Voice - Vouaïe project
Recording people who grew up with Guernesiais
Why Voice - Vouaïe?
The bilingual title was chosen to reflect the subject matter of the project; 'vouaïe' translates as 'voice' in Guernésiais. Guernésiais (JEHR-nehz-yay) is the language of Guernsey, a variety of Norman French and a cousin of standard French.
What is the project about?
Recording people who grew up with Guernésiais. To do this, we are using portrait photography and audio. It is a partnership project between Guernsey Museums and photographer Aaron Yeandle. Aaron is taking portrait photographs and language specialist Yan Marquis is recording audio from each participant. The project is a real blend of art and social history.To see the photographs already taken, visit Aaron's website here.
Why are we doing it?
To raise the profile of the language
To capture a social record for the future
To foster a sense of community around the language
What are the outcomes?
A free audio-visual exhibition
An important social and linguistic archive for Guernsey Museums, which can help with teaching & learning now and in the future
Increased connections between members of the language community
What has happened so far?
We are writing this in January 2020 and we are just about to take the portrait photograph of our 100th participant. The project began in 2018 and it was our aim to have 100 participants by now. It is significant that most of the engagement has taken place during 2019, the year classified by UNESCO as the International Year of Minority Languages.
We believe that this kind of project has mental health and well-being benefits. The portraits are taken in people's own homes, so the project is naturally extremely personal. Most of the participants are over the age of 70 and some live alone. The process of taking photographs and/or recording a conversation takes an average of 2 hours and always involves extra interaction, such as having a cup of tea or conversation.
As a result of the project, we have noticed that some participants are more connected to other people who speak (or spoke) the language and a few attend regular language gatherings to socialise. All participants were invited to a project tea party in September and the aim of this was to foster a sense of community within the project. We aim to hold more gatherings like this.
The time is now
In 2019, it is estimated that there are possibly fewer than 100 fluent speakers of Guernésiais and these are mainly aged over 80. Our language is therefore defined by UNESCO as 'severely endangered'. In a globalised world, we feel it's more important than ever to celebrate our sense of cultural identity and difference.
We are seeking sponsors for this project. If you are interested in finding out more, please contact us:
Phone: 01481 726518
Post: Voice Project, Guernsey Museum, Candie Road, GY1 1UG