualism in the context of the performing arts.
The Slanguages project worked with Amerah Saleh and Bohdan Piasecki, poets from Free Radical based in Birmingham, on a multilingual poem entitled My Mother is Crying, which was performed at the Creative Multilingual Identities Conference in 2018 below, or learn more about the project (and read the full poem) on our blog.
Dr Noah Birksted-Breen responds to the Slanguages in the Creative Economy report. Conversations with Artists using “other” languages in their creative work – a report by Beatfreeks, commissioned by Slanguages (Birmingham City University), is a useful reminder that artists draw upon languages in many different ways.
In partnership with Afroflux, Slanguages presents the latest instalment of the zine Codes of the Flux, a unique mix of sequential art by Charlotte Bailey and Juice Aleem, alongside a song ‘In Flux‘ by musical artist Zaeb Dust.
Artists Raveeta Banger, Ashlee Elizabeth-Lolo and Rupinder Kaur share candid moments from their research and development process of their new play Jugni – The Female Firefly, commissioned by #Slanguages. ‘Jugni’ translates as 'female firefly' in the Punjabi language, and the play (Jugni) illustrates and explores the various embodiments of fire in the lives of Black and Asian women.
In Hinterland, artistic duo Darryl Georgiou and Rebekah Tolley-Georgiou returned to the Darryl's personal photographic/film/sound/image archive (Mercia B21) to mine artefacts in order to examine how history re-animates memory and to consider how flawed those recollections can be. This ambitious multimedia project explores the notion of multilingualism, cross-cultural encounters, and the ‘untranslatable’.
Between late 2018 and early 2020, Rajinder Dudrah and Edmund Hunt worked together on a creative project exploring the multilingual identity of the Midlands. Journeys Across the Midlands is a collaborative exploration of the multilingual history of a distinctive landscape through poetry, prose, recordings of journeys, and electroacoustic transformations of this landscape's sounds.
In her third #Slanguages blog, Farah Nazir considers what language creativity looks like in bilinguals of English and South-Asian languages in the UK, particularly the phenomenon known as "language-mixing".
Birmingham-based playwright and filmmaker Tennexa Freeman talks about her new project RuffNeck – a new play commissioned by Slanguages. With the onset of the Covid-19 pandemic and subsequent lockdown, Tennexa and her team decided to develop RuffNeck as an online animation. Here, she discusses some of the challenges and opportunities arising from this change in media.
Reena Jaisiah and Ellie House from Caste Away Arts met up online to discuss the new short animated film "House", their collaborative project (Tongue Tied), diversity in the arts, and the impact sharing languages can have on everyday life.
To accompany a collobration with the Stanislavsky Electrotheatre, the 2020 International Online Theatre Festival, spondored by the Theatre Times, hosted a conversation with John Freedman and Dr Noah Birksted-Breen. John and Noah discussed contemporary Russian theatre and politics, the re-launching of the Stanislavsky Electrotheatre, and the influence of its artistic director, Boris Yukhananov.
Russian performance and video artist Vera Boitcova explores the impact her choice of language has on her work and asks whether it is possible to translate her experiences and those of her community into stage performances, while still keeping their truth and authenticity.
In the second of three blog posts, Farah Nazir discusses code-switching in the 2020 short film The Long Goodbye, co-written by Riz Ahmed.
In the first of three blog posts, Farah Nazir looks at how language and identity intersect for Pahari-Pothwari speakers.