Babel’s Children


This year it’s a Language Year in Norway. Several projects connected to the diversity of language and other lingual aspects have been funded. This February I was involved in a project connected to the Norwegian Mother Tongue Day where several storytellers paired up and told fairy tales together in two languages (Norwegian and Somali/Urdu/Farsi/Hindi).

Connected to Oslo International Rumi Festival I (and Marie Ulsberg) am a project developer, script writer and co-performer in another language performance project, Babel’s Children. Babel’s Children has also received support from the Language Year and will turn into a concert performance for 7 languages with a premiere during the Rumi festival from 22nd to the 24th of November.

From the Rumi festival 2010. Abdumumin Sharifi and Torgrim Mellum Stene.

Babel’s Children will be a multilingual performance problematizing meetings between diverse cultures and languages, a performance which through playing with different languages will both touch and convey knowledge.

A group of archetypal characters travel by boat down the language river. On their voyage we experience several jumps in time and space, spiced with anecdotes, from humorous references to ethymology (why do Norwegians call their toilets ‘dass’?) to cultural reality models as a result of different languages’ filtration of the world (Australian Aborigines have no words for “up/down/out/in/right/left/over/under” etc., but only uses compass directions. What will this lead to?).

Some of these anecdotes will be short tributaries, others are small lakes connecting to under-lying themes like communication and understanding of the world.

Chirine El Ansary (EG) is a perfomer in Babel's Children

The performers are both the travelling characters, but also themselves. They change between telling universal stories, act out episodes relating to eachother, and sharing experiences from their own lives. All the time we play with the usage of the different languages. On this journey we’ll travel from the time of the Younger Edda through crusades and war to the present, social media and an Arab Spring. The performance is a huge sentence with several clauses, a syntactic framework. In the background the story of Babel’s Tower is looming, the time when humanity stopped understanding eachother. But can we understand eachother anyway?

The overarching narrative concerns reaching this understanding, finding the beautiful in the foreign, in what is far away from us through recognizing what is ours. What is common.

The performers are Torgrim Mellum Stene, Chirine El Ansary (Egyptian performance artist) and Morten Minothi Kristiansen (musician) with more to come. (TBA)

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