The art of storytelling and the challenge of translating stories across languages and between artforms
How do stories translate across languages and artforms? This was a question posed by two public events in Exeter in the run-up to COP27.
Led by the University of Exeter in partnership with cultural lab Maketank, the events brought together language experts, artists, scientists and audiences to reflect upon the tales at the heart of the international project, We Still Have a Chance: 12 Climate Stories for the 12 Days of COP27.
Over the course of two days in November, artist Steve McCracken worked in public to create a piece of graffiti, using wood, inspired by the themes of the stories. The following day, he joined a panel of experts from the University and the Met Office to discuss the work and how it emerged.
Also at that event – Reading for Change – Professor Hugh Roberts, from the Department of Languages, Culture and Visual Studies at Exeter, orated some of the stories from the We Still Have a Chance anthology. Each was followed by the Arabic version, with PhD students at the University explaining how they set about translating the text and how they overcame the cultural challenges they encountered.
Professor Rosa Barciela, the Met Office’s Principal Scientific Consultant and Strategic Head of Health Science Integration (Weather and Climate), discussed the science underpinning the stories, and there was an audience Q&A hosted by Dom Jinks of Exeter Culture.
“Storytelling is a powerful method of communicating complex issues such as climate change. It can also help us to unlock our imagination, share experiences and inspire change. This was a truly multicultural event which brought together people from different language background. Extracts from We Still Have a Chance were read in English and Arabic, and translation and storytelling built bridges and empowered people. They valued differences and similarities, making people feel part of a diverse and empathic community, a community that wants to offer its contribution to save the planet.”
Dr Eliana Maestri, Senior Lecturer in Translation Studies, and lead for Reading for Change.
The events were supported using public funding by the National Lottery through Arts Council England.