Geraldton goes Wajarri: A city revitalizes its endangered Aboriginal language

Throughout 2013 – 14 Perth-based arts organization Spaced has held an ambitious program which has brought together 14 international and national artists with 12 regional communities throughout Western Australia, to create new artworks in partnership with local organizations and residents.

As a part of this program Berlin-based artist, Pia Lanzinger chose to work with the community of Geraldton, first visiting the region in 2013. During her stay Lanzinger focused her research on Wajarri. Although Amangu is the traditional language of the area, today Wajarri is the most commonly spoken Aboriginal language in the Greater Geraldton region of Western Australia. Despite this there are less than 50 fluent speakers remaining.

Lanzinger’s subsequent project Geraldton goes Wajarri is designed to provide a forum for the conservation of this language by smuggling Wajarri into the public spaces of the City of Greater Geraldton (Jambinu). Through an “adopt a word” campaign and a series of playful and enjoyable public events, the story of the disappearance of Wajarri will be told and counteracted at the same time.

Pia Lanzinger’s invitation to each of the citizens of Jambinu is to adopt a Wajarri word. Each participant in the project will learn to speak that word, use it in their day-to-day lives and effectively be a mentor for the language by sharing their word with the Geraldton public. Through this approach, Lanzinger intends to grow awareness of Wajarri, creating a reservoir of knowledge and a living archive of this language that will become alive and present in the lives of the citizens of Geraldton.

Pia Lanzinger’s Geraldton goes Wajarri will be officially launched by Spaced Artistic Director Marco Marcon on Thursday 20th November, 6 – 7:30pm at the Geraldton Regional Library, 37 Marine Terrace, Geraldton, Western Australia. Don’t miss this chance to be one of the very first to adopt a Wajarri word!

Pia Lanzinger’s project is supported by the Central Greenough Artists in Residence Program, which is presented by the City of Greater Geraldton and the National Trust. This program provides successful application the opportunity to work and live in the Central Greenough historical settlement for a period of one day to four weeks. Artists of all disciplines (including dance, inter-arts, media arts, music, place making, theatre, visual arts, and writing and publishing) from all over the world (including Australia) are invited to apply. For more information on the program, and how to apply, please visit here. Geraldton goes Wajarri is also made possible through a partnership with the Western Australian Museum – Geraldton, and through the generous support from the Irra Wanga Language Centre and City Hive / Pollinators.

About the artist
Pia Lanzinger’s practice focuses on collaborative projects in public spaces that attempt to notice the breaks and inconsistencies in the conditions of daily existence, and enable communicative experimentation. To date, Lanzinger has worked in a range of locations, and often alongside diverse communities, including Zurich, Munich, Cologne, Worpswede, Nowa Huta – Poland, Graz, Vienna, Mexico City, South Korea and Scotland.

About spaced
spaced is a recurring event of Australian and international socially engaged art. Conceived and coordinated by International Art Space (formerly IASKA) spaced showcases newly commissioned artworks developed in response to the distinctiveness of Western Australian sites and communities. spaced 2: future recall (2013 – 15) follows on from the inaugural spaced: art out of place (2009 – 12), with 14 national and international artists undertaking residencies in 12 regional and remote Western Australian communities.