Wednesday, March 29, 2023

Animation project makes learning Blackfoot accessible online

A partnership between a Calgary animation society and a Fort Macleod teacher has given people the opportunity to learn the Blackfoot language online. A dream became reality for Celestine Twigg when she partnered with Xstine Cook, artistic director and founder of the Festival of Animated Objects in Calgary. Together they created a residency program at F.P Walsh high school, where students learned animation to create videos teaching Blackfoot words.

Through the project, about 100 animated videos were created, with voicing from Blackfoot language students. Twigg said she is proud of the project she started and watching it grow has been like watching a dream turn into reality. 

“I love watching cartoons and I’d sit there and I would translate, let’s say for instance, Sesame Street — Big Bird, I’d watch him and I would translate what he is saying in Blackfoot, it sounds so awesome. My dream was to someday, hopefully, we can do animation and cartoons in our language,” she said. “I use a lot of objects and any tools that I can use to make it easier because it is a hard language.”

The project was split into two parts, divided by the start of the pandemic. About 80 videos were created by students at the high school, but when classes shifted to online, the project also had to adapt. 

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Cook said a call was put out to artists from around the world to participate and about 21 helped to create 29 more videos. Twigg and Harrison Red Crow voiced the second phase of the project and artists were provided lessons on Zoom to help with the animation.

“We are really excited to have the Blackfoot animation project part of the festival of animated objects and also just part of reclaiming language and doing work toward reconciliation with Indigenous people and how important it is for those languages to carry on and be learned by others, other than Blackfoot people,” Cook said.

Sandra Lamouche was a coordinator and grant writer for the project and helped her sons to participate in animation during the second phase as a homeschooling project. She said the work was challenging and both she and her sons learned a lot from it.

“It’s entertaining for children, so it draws them in and then having the audio and not just the written part is really important for Indigenous language because the pronunciation is so different than how we would read in English,” Lamouch said.

The animations will be shown off at the Calgary Festival of Animated Objects between March 14 and April 2. They can also be found on the festival’s website

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