Black sand stories: a polysemiotic and multimodal documentation of Paamese sand stories, a critically endangered tradition of Vanuatu
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Summary of the deposit
This deposit consists of culturally enriched descriptions of Paamese used in its broad polysemiotic and multimodal context (co-speech gesture and co-speech depiction) and through a variety of cultural practices with a specific focus on the vanishing art of sand drawing. The speech, gestures, and complex geometrical drawings of sand stories, is a unique form of communication, practiced by only four sand drawers on Paama, Vanuatu.
These important mnemonic devices for local histories, indigenous cosmologies, kinship systems, and scientific knowledge have been listed as Intangible Heritage of Humanity by the UNESCO since 2008, but have never been documented in a systematic way.
The project aims at preserving these invaluable vectors of indigenous language and culture, by employing innovative techniques and providing dynamic datasets that capture the inherent polysemiotic and multimodal nature of Paamese sand storytelling.
The collection includes annotated audiovisual sand drawing performances, iPad drawing motion captures, cultural meta-comments on the sand drawing performances, kinship interviews, narratives, traditional dances and songs, cooking sessions, basket weaving performances, methodological procedures and an illustrated sand story book.
This data is collected by Simon Devylder, principal investigator of the project in close collaboration with the Paamese communities of Paama and Port Vila.
The collection created within this project focuses on speakers of Paamese, living on the South-Pacific island of Paama, Vanuatu and in the Paamese communities of Freswota and Seaside Paama living in Port Vila, the capital of Vanuatu.
Paamese is an Oceanic language, spoken on the island of Paama in Vanuatu. There were 1364 Paamese speakers in 2009 (VNS office 2009:102), who represent 0.48% of the global Vanuatu population. The usage of Paamese undergoes substantial pressures by the three official languages of Vanuatu (Bislama, French, and English). In the present project, Paamese is documented via a diversity of cultural practices with a particular focus on sand drawings.
Vanuatu sand storytelling is a unique form of communication used in a few northern and central islands of Vanuatu that has been recognized as part of the Intangible Cultural Heritage of Humanity by the UNESCO in 2008. Sand storytelling consists of tracing complex geometrical patterns with a finger in the sand, while singing or telling a story. These stories are highly valued in Paamese society all the more than most have already been lost in the wake of the French-British colonization and of the intensive evangelization that forbade such practices considered to be witchcraft. There are only 4 sand storytellers left on Paama in 2020.
The deposit includes 10.5 hours of transcribed and translated speech, 1.5 hours of glossed speech, 10 hours of segmented gesture units and nuclei. The bundles included in this deposit are of the following genres:
-23 video-recorded sand drawing performances filmed from a bird-eye view perspective and wide-angle camera capturing the interaction between sand drawer and audience
-11 motion screen captured iPad drawings synchronised with spoken descriptions
-10 cultural meta-comments on sand drawing performances
– 41 kinship interviews
-10 kastom dances & songs
-1 illustrated sand story book
-3 rope drawing sessions
-1 traditional basket weaving session
-1 traditional cooking session
-2 methodological documents: ELAN-Toolbox workflow and a gesture coding procedure
Acknowledgement and citation
To refer to any data from the collection, please cite as follows:
Devylder, Simon. 2019. Black sand stories: a polysemiotic and multimodal documentation of Paamese sand stories, a critically endangered tradition of Vanuatu. London: SOAS University of London, Endangered Languages Archive. Handle: http://hdl.handle.net/2196/00-0000-0000-0012-6DB9-A. Accessed on [insert date here].