Beyond Two Solitudes
August 20, 2018 9:07 AM   Subscribe

A conversation on the politics of colonial languages in Quebec

“Double solitude” is a term often used to refer to the situation of Indigenous artists in Quebec. Access to opportunities for presenting work differs whether artists speak French or English. The ways of thinking and interpreting, embedded in language, also translate in the way artists create. Four artists from diverse Nations and generations discuss the impact of language on their work and lives.

Le terme « double solitude » est fréquemment employé pour faire référence à la situation des artistes autochtones au Québec. L’accès aux opportunités de diffusion diffère selon qu’on parle français ou anglais, et les façons de penser et d’interpréter le monde, telles qu’inscrites dans les langues, se traduisent également dans la façon de créer. Quatre artistes de nations et de générations différentes s’expriment sur l’impact des langues sur leur travail et leur vie.
posted by poffin boffin (5 comments total) 23 users marked this as a favorite
Thanks for this -- it was interesting to read.
posted by jacquilynne at 9:23 AM on August 20, 2018

Seconded. I like the fact that it presents different viewpoints without feeling the need to tie it together with a pseudo-authoritative "this is how to think about this issue" summary.
posted by languagehat at 10:03 AM on August 20, 2018

That's an interesting article and shows, in a concise way, some of the diversity in Québec (and by extension Canada) of the Native population and the tensions in language in Canada (which are way more complicated then simply French vs. English).

For Martin Akwiranoron Loft, not speaking French is part of their resistance (Kahnawake has a tumultuous recent history), Rita Letendre found strength in speaking French, Sonia Robertson (who doesn't speak their ancestral language) & Eruoma Awashish (who does) find despite speaking French are shut out. It is also interesting to read from Awashish how in Quebec (or were they speaking about the rest of Canada?) there are structures in place for First Nations artists whereas in French not at all. The pointed comment about “Je me souviens” is important with that conversation. While it does mean "I remember" it has a more complex meaning in Québec - it means "I remember myself and who I am and all the history that knowing myself and my culture means". It is a powerful cultural sentiment that in a positive way can be inclusive (of First Nations people and new Canadians) but more often then not it is used as a means of exclusion. Related to that, Martin Akwiranoron Loft's comment about being disconnected from the Francophone First Nations community in Quebec I thought was interesting as well. Aligning yourself with one colonial power or another has ever been a survival strategy in Canada for minorities as well as Canada's Aboriginal peoples. In many ways this functions as way to survive and prosper in the face of absorption. This is reflected in my own northern community In Ontario, where the English language art community is kind of thin (despite their greater population) but the French language arts communities is strong and diverse often showcasing Indigenous but also new Canadians (regardless of language spoken) as well.

poffin boffin, you've been on a role with your posts on First Nations posts - good work.
posted by Ashwagandha at 10:33 AM on August 20, 2018 [7 favorites]

This was, if anything, too short. A fascinating, thorny topic worth many many more words.

The references to Oka are important to understand and bring an added, contemporaneous dimension to the discussion.
posted by From Bklyn at 2:51 AM on August 21, 2018

There was so much hatred coming from the francophone media and community during the Oka Crisis. On a certain level, we were oblivious to the violence because we did not understand French. That protected us in some way.

A pretty jarring illustration of this violence if you need one is Alanis Obomsawin's Rocks at Whiskey Trench (freely available: Youtube link here, National Film Board link here).
posted by mandolin conspiracy at 1:52 PM on August 31, 2018 [1 favorite]

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