Exciting news: I’ve joined the Lifted Brow team as their translations editor!
And I got to interview the super smart and fabulous poet and self-translator Alison Whittaker.
The Lifted Brow: To start with the general picture: How, if at all, does translation or self-translation inform your creative practice?
Alison Whittaker: In a way, it’s all the creative practice I’ve got! I work mostly in the English language, so I’m always changing concepts and codes from this Gomeroi formulation I have of the world. Even when I’m working in my own language, Gamilaraay, my understanding and my expression is mediated through English as my first language. So, even though I’m working from a language frame that’s at the foundation of being Gomeroi, using Gamilaraay in my cultural practice is almost a double translation. That’ll change as my language knowledge grows, I hope, and I’ll be less bound by this colonial language frame. Translation’s at the core of what I do, wanted or unwanted!
TLB: ‘Wanted or unwanted’: This makes me wonder what the relationship is between language and oppression in your opinion. Ngũgĩ wa Thiong’o’s decision to forsake English to write in Gikuyu springs to mind. He said in an interview,
It was a revelation for me, in a practical sense, that you could write in an African language and still reach an audience beyond that language through the art of translation. Through the act of translation we break out of linguistic confinement and reach many other communities.
This view might be putting a rosy filter on things, but do you think translation can be a tool to work through the relationship between language and oppression? If there are losses along the way, how do you think these can be mediated, challenged or counteracted?
Read the rest over at The Lifted Brow.