In recent years, several efforts have been made by the Aboriginal communities of Qubec to pass on their culture and their language to new generations. Using digital technology, the WIKWEMOT project is developing an interactive application that will allow young people in primary and secondary schools to discover their traditions and their Anicinabemowin language. As part of the 2022 Digital Advantage Forum, Dominic Lafontaine, Marie-Raphalle LeBlond and Jean-Ambroise Vesac present the project during the “Panel: Transmission & traditions: the wikwemot residence 2022”. Here is a summary of the meeting.
Co-creation residencies are often organized in the artistic milieu. Result of the collaboration between Minwashin, the Petit Thtre du Vieux Noranda, Hexagram, Espace O Lab and UQAT, the WIKWEMOT project uses this tool to bridge the gap between technological innovations and social use using a multidisciplinary approach. This allows participants to learn new practices, through collaboration and knowledge sharing. “It’s how we bring out the best potential in everyone. When team members are complementary, there is no competitive dynamic. You try to listen to other people’s skills and see how you can complement them,” says Marie-Raphalle LeBlond, project manager – research and documentation for Minwashin.
The aim of the residency was to create and collaborate with the help of digital technology. It was thought up by Marie-Raphalle LeBlond and Gracie, a kukum (grandmother in Innu) from Rapid Lake. They want to make a digital object that will be accessible to everyone. The different organizations selected the participants who came from a wide variety of fields. Indigenous artists, students and cultural carriers worked together during this residency. Then, groups were formed by pairing people with complementary personalities and skills.
According to Marie-Raphalle LeBlond, the key to this collaboration between Aboriginals and non-Aboriginals was to take the time. “Most of the people present had never worked with the Anishinab. You have to take the time to find some form of legitimacy. Sometimes it’s just to understand your role and how to put your skills to work for a project. Even after four years working with Gracie, I redefine my role every day,” says the project manager.
In order to stimulate ideation and creation during the WIKWEMOT residency, the organizers used several tools such as the pictorial lexicon or books. Everything was done with a smile and laughter was the source of several ideas. This rather disjointed and heterodox working method surprised more than one. “People from outside who came to visit the residence told me that when they entered the room, they had the impression that nothing was happening. Everyone was talking softly, some were laughing in the corner. It might seem chaotic, but by approaching the groups, you could perceive the quality of the exchanges,” adds Marie-Raphalle LeBlond.
During the residency, each team worked on a digital project. The first has imagined a game of the same type as Minecraft, in which the player must find words in Anicinabemowin to progress in his adventure. The second has created a “gocaching” route where users learn new things about the territory that allow them to be in contact with it. The third team has designed a video game in which the player embodies different animals, all of which have unique skills and characteristics.
“In research and documentation, we often have a very square approach. We thought we could make it enjoyable for the community as well. We want people to be able to learn new things while having fun. It’s a place that the community can use for its own needs, and pleasure is at the heart of the whole process,” says Marie-Raphalle LeBlond.
The WIKWEMOT project attempts to deconstruct the idea that tradition and technology do not go hand in hand. Indigenous languages are in a very precarious situation. Artist Dominic Lafontaine believes in using all possible technological tools to save them. “We must amplify the oral tradition,” he concludes.