UNESCO Cities of Literature mark International Mother Language Day 2024

Keira Brown
Communications Executive
Edinburgh City of Literature Trust

20 February 2024

Language diversity is celebrated with new collaborative and multilingual exhibition

International Mother Language Day, which takes place on 21st February each year, promotes unity in diversity and international understanding through multilingualism and multiculturalism and has been internationally recognised since 1999. This work is led by Manchester City of Literature, known as the ‘UK’s language capital’ with over 200 languages spoken.

There are a range of activities taking place across the global Cities of Literature network to celebrate International Mother Language Day including an exhibition in Manchester City of Literature and online featuring ten UNESCO Cities of Literature on the theme of ‘Threads’. The exhibition features creative materials, textiles and writing from Odesa in Ukraine and nine other Cities of Literature, including camouflage nets of the Ukrainian defender created using a technique called “Kikimora”. Kikimora is also a character in Slavic fairy tales and can be good or evil depending on whom she is dealing with. To these nets creators tie in symbolic lines of poetry, woven hearts and ribbons before they are sent to be used to protect people and equipment. Melbourne in Australia and Exeter, Nottingham and Manchester (where the exhibition is physically hosted) in the UK have also contributed poetry and artwork to the exhibition. A digital version of the exhibition can be found here.

Edinburgh City of Literature is leading Scotland’s celebrations of International Mother Language Day by partnering with the Gaelic Books Council for a Scottish Gaelic character-building session and role-playing games with James Gillespie's High School, which will take place on 21st and 23rd February to celebrate International Mother Language Day 2024.

In addition to these projects, Barcelona City of Literature is holding a month-long celebration of the fact that up to 300 languages are spoken in the city as they present the results of a new survey on multiculturalism. Events take place across 8 libraries and will include workshops for children, lectures on the likes of Arabic, Amazic, African, Armenian and Kurdish and Persian languages, plus interpretations by artists and poets on mapping family languages.

Dunedin, New Zealand have shared a waiata (song), HUIA TE AROHA, written in te reo Māori by young musicians Te Atarau Cassidy, Jordyn Katipa-Martin, Chanse Peita and Monique Tahere and performed by He Waka Kōtuia from their album Te Mahi Tamariki (Meetinghouse Records); directed by Mumu Moore, translation to English by Komene Cassidy.

To find out more about the events mentioned above and how the Cities of Literature network is celebrating International Mother Language Day this year please visit https://www.citiesoflit.com/ and https://www.manchestercityofliterature.com/event/international-mother-language-day-2024/.