Watch 36 Short Animations That Tell the Origin Stories of Mexico’s Indigenous Peoples in Their Own Languages

In our efforts to pre­serve endan­gered species we seem to over­look some­thing equal­ly impor­tant. To me it is a sign of a deeply dis­turbed civ­i­liza­tion where tree hug­gers and whale hug­gers in their weird­ness are accept­able while no one embraces the last speak­ers of a lan­guage.

 — Wern­er Her­zog, Encoun­ters at the End of the World

Trees and whales aside, we sus­pect the ever quotable Her­zog would warm to fel­low direc­tor Gabriela Badil­lo’s 68 Voic­es, 68 Hearts, a series of one-minute ani­ma­tions that pre­serve indige­nous Mex­i­can sto­ries with nar­ra­tion pro­vid­ed by native speak­ers.

“It was cre­at­ed in order to help fos­ter pride, respect, and the use of indige­nous Mex­i­can lan­guages between speak­ers and non-speak­ers, as well as to help reduce dis­crim­i­na­tion and fos­ter a sense of pride towards all com­mu­ni­ties and cul­tures that are part of the cul­tur­al rich­ness that makes up Mex­i­co,” Badil­lo says in an inter­view with Awasqa.

The project stemmed from a real­iza­tion in the wake of the death of her grand­fa­ther, a Max­canu from Yucatan:

Aside from los­ing a loved one, I real­ized that an enor­mous wis­dom had also been lost: a lan­guage, sto­ries, tra­di­tions and cus­toms, a whole world had dis­solved with him.

Each ani­ma­tion involves col­lab­o­ra­tion with the Nation­al Insti­tute of Indige­nous Lan­guage and the com­mu­ni­ty whose sto­ry is being shared. Com­mu­ni­ty mem­bers choose the sub­ject, then sup­ply nar­ra­tion and trans­la­tion. Their chil­dren draw scenes from the select­ed sto­ry, which steers the style of ani­ma­tion.

Pri­or to being released to the gen­er­al pub­lic, each film is pre­sent­ed to its com­mu­ni­ty of ori­gin, along with a book­let of sug­gest­ed edu­ca­tion­al activ­i­ties for par­ents and teach­ers to use in con­junc­tion with screen­ings. Box­es of post­cards fea­tur­ing art­work from the series are donat­ed to the com­mu­ni­ty school.

Some of the entries, like the above About Earth­quakes and the Ori­gin of Life on Earth, nar­rat­ed in Ch’ol by Euge­nia Cruz Mon­te­jo, pack a mas­sive amount of sto­ry into the allot­ted minute:

They say many years ago Ch’u­j­ti­at, the Heav­en’s lord, cre­at­ed the Earth with 12 immor­tal men to car­ry it. And it is when they get tired that the Earth moves, pro­vok­ing earth­quakes.

At the same time he cre­at­ed the first men, who were ungrate­ful, so Ch’u­j­ti­at sent the flood and turned the sur­vivors into mon­keys, and the inno­cent chil­dren into stars. He then cre­at­ed our first par­ents, na’al, Ixic y Xun’Ok, who mul­ti­plied and pop­u­lat­ed the Earth. 

That’s how life on Earth began.That’s how the Ch’oles tell it.

Vari­ants of “that’s how we tell it” are a com­mon refrain, as in the Cora (also known as Náay­eri) sto­ry of how the Moth­er God­dess cre­at­ed earth (and oth­er gods), nar­rat­ed by Pedro Muñiz López.

Here is the writ­ten ver­sion, in Cora:

E’itɨ tiuséi­jre cháana­ka

Yaapú ti’nyúukari tɨkɨn a’najpú ɨtyáj nái­mi ajnáana Náa­sisaa, Téijkame jemín ɨ cháana­ka ajtá ɨ máxkɨrai, góutaaguaka’a ɨ tabóu­jsimua yaati’xáata tɨkɨn mata’a já guatéchaɨn majtá tyuipuán iyakúi cháana­ka japuá.

Muxáj kɨmen­pú góutaaguaka’a tɨ’kí nájkɨ’ta gojoutyáj­tua. Áuna me’séira aɨjme tabou­jsimua matákua’naxɨ.

Tɨ’kí aɨj­na tanáana Náa­sisaa, ukɨpuapú guatákɨɨnitya’a, yán guajaikagua’xɨjre uyóu­j­mua matɨ’jmí jet­sán guatyáakɨ yán miye’ntiné tajapuá. Kapú aɨn jé’i, matákua’naxɨ máj akábibɨɨ yán juté’e, makaupɨxɨɨ ujet­sé matɨ’jmí chuéj kɨj ten­tyóu metya’úrara, ajtá ɨ Taja’as xu’rabe’táana tiuɨrɨj tyau­tyáj­tua ajpúi tanáana Náa­sisaa tsíikɨri guatyákɨs­ta­ka ukɨpuá kɨmen. Japuan­pú aɨj­na chuéj utía­j­ka tɨ’kí goutaíjte aɨjme tabóu­jsimua guatái­jte máj atapa’tsaren metya’tanya’tɨkɨ’káa ayaapú tiutéjbe máj tiunéi­tan.

Ayaapú tiuséi­jre cháana­ka. Ayáj tigua’nyúukari Náay­eri.

Badillo’s edu­ca­tion­al mis­sion is well served by one of our favorites, The Ori­gin of the Moun­tains. In addi­tion to moun­tains, this Cucapá sto­ry, nar­rat­ed by Inocen­cia González Sainz, delves into the ori­gin of oceans and the Col­orado Riv­er, though fair warning—it may be dif­fi­cult to restore class­room order once the stu­dents hear that tes­ti­cles and ear­wax fig­ure promi­nent­ly.

To watch a playlist of the 36 ani­ma­tions com­plet­ed so far with Eng­lish sub­ti­tles, click here.

68 Voic­es, 68 Heart’s Kick­starter page has more infor­ma­tion about this ongo­ing project. Con­tri­bu­tions will go toward ani­mat­ing sto­ries in the three lan­guages that are at the high­est risk of dis­ap­pear­ing—AkatekoPopolo­ca, and Ku’ahl.

As Badil­lo writes:

When a lan­guage dis­ap­pears, not only a sound, a way of writ­ing, a let­ter or a word goes away. Some­thing much deep­er than just a form of com­mu­ni­ca­tion dis­ap­pears — a way of see­ing and con­ceiv­ing the world, sto­ries, tales, a way of nam­ing and relat­ing to things, an enor­mous knowl­edge that we should relearn because of its deep respect with nature.

via Boing Boing

Relat­ed Con­tent: 

200+ Films by Indige­nous Direc­tors Now Free to View Online: A New Archive Launched by the Nation­al Film Board of Cana­da

Peru­vian Schol­ar Writes & Defends the First The­sis Writ­ten in Quechua, the Main Lan­guage of the Incan Empire

Opti­cal Scan­ning Tech­nol­o­gy Lets Researchers Recov­er Lost Indige­nous Lan­guages from Old Wax Cylin­der Record­ings

Ayun Hal­l­i­day is an author, illus­tra­tor, the­ater mak­er and Chief Pri­ma­tol­o­gist of the East Vil­lage Inky zine. She most recent­ly appeared as a French Cana­di­an bear who trav­els to New York City in search of food and mean­ing in Greg Kotis’ short film, L’Ourse.  Fol­low her @AyunHalliday.

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