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European Languages, Culture and Society


And the winners of the 2020 SELCS-CMII Languages and Cultures under Lockdown Photo Competition are …

By Jo M Evans, on 18 December 2020

I’m very pleased to announce the judges’ verdict on the 2020 SELCS Language and Culture under Lockdown Photography Competition!

The first prize goes to Kyoka Seguchi for Wishes and Dreams:

Wishes and Dreams

Kyoka Seguchi, Wishes and Dreams (2020)

“Studying languages at a London university not only teaches me about other cultures academically, it also immerses me in a culture outside of my home country. This summer, as I found myself at home in the country that should have been hosting the Olympics, I realised that being caught up in a busy life in a foreign country often made me forget the beauty of my own culture. There was no “beauty” in what the world experienced this year, yet as I look out of my Tokyo apartment facing a shrine, I admire the orderly queue in which people line up exactly where told; I observe how everyone is wearing a mask in 38-degree scorching humidity; I notice how despite being in the midst of a global pandemic, people will pay respects at their local shrine; I found a beauty in that today, people still had wishes and dreams to pray for. Whilst displaying a relationship between Japan and faith, this view also made me realise that learning new languages and cultures is not only about discovery, but also a means of self-reflection: a new perspective I would not have gained if it were not for my language studies.”

The second Prize goes to Abayomi Folaranmi for Piazza del Popolo, June 2020:

Piazza de

Abayomi Folaranmi, Piazza del Populo, June 2020

“I took something of a break from studying and quarantine to attend the Black Lives Matter protest in Rome held in the wake of the murder of George Floyd. This photograph was taken during the demonstration in the so-called ‘People’s Square’. That the demonstration was necessary even while lockdown was mandated underscores that the struggle for universal liberty cannot afford to rest even in such dire circumstances. As a black man, it was at least momentarily uplifting (if briefly) to see such a massive turnout and outcry against racism, although it strikes me as a glaring, confusing contrast to the quotidian indifference of white Italian culture (as represented by the neoclassical statue in the background) to the struggles of people such as the young immigrant who is the focus of the photograph. Perhaps I am not too cynical in believing that his stirring display of passion feels a bit futile in the face of global, institutional racism. Indeed, I must say from first hand experience that this alienation is apparent in all institutions, and including universities; I have had to reconsider what it means for me and for people like me to “study” or be students, pandemic or notwithstanding.”

And the third Prize goes to Tallulah Belassie Page for Peaks and Troughs:

Peaks and Troughs

Tallulah Belassie Page, Peaks and Troughs (2020)

“Hours, days and months in lockdown gave way to prolonged moments of inaction, staring solemnly out of the window of the cramped flat I share with one other person. Amid ritualistic hand washing and national furore over the omnipresent virus, the streets of Deptford came alive in a way that I did not previously have time to experience. The flats surrounding me spilled over with the detritus of everyday life and became window displays for the growing pressures of life in lockdown. I began to photograph the building in front of me on a daily basis, both as a way of documenting my voyeuristic source of entertainment and as a way to temporally root myself in the perpetuality of the so-called new normal. This photo appears like a dreamscape due to the unusual light combinations, representative of the peaks and troughs I, and those around me, experienced during lockdown. The photo is concerned with that which is peripheral, bringing focus onto the sides of the image and championing the identities which were lost within the initial dominant narrative of coronavirus being an equaliser of experience. Light and shade mirror the multiplicity of the flat’s residents.”

We also have a ‘Special Mention’ for Home Schooling, by Dora Dimitrova:

Dora Dimitrova, Home Schooling (2020)

“During lockdown, our homes suddenly became offices, universities and childcare facilities… somehow all at once. The erosion of privacy and personal space within the home, created by the simultaneous and unshakeable presence of what felt like Everyone – all the time – posed new challenges for language learners like me, who crave silence and structure. How can I revise my flashcards at the same desk where I now eat breakfast, socialise with friends over Zoom, tearfully call my partner who I know I won’t see for another two months at least? When the entire home is an office-cum-university, each room starts to lose the functional specificity conferred upon it in normal times, and new solutions to continue our learning journeys emerge.”

SELCS.operations will be in touch early next term to arrange the awarding of the prizes. Many thanks again to all those who sent in photographs, and to all of you for your patience and endurance throughout this long, on-line term. On behalf of the department, I wish you all the very best over the vacation and we all look forward to seeing you all virtually and/or otherwise next term.

With our very best wishes for the New Year, Jo


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