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Language Barriers, Expolring Creolite

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Language Barriers

Exploring Creolite

Sounds, voices, languages are always inscribed in places

But the original, the thing itself, would never come back. It had passed away form the world. You could conjure it, though, the emotion that kept it alive inside you with a trigger: an image, a smell, a combination of sounds that stayed in your mind. That was the life of the thing after it died.

The only thing that would bring it back

This is what a word is worth.

Creole languages are not a recent phenomena. These, 'Contact Languages' , can be understood as, "improvised languages that develop among speakers of different native languages who need to communicate with one another consistently, usually in the context of trade". As such they are formed at the borders of different modes of cultural/linguistic understanding to create a de-territorialized space; a no mans land of intercultural communication. In a recent essay citing Mary Louise Pratt, Irit Rogoff has deployed this notion of 'Contact Zones', to articulate the event of Creole, not only as a language that subverts the normal codes and processes of those languages we might call 'resident', in that they have no fixed place of production, but also as a mode that enables us to read current debates within visual culture differently.

Like the societies of the 'Contact zone', such languages were commonly regarded in the West as chaotic, barbarous and lacking in structure. So 'contact zone' is the attempt to invoke the spatial and temporal co-presence of subjects previously separated by geographic and historical disjuncture, whose categories now intersect.

I wish to explore a notion of 'creolite' as an act of creolizing culture not only in reference to language but also as a mode by which to explore the 'third space' that the meeting of two disparate, non-concomitant structural paradigms occur and the new pathways for critical analysis that are opened up as a result of this encounter.

I wish to explore the way in which a 'resident' language, by which I mean a cultural discourse, the origins of which may be located to a specific place, develops as an interaction or contact between peoples and their environment as a means by which to communicate, relate and understand one another. As such they enable communities and networks of social exchange to form that resultantly creates collective cultural and historic specificity. I would like to argue the resultant rationale that implies that Creole, as a mode of cultural communication, carries within it the historic specificity that led to its formation, i.e. the movement of people across global borders into unknown spaces, encountering unknown codes of communication and social signifiers. If it can be said that language grows out of the material and cultural specificity of its homeland then Creole can be said to have grown from the cultural specificity of a Diaspora, as a language formed at the meeting point between cultures. Creolite is the 'seeping edge' at the borders of a language, a lexicon borrowed, taken out of context, subverted and restored differently in a way that never quite allows it to be the same.

The artist Isaac Julien has confronted the issues that surround the notion of creolite and cultural hybridity in two of his films, 'Vagabondia' And 'Paradise Omeros', the first of which, whilst being entirely narrated in French Creole, largely contains images of colonialist, Euro-centric affluence and idealism. Nowhere is it made clearer, in the juxtaposition of such incongruencies, of the impossibility of translating one cultural context into another without a loss of meaning or understanding. The depiction of the encounter with difference however, and in this case it can be read as being cultural, linguistic and perhaps even sexual difference, points to a kind of rupture, a break from the non-relational, reductive, binary modes of opposition of self and other, male and female, etc towards an encounter with otherness that negotiates difference without the annihilation or assimilation of 'the Other' within the dominant mode of power and it is in this relational third space that Creole engenders where difference may be at once overcome and honoured.

When considering the subject of national culture and subjective identity it seems impossible to negate the impact language has on determining its constitution for it seems that these factors are inextricably linked to one another. According to the writer and cultural theorist Ngugi wa Thiong'o, language and culture are simultaneously formed, growing out of the historic specificity that is relevant to a particular community. Language is often a central question in cultural studies. It would seem that cultural identity is as much formed by language as cultural and historic specificity forms, informs and shapes language itself. In turn it could be argued that subjective identity is tied up in the language it enters into.

A specific culture is not transmitted through language in its universality, but in its particularity as the language of a specific community with a specific history. Written literature and orature are the main means by which a particular language transmits the images of the world contained in the culture it carries.

Language as a communication and as culture are then products of each other...Language carries culture and culture carries, particularly through orature and literature, the entire body of values as a community of human beings with a specific form and character, a specific history, a specific relationship to the world.

If we look at some of the earliest forms of writing, this theory would seem to be supported. Many of the Egyptian hieroglyphic letters of the alphabet take their forms from the creatures that dwelled within Egypt at the time of this particular form of writings genesis. What could be surmised by this is that language, and with it, writing, was literally born out of its locality. In the case of Egyptian Hieroglyphics, it came crawling out of the desert across the sand. Susan Brind Morrow, cultural anthropologist and author of 'The Names of Things' has detailed the way in which some of the forms or actions of the creatures that lived in Egypt informed the construction of both its written and spoken language.

You could begin with the crab that scratches in the sand. The name of the animal is the action or sound it makes, or its colour. The name parents other like meanings belonging to other things, leaving the animal



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