I’m so grateful to Marianne and Gloria Nicolson for their work in translating some of the Digital Natives messages to Kwak’wala. We had a fascinating email exchange about how to convey the meaning of several of the messages in English, and still make them fit within 140 characters!
Roger Farr’s “Riot 1492” = Wina 1492. Quite straightforward.
Sonny Assu’s “On the first day of class, a boy left a bar of soap on her desk. With sadness, she remembers his name and the brand of soap. #indianact” did not give them too much trouble.
For Christian Bok’s “Writing is inhibiting. Sighing, I sit, scribbling in ink this pidgin script. I sing with nihilistic witticism…” we had an exchange about how Christian’s message is based on choosing to use only one vowel, and two vowel sounds. There is no way to translate this concept, nor the words inhibiting, pidgin, nihilistic, witticism. We decided on “I sigh, I sit, I write with a pen these words. I sing with destructive knowing.” It takes on an interesting, new resonance about written and spoken language and the digital words on the billboard.
Raymond Boisjoly’s “suddenly and for all time forgetting what i already don’t know #thepresent” becomes “Now and forever I am forgetting what I don’t know now.”
Henry Tsang’s “OMG found DREAMHOME! 2D4 ocean vu gr8 nabrs- but no job no status what 2 do?” keeps the abbreviations in a hybrid like this: “OMG found beautiful house! 2D4 can see ocean gr8 nabrs- no work, no chief. What do I do?”
Postcommodity’s “all that you believe to be yours/ before you and behind you/ it will all return to this earth/ but you will not” becomes “All your possessions, in front of you and behind you, will all disappear (or be destroyed), but you will not.” Marianne said that of all the messages, this was the most Kwak’wala-like in its meaning.
Several messages can’t be translated:
Marie Annharte Baker’s “slow last murmur to beep/ flatline wait for final thump/ as if turtle heart devoured/ in youth would prevent onset/ deadly lonesome heart beat”, uses the image of a heart machine’s beep and flatline, which makes no sense in Kwak’wala.
Edgar Heap of Bird’s “IMPERIAL CANADA AWARDED SEX ABUSE TO NATIVE YOUTH BY THE BLACK ROBES NOW PROUDLY BESTOWS BRONZE SILVER GOLD MEDALS WITH INDIAN IMAGE” – the only non-English concepts are ‘gift’ and ‘pride’.
Once the Kwak’wala messages are composed in the proper font, we will load them on to the website in the rotating display.