Bron Bateman presents: Yirga Gelaw Woldeyes and Afeif Ismail on lost meaning through translation
Bron Bateman sits down with Unlimited Futures contributors Yirga Gelaw Woldeyes and Afeif Ismail to chat about translating texts and the consequential loss of original meaning and intention.
‘Because language is very much intimately linked with the history, the experience, the culture of the people in question,’ says Yirga ‘when we are unable to bring that language and use it in this country all those meanings, knowledges, ideas represented by that language are somehow lost. Translation is an act to rescue, to bring something so some part of the other culture can continue to live in another culture.’
Afeif tells us how he used different mediums to translate: ‘We went through my written text in Arabic, as the first process is literal translation, then we used any medium we can find – whether it is drawing, dancing or miming – we try as much as we could to stay true to the original.’
But although some elements of the original may be lost, translation is important because, as Yirga puts it, ‘society becomes deprived of creativity and richness when it excludes other languages and other voices from itself’.
- Diversity of language
- Translation and lost meaning
- Identity through language
- The importance of sharing stories
Books and other things mentioned
About the host:
Bron Bateman (she/her) is a poet, academic and mother of nine. She is a researcher in Crip and Disability Studies at the University of Newcastle and her research interests include Crip and Disability Studies, Queer and Gender Theory, cultural studies, creative writing, Feminisms, and the body. Her first poetry collection, People from bones (with Kelly Pilgrim) was published by Ragged Raven Press (UK) in 2002. Her PhD, a collection of poetry and an exegesis, exploring female embodiment and experiences of motherhood, sexuality, mental health and volitional marking through tattooing, piercing and BDSM practices, was completed in 2012. Her second collection, Of Memory and Furniture, which was Highly Commended in the Victorian Premier’s Prize for Poetry in 2021, was published by Fremantle Press in 2020. She has had her work published in collections and journals, such as Westerly and Southerly, across Australia, the UK and the US and has performed her work at conferences, festivals and readings, locally, nationally and internationally. In 2004 she was awarded the Bobbie Cullen Memorial Prize for Creative Writing. In 2017 she received Columbia University’s Winter Poetry Prize, and in 2022 she was shortlisted for the Tom Collins Poetry Prize. She lives with her wife and youngest daughter in Perth, Western Australia.
About the guests:
Yirga Gelaw Woldeyes is a writer, researcher and poet from Lalibela, Ethiopia. He currently lives in Perth, Western Australia, where he is a senior lecturer at the Centre for Human Rights Education, Curtin University. His academic and creative work revolves around African traditions, Ethiopian philosophy, epistemic justice, issues of looted manuscript repatriation, and the politics of language and belonging. His Amharic poetry was compiled and published in a solo collection titled የተራሮች ጩኸት (Yeteraroch Chuhet, The Cry of Mountains), and has been performed widely on stage and radio in Ethiopia. His English creative work has appeared in Westerly, Stories of Perth and Ways of Being Here.
Find Yirga on Twitter @YirgaGelaw.
Afeif Ismail is an award-winning Australian-Sudanese writer. He is an internationally published poet and playwright whose works have been translated into German, Spanish and Swedish. His work in Australia has been recognised nationally through winning awards and nominations.
Unlimited Futures is available in all good bookstores and online.
‘Letter to a Daughter of St George’, from the Meat Lunch E.P.: Songs from Floaters. Written by Alan Fyfe. Performed by Trevor Bentley (guitar and vocals – @trevormb) and Chris Parkinson (harmonica). Produced by Blake Carnaby of Nuglife studios with impresario work by Benjamin P. Newton.
Aidan d’Adhemar, Fremantle PA Hire
Claire Miller, Fremantle Press Marketing and Communications Manager
This podcast was produced in Walyalup in Wadjuk Boodja, on the lands of the Noongar people.