Making sense of it all...

Submitted by Jeeraik009 on Thu, 04/28/2011 - 07:31

 

Word, Shout, Song is an exhibition currently on extended show at the Smithsonian's Anacostia Commmunity Museum until July 2011. It documents the life and work of linguist Lorenzo Dow Turner (1890-1972) who devoted his research to tracing the patterns of African cultural retentions within the black diaspora, initially beginning with the Gullah/Geechee people living in islands of the coast of Georgia and South Carolina but later expanding his ideas to consider New World communities such as Bahia, Brazil. As a pioneer, Turner faced scorn when he suggested that the language of the Gullah/Geechee communities was more than just 'baby talk' and that it actually followed the structure and content of languages he had studied in West and Central Africa. By creating a multi-media display that faithfully demonstrates much of Turner's experimental work, the exhibition's curator Alcione Amos has done a fine job of bringing to life a subject that might have been dismissed as boring anthropology. With the aid of Turner's recordings, photographs, gullah artifacts, video and even contemporary art forms, she weaves a narrative that moves us seamlessly between the past to present, allowing her audience to experience just how ground breaking Turner's work was back in the 1930s. As a Caribbean person listening to his crackly phonograph recordings, it is fascinating to recognize similar words and speech patterns, and heartening to know that today we can take Turner's ideas for granted as part of our common African diaspora heritage.