Hannaa Hamdache

Father Tongue

Year: 2022
Role: Artist

Father Tongue speaks of what it means to sit in between two cultures through the use of language. It presents an alternative example of what it looks like to be the confluence of two cultures: to be mixed-heritage.

This moving image piece uses the spoken word to address the artist’s own personal experience of being British and Algerian. The English language (her mother tongue) is used to explore these ideas, but it is in Arabic (her father tongue) that these words are shared.

The words are performed by the artist – it is her mouth that we see moving – but it is the voice of another that can be heard. A translator speaks the words in a language that the artist cannot.

Father Tongue plays with the feeling of something missing, with the inadequacy and shame felt for not being able to perform one’s identity as expected: to have had a linguistic inheritance stripped away by colonial tongues. 

Father Tongue investigates the consequences of when integration is prioritised over preservation, yet simultaneously celebrates the joy and defiance that comes from being born of two cultures.

Lead image credit: Kim Evans 

Father Tongue was commissioned by Liverpool Arab Arts Festival and premiered at the Exhibition Research Lab, Liverpool in July 2022. The engagement programme included an intimate poetry writing workshop exploring identity and heritage for individuals with lived experience of coming from multiple cultures.

Special thanks to Liverpool Arab Arts Festival and to Exhibition Research Lab, alongside all the collaborators that worked to make this work possible. 

Father Tongue is a piece of moving image with a running time of 7 minutes and 14 seconds.

Father Tongue has also shown at Leeds Artists Show 2023 at Leeds Art Gallery, and at Two Queens, Leicester.