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Curtain up for minority languages at the phōnē theatre project!

What do minorities sound like? And who has ever heard Meänkieli, Kven, Noongar, Karaim, Hawaiian, Sqamish or listened to a puppet show in Sorbian? The "phōnē" theatre project recently gave wonderful samples of regional and minority languages that otherwise make it to the big stage far too rarely. "phōnē" is to become a worldwide network of theatres that perform in and for regional and minority languages and cultures.  These are to be strengthened in their task of reviving threatened minority languages and giving them a worldwide platform.

The EU-funded project started a year ago. Last weekend (30 June to 1 July 2023), the first conference "The sound of minority languages in theatre" took place at the Deutsch-Sorbisches Volkstheater in Bautzen/Budyšin, Germany – and we are very pleased to have been able to participate as a project partner and with a speaker.

With a mix of expert lectures and theatre performances, the programme was very diverse and gave insights into more than 15 minority or indigenous languages and their work in theatre. "Together we want to explore how we can support each other's work in the future to break new ground for the minority language theatre sector and improve its reputation on a national and international level," says project manager Elisa Braun.

As FUEN, we had the opportunity to present our work as an umbrella organisation of autochthonous national minorities through a presentation by the coordinator of our Education Working Group, Bérengère Vogel, and to engage in conversation with the international audience. "Theatre broadens the perspective and creates a more global picture, which we could also take up in the work of the Education WG in FUEN," she concluded.

The conference is in line with the International Decade of Indigenous Languages, declared by the United Nations General Assembly for the period between 2022 and 2032, to draw attention to the critical status of many indigenous languages around the world and to promote action for their preservation, revitalisation and promotion.

"Theatre can actively contribute to the revitalisation of endangered minority languages because it provides a space for language, but also because it uses non-linguistic forms of communication. In this way, theatre in particular makes it easier for people who do not yet have a secure knowledge of the minority language to get started. In this way, cultural and linguistic diversity can be secured," say the phōnē organisers.