As part of the 2018 Literary Mews, Deutsches Haus at NYU and PEN World Voices Festival present Kexaptun: Poetry in New York’s Newest and Oldest Languages.
With speakers of as many as 800 languages, contemporary New York City is the most linguistically diverse place in the history of the world. Kexaptun — “a few words” in Lenape, the endangered indigenous language of New York City — is an ongoing project of the Endangered Language Alliance. Its aim is to collect and create poems about or set in the city in as many of its languages as possible. Kexaptun contributors from four continents who live in New York will perform and discuss their work, reflecting on their adopted home and the distance they have traveled to reach this “Babel in reverse,” a last-minute outpost for languages and cultures in an age of extinction.
Yusra Zaini, from north Sumatra in Indonesia, will sing pantun, or rhyming quatrains, in Acehnese. Kewulay Kamara, a finah (lineage-based oral bard) originally from Sierra Leone and now based in Queens, will perform his work in Kuranko. Nino Provenzano will read and discuss his Sicilian poetry. Zenaida Cantú, a Tlapanec (Me’phaa) speaker from Guerrero, will reflect on the realities of life as an indigenous woman in both Mexico and New York. And Karen Mosko will discuss her work to revitalize Lenape (Lunaape), the native language of New York City. Moderated by Ross Perlin.
Yusra Zaini was born to a scholarly family in Lhokseumawe, North Aceh, Indonesia. She has been involved in Acehnese theater, dance, and poetry since childhood and continues her artistic work in New York, independently and through her dance group Dara Ceudah.
Kewulay Kamara is a poet/storyteller from Sierra Leone and founder of the nonprofit Badenya. His poetry and stories are based on the Mandeng oral traditions of the jali (musicians and bards) and the fina (poets, historians, and masters of ceremony).
Nino Provenzano was born in Sicily and lives in the United States. He is vice president of Arba Sicula, a nonprofit that promotes the language and culture of Sicily, and has published three collections of bilingual poetry, in Sicilian and English. His latest book, Footprints in the Snow/Pirati supra la nivi, was presented at St. John’s University in September 2016.
Zenaida Cantu was raised speaking the indigenous Tlapanec language of Malinaltepec, Guerrero, in southwest Mexico. She left school at age nine and has been working since. Today, living in New York, she writes poetry depicting the struggles of indigenous women and children.
Karen Mosko is from Nalahii (Munsee-Delaware Nation), Ontario, Canada. She has been learning Lunaape since 2004 and teaching predominantly unfunded Lunaape language classes in various locations since 2005. Her goal is to revitalize what the government considers a dead language.
Ross Perlin is codirector of the Endangered Language Alliance. He is working on a book about the languages of New York.
Events at Deutsches Haus are free and open to the public. If you would like to attend this event, please reserve a ticket here. As space at Deutsches Haus is limited, please arrive ten minutes prior to the event to ensure you get a good seat. Thank you!