Textart, identity and the creative process: a case study with Arabic heritage language learners

Abstract

Informed by a postmodern perspective on language, culture and visual art education this article examines what a creative, visual art focus can bring to the experience of language-and-culture learning for secondary-age students of Arabic as a heritage language (HL). It builds on our previous research focussing on student interactions with works by renowned artist, Ali Omar Ermes, which sets text in the form of Arabic letter shapes and short poetic inscriptions against a painted background. Here we seek to gain a deeper, more nuanced understanding of the process involved through an in-depth study of the thoughts, feelings and emotions experienced by three intermediate-level students as they engage with works by Ermes and then creatively transform them into ‘textart’ pieces of their own. Methodologically we adopt an ethnographic case study design focussing strongly on process but also incorporating principles of arts-based research. Our findings demonstrate how the approach can extend possibilities for meaning-making and affirmation of identity by connecting with personal experience, by leveraging multiple semiotic resources rhizomically and intertextually, and by making space for affective, spiritual, aesthetic and multisensory dimensions. For heritage language learners this brings a deeper engagement with learning and a strong sense of empowerment as multicompetent speakers

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    This paper was published in Goldsmiths Research Online.

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