OUR VISION OF THE FUTURE
We have a few ideas of what we want to give, but we want to ask the question: How can we help You?
Native American professor of biology and celebrated author of Braiding Sweetgrass, Robin Wall Kimmerer, wrote that we need “…a new language, with its roots in an ancient way of thinking.” This project aims to collaborate with indigenous language communities to discover concepts that lend themselves to this new language and bring those concepts to life through film thus curating a language that reaches into the wisdom of the past to reconnect and forge an environmentally conscious future. The Guna Yala indigenous community of Panama, whose culture connects them as much to the natural world as to their own family, is our core partner in this project.
The word ‘Sankofa’, also the project’s title, comes from the Akan Twi indigenous language of Ghana, it means “to seek wisdom in the old ways to bring new solutions”. Sankofa embodies the spirit of this project. By seeking to learn from ancient and heritage indigenous languages whose people and cultures are deeply connected with Nature, this project uses the power of film to bring unique word concepts to life, leaving the viewer enthralled with language’s power to connect us with Nature, wondering why these rich, textured words don’t exist in major world languages – yet.
Language affects action. Not only has this been evidenced scientifically, but language’s effect on behaviour can be seen across change movements from women’s rights to the LGBTQIAP+ movement. The way we speak about the world influences the way we interact with it. It is precisely this simplistic idea that forges the foundation for the ultimate vision of this project – to harness the power of language to speak our way into becoming a more caring, custodial species and live in better harmony with Nature. The untapped connection between language and environmental conservation is so powerful it even has its own, relatively young branch of scientific study – ecolinguistics.
Language changes all the time, and especially today’s world languages are readily accepting new vocabulary at an astonishing rate. The ultimate impact of this project is to consciously curate into world languages words that hold within them concepts central to creating a culture of environmental connection that can speak us forward into a future where humans are living in better harmony with Nature.
In a rapidly changing world, words matter more than most of us might realise, because when we live our lives inside language it is easy to overlook its effects on our emotions, and actions. For example, the word “solastalgia” was one of the record 4,200 new words added or changed in the Oxford English Dictionary in 2021. It is defined as ‘the psychological stress caused by climate change’. Aren’t you glad there’s now a word for that? Just finding out there is a word to describe what so many people are feeling around the world is a relief – it names the feeling, makes it true, and gives it a linguistic validity. Solastalgia of course, is a sad word, but a known, named enemy is better than one lurking in the shadows. This is precisely the power of language that this project seeks to harness in support of both environmental preservation, and indigenous empowerment.
This film, created in collaboration with the Ukupseni community of the Guna Yala, is the beginning of the Sankofa film project, the first of 6 initial episodes. Each episode expands the connection of indigenous cultural connections with the environment through their languages. Working with key storytellers in each culture to bring traditional ecological knowledge and heritage to life as they wish to share it.
Celebrating indigenous language that speaks to reclaiming personal connections with Nature, showing solastalgia sufferers around the world that we do not have to sit idly by in a burning world, but that we can shift our culture, change our minds, and choose a better future. So show that by purposefully integrating new words into our speech we can, in turn, affect new actions and ways of being.