By Carol Shaw
World-renowned Ecuadorian artist Ramón Piaguaje often paints in bare feet. He closes his eyes from time to time, sometimes squinting to reduce his field of vision to a single spot on the canvas. His canvases can be quite large. His subject certainly is. Piaguaje paints the vast Amazon-basin forest where he was born and raised. Each brush stroke speaks with intimate knowledge. Rather than tell us about his jungle home, he allows us to glimpse it for ourselves.
A very different painting hangs in my hallway. The artist was a family friend who briefly visited my childhood home on the other side of the Andes Mountains in northern Ecuador.
There are obvious differences in technique, style and personality, not to mention the forests themselves. But the difference that strikes me the most is one of relationship. The painting in my hallway represents a reality seen from the outside. Piaguaje’s paintings interpret a reality lived.
Our own work, signed or spoken, is not so different.
We may not get to work barefoot, but the need for depth and texture is the same. Nuance, tone, intonation, fluency, that sixth sense that tells us that a speaker or signer isn’t quite done yet, the endless hours of research: these make all the difference between a sterile rendition of words strung together and an interpretation that gives voice to someone else’s lived reality. These skills can’t be fully honed in a vacuum. We not only need an intimate knowledge of our subject matter and environment—we need to work in relationship with each other.
As this year comes to a close and we step into 2020, the ATA Interpreters Division will continue to provide space for that relationship. Our social media team will keep you informed of events and resources. The blog will offer articles on a range of interpretation interests, from palliative care to education to conference and court. The leadership committee will continue to serve the Division’s interests. We will listen to you. We look forward to learning from you.
So, here’s to the New Year, colleagues and friends. Make a toast; eat your grapes or black-eyed peas; count down to the hour. Whatever 2020 brings, we’re all in it together.
Carol Shaw is the editor of the ATA Interpreters Division Blog