Design students immerse themselves in Gaelic

Students from the Nova Scotia College of Art and Design have been working on ways to help sustain and enhance Gaelic language and culture in Nova Scotia.

During the final class of the term Thursday students will present their concepts to members of the Gaelic community and cap off their four-month immersion in all things Gaelic with a ceilidh.

Seumas Watson, manager of interpretation at the Nova Scotia Highland Village in Iona, is impressed by the students and the commitment and imagination they demonstrated. Watson, one of the guests invited to speak to the students, talked about how the Gaels ended up in Nova Scotia.

“I think it was an eye-opener for them — these are students coming not only from different cultures but different hemispheres,” he said. “But it was an eye-opener for us too and a real opportunity for us to get messages out that are authentic. This will help the community to look at themselves in new ways and with greater confidence.”

Watson said he also believes what the students learn in the class about one culture and way of life will be applicable to other design projects.

Watson, along with fellow guest speakers Lewis MacKinnon, Seumas Watson, Gaelic teacher Shay MacMullin and Gaelic singer Mary Jane Lamond will be in attendance during Thursday’s presentation, along with Gaelic teacher Shay MacMullin.

 “This class is all about community connections,” said design student Nadine Purdy. “You can google this kind of thing all you want, but at the end of the day, it’s really about understanding and asking questions and listening. As designers, we believe design is not just the physical product you come up with but also the emotion behind it.”

The class, designing for the Nova Scotia Gaelic Community, was initiated by a meeting with Lewis MacKinnon, CEO of the Office of Gaelic Affairs, who was seeking ideas on how to raise the profile of Gaelic in the province. It’s taught by professor Marlene Ivey, who is already engaged in a research project — An Drochaid Eadarainn (The Bridge Between Us) — with the Gaelic community.

There are 14 students in the class who represent a broad cultural spectrum, with ethnic backgrounds including Chinese, Korean, Finnish, Polish and Quebecois.

“The challenge is to understand the mental landscape of the Nova Scotia Gaelic community and then to look at the issues or problems that they could address through design,” said Ivey, an interdisciplinary designer who recently returned to Nova Scotia after 23 years in Scotland.

Split up into three groups, the students devised three distinct concepts: a Gaelic/English newspaper; a Gaelic gateway, a gathering place and cultural centre with a kitchen at its very heart; and a youth conference.

“What I liked about doing this is that this is a real project, not just a class project that we hand in to our professor and it stops there,” said design student Yoana Ilcheva from Bulgaria. “If we could really help in some way that would make us very happy.”

Ilcheva’s group came up with the idea of a newspaper written in both Gaelic and English based on a newspaper she knew of which serves the Bulgarian community in Chicago.

Cape Breton Post