Calgary art festival showcases animations introducing audiences to Blackfoot language

A Calgary art festival recently featured 29 animated cartoons that teach Blackfoot words and phrases. The exhibit was created after Celestine Twigg, a teacher in Fort Macleod, was inspired to create a Blackfoot version of “Sesame Street” to support Blackfoot language learning. Twigg recruited a group of grade nine students from FP Walshe High School to help her on the project. The students took part in a Calgary Animated Objects Society animation residency and collaborated with Blackfoot language learners to record the pronunciation of Blackfoot words. The students then spent time storyboarding ideas in small groups. After the pandemic hit and students were no longer able to collaborate in person, they were joined by animators from around the world who brought humour and a new context to the language. “Any language you learn, there is so much about the culture you learn from the language,” said Festival of Animated Objects Co-artistic Director Xstine Cook. “Art has a magical way of translating things to all people.”