(Published - 10 July 2018)
The Centre for Multilingualism and Diversities Research and the Departments of Linguistics at the University of the Western Cape (UWC) and Stellenbosch University have collaborated to formulate a new honours module called Re-imagining Multilingualisms.
The module uses innovative arts-based and creative writing approaches to explore a variety of themes relating to multilingualism - a unique cooperative effort that explores coexistence through language.
“Re-imagining Multilingualisms aims to get students to rethink the field of multilingualism and their own multilingualism from a different perspective - one that is outside the normal academic way,” said Professor Zannie Bock, Associate Professor of Linguistics at UWC.
The module, Bock explained, is part of a project that looks into the rethinking of higher education from a decolonial perspective, and how language and other forms of semiosis (the process of signification in language or literature) play a role in learning.
A selection of students’ creative work - including poetry, videos, art and personal reflections - was showcased at a pop-up exhibition at the UWC Library in June.
The exhibition was opened by the Dean of the Faculty of Arts, Professor Duncan Brown, who congratulated the departments on introducing such an innovative module.
“There is something about these creative projects that has unlocked something in the students,” he said, “and that’s something we can all celebrate.”
The opening was also addressed by the distinguished decolonial scholar, Professor Lynn Mario T. Menezes De Souza, from the University of São Paulo in Brazil.
Awe my Swirlkous: The Language of Home
The exhibition presented work developed through five workshops facilitated by lecturers on both campuses. Each workshop focused on the ways in which the students could represent language through different theories, as well as visually through photographs, artifacts and creative writing.
Stellenbosch University student Simangele Mashazi raved about the project.
“This has been an enriching project for me because of the collaboration we had with UWC. It turns out that our ideas of multilingualism and associated experiences are not that different,” said Simangele.
UWC students Keshia Jansen and Lauren Abrahams chose to highlight Kaaps, the Afrikaans/English hybrid language of the Cape Flats, in their creative pieces.
“I made coasters which represent my home in the Kaap,” said Abrahams. She scented her coasters and inscribed them with the words swirlkous, awe, ag and shame.
For Abrahams, the coasters represent home - a place that always smells of flowers, where she can use the language she wants without being judged by others.
“These words have so much significance to me - and I am so happy that this module has allowed us to embrace our languages in this way.”