Broken Words in a Ruined Museum:
‘Segrgrair’ by Paul Eastwood

From Planet 226

Ceridwen Lloyd Morgan

Imagine a future – the future? – where the Welsh language has died out, years after the death of the last speaker, perhaps that old lady in Bala evoked in Islwyn Ffowc Elis’s binary utopian/dystopian novel, Wythnos yng Nghymru Fydd in 1957. In a ruined museum tucked away in a mountain the visitor finds letters inscribed on a wall, forming a strange, word: Segrgrair. This is the starting point behind Paul Eastwood’s multi-media work exploring language and identity.

‘Segrgrair’, Oriel Wrecsam © Dewi T Lloyd/Oriel Wrecsam

‘Segrgrair’, Oriel Wrecsam © Dewi T Lloyd/Oriel Wrecsam

Showing an exhibition on this theme in Wrexham seems apposite. The 2011 census records that 11% of the town’s population of 61,600 speak Welsh, just over half the national average, but on my fifteen-minute walk from railway station to Oriel Wrecsam, and dawdling over lunch in a cafe, ears straining to listen, I hear not a single word of Welsh. For someone who uses Welsh every day in home and community, the experience is unsettling. For all the official bilingualism – English first here, reinforcing the point – I’m already experiencing an appropriate estrangement effect.

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