Academic spheres to engage towards populations…

Posted by Rozenn Milin on April 2, 2010

During a recent trip to India, a journey conducted with the prospects of a possible expansion of Sorosoro in this part of the world, I have been granted encounters with truly extraordinary characters, as one may come across in these immense and preciously paradoxical countries.

Ganesh Devy is one of those, an uncommon figure, a scholar who has decided to devote his life to indigenous populations and languages of the world, a man who can end up in the most remote areas of India and discuss Merleau-Ponty or Chomsky, as well as traditional pharmacopeia or microcredit…

Graduate of Leeds University, former professor at Yale, Ganesh arrived in Gujarat in the 90s to teach at Boroda University. He was then struck with the linguistic barrier separating the Dravidian languages in the south and the Indo-Aryan languages in the north, in a transversal line stretching from Gujarat in the west all the way to Bengal in the eastern part of the country… and he took on to travel along this virtual line, to find out that a large number of “indigenous tribes” remaining unattached to the caste system (though omnipresent in India) are settled all over this strip of a few hundred kilometers wide.

Ganesh Devy in Tejgadh, where the Adivasi Academy is established.

Ganesh Devy in Tejgadh, where the Adivasi Academy is established.

Intrigued, he sits under a tree one day and lets the village youngsters come to him, he asks them questions and listens to them as they speak about the way they envision their future, and what should be done to help their communities develop. So he resigns his position as a professor and spends two years under that tree conversing and conceiving a rather eccentric project: an Adivasi Academy project, that is to say an indigenous Academy… And along the years, step by step, he finally makes it: he digs up funds and raises brick constructions one after the other for classrooms, music studios, a museum, and even accommodation…

Nowadays, the activities carried out in this “academy” are very diverse: there’s teaching of course, documentation on indigenous languages and cultures, editing and publishing, theatre, artistic and museological activities, but also handcraft, sustainable development, microcredit… And the outcome is mind-blowing: the young men and women who, 12 or 15 years ago would sit and chat with Ganesh under his tree, today hold key positions in the academy. The air here is filled with a sense of peace, serene joy, pleasure for togetherness, and pride in showing short-term visitors what has been accomplished: a genuine economic and cultural development center for native populations.

And then, in the first days of March 2010, Ganesh organized a big meeting around the idea of linguistic diversity which gathered representatives of 320 languages of India! During the event he started to plant a “forest of languages”, one tree for each language in the world, deeply rooted and peacefully coexisting among its neighbors…

A few trees in the forest of languages.

A few trees in the forest of languages.

But he was only getting started: Bododa, January 2011, he expects to gather no less than 1100 languages, with films, theatre, conferences… and when he is asked how he plans to fund such an operation, he simply answers, We’ll invite 5 Nobel Prizes, if they come along, then so will the funds. Rather optimistic… though he might very well make it! And, well, we’ll be there too. Because I told Ganesh I also wanted to plant a tree for my own language, Breton, among all the others in his forest…

India 037

Tribal population dances at the Academy.

For more information on the academy: www.bhasharesearch.org.in

For more information on the description and documentation of Indian indigenous languages: www.adivasiacademy.org.in


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Safe trip, Antoine!

Posted by Antoine Animateur du site on April 2, 2010

My contract as webmaster is about to expire and so, it is with some emotion that I place one hand on the keyboard, grab a handkerchief with the other and begin to write this little blog article to say goodbye to you.

Launching the first French language site dedicated to linguistic diversity was an exciting, sometimes exhausting adventure, but I leave with the feeling of a job well done and with an immense pride after taking my little pebble and building it into an edifice of cultural diversity. A linguist I admire said “A language is worth as much as a cathedral”; so I will have participated in the construction of one of the gates to the cathedral – it sometimes still squeaks a bit, but in the end, it will manage to open.

Creating a list of people to thank would take too long and would be too tedious so, in just a few words, to all the cybernauts, technicians, linguists, IT people and translators who have helped us, a thousand thank yous!

But it’s not the end of the world and neither is it the end of my story with Sorosoro, which I will always bear in mind (and which I will always keep a close eye on. Be warned!) before contemplating a new project or a new mission. It’s hard to let go of Sorosoro.

For me, the end of this contract means setting off on new adventures, and this time I’m packing my bags for a long journey to unknown lands (unknown at least to me) to experience for myself the diversity of the earth and its people.

If you like this site, please give a warm welcome to those who remain: Gwilym, the valiant Welsh-Breton, who will be responsible for the English version of the site and the marvellous Dieynaba from LLACAN whose expertise lie in the delicate process of putting linguistic data online.


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