Voice - Vouaïe project
Recording people who grew up with Guernesiais
One hundred people who grew up with Guernesiais have taken part in a unique cultural project.
Voice - Vouaïe is a partnership project between Guernsey Museums and photographer Aaron Yeandle - and in association with Yan Marquis. The project began in November 2018 with the aim to engage with a hundred people by 2020. The bilingual title was chosen to reflect the subject matter of the project; 'vouaïe' translates as 'voice' in Guernesiais. Guernesiais (JEHR-nehz-yay) is the language of Guernsey, a variety of Norman French and a cousin of standard French.
The criteria for someone having taking part in the project is that they grew up in an environment where Guernesiais was spoken. Some participants still speak the language daily, others hardly at all and others are rediscovering - or 'remembering' - it.
Photographer Aaron has taken just over 100 portrait photographs of people in their own homes, while language consultant Yan Marquis has recorded the voice of each participant. Together the photographs and audio create a striking social history (and contemporary) record of Guernesiais and provide a snapshot of the language here and now. Matt Fallaize, President, Committee for Education, Sport & Culture said: 'this is all about raising awareness of our intangible culture and celebrating what makes Guernsey unique. It is very fitting that the majority of this project took place in 2019, the International Year of Minority Languages.' Jo Dowding, Access & Learning Manager at Guernsey Museums explains that the project will have long lasting impact: 'the portraits and the audio provide an invaluable record of the language and will be used in teaching and learning now and in the future'. To see the portrait photographs already taken, visit Aaron's website here.
The Voice - Vouaïe team believe that this kind of project has mental health and well-being benefits. The recordings are taken in people's own homes, so the project is naturally extremely personal. Most of the participants are over the age of 70 and some live alone. The process of taking photographs and/or recording a conversation takes an average of 2 hours and always involves extra interaction, such as having a cup of tea or conversation.
An exhibition of the portraits will be displayed at Beau Sejour from 11th July - 9th August 2020. The 100 portraits on display will be accompanied by a listening station, where visitors can sit down and listen to the participants. Logistics Sponsor for this inaugural exhibition is Art for Guernsey, who are kindly providing all the infrastructure for the exhibition to take place.
The portraits will be kept as part of the Museum archive and the project team intend to loan aspects of the collection to other places in Guernsey and further afield. This project has already received attention from other language groups and individuals. For example, Donald Murray is a native Hebridean writer and speaker of Scottish Gaelic who saw Aaron speak about the project in Gibraltar. Mr Murray remarks on the global appeal of these photographs: 'I looked at Aaron's photos and they reminded me of people I have met in the Western Isles, speaking their own indigenous language. Even the homes have so many similarities - the curtains and carpets you can see in the background, the objects on the walls. The photographs really resonated with me'.
This project is kindly financially supported by the Guernsey Arts Commission and Specsavers. Co-founder Dame Mary Perkins says: 'Guernesiais is part of our island culture and something which should be celebrated and remembered. Specsavers is very proud of its island roots, so to be involved in this project is fantastic, and it's one which is closely aligned with our mission to make a positive difference to the lives all by helping people to see and hear better.'
If you are interested in finding out more, please contact us:
Phone: 01481 726518
Post: Voice-Vouaie Project, Guernsey Museum, Candie Road, GY1 1UG