ærystıьla, written in the former script for the Sakha language (transliterated as ‘Örüstyla’), translates as ‘language of the river’. al-yené grew up in a village three-hour flight from Yakutsk, nestled on the northern edges of the Kolyma River, the largest river system underlain with continuous permafrost. As with many of these remote villages and their surrounding Yakutian Sakha landscapes, it now slips from clarity in the collective imagination as its inhabitants move to the cities.
Drawing connections between the land, Sakha language, personal memories, and practice of social relations with animate and inanimate beings, the work evokes the inseparability of the environment from both one’s consciousness and body. Through seeking a practice of reworlding, it becomes an act of reclaiming animistic cosmologies of previous generations along with the voice and the written script.
The video work uses historical references to the former Sakha writing system based on the Latin alphabet, with imagery borrowed from a 1919 primary school textbook. The script was used only for a short time in the early twentieth century; by the early 1940s the Soviet Union had officially transferred more than 100 languages spoken across the country into the Cyrillic alphabet, suppressing the differences between cultures. al-yené re-enlivens the disappearing landscapes of Yakutia with the poetic, precariously remembered remnants of the Örüstyla script.
For the project, al-yené has commissioned a program that can be used to transcribe Cyrillic Sakha into the original Novgorodov script, it is available here.
If you want to delve deeper into the permafrost, visit the full online programme Dissolving Earths HERE.