Kreyòl Translations: Introduction

In December 2016, Laurence Jay-Rayon Ibrahim Aibo, then Director of the Center for Translation and Interpreting at Montclair State University (MSU) inquired about collaborating on Haitian Creole (Kreyòl) translations of the twenty-four documents currently featured on Colony in Crisis. At that time, two Haitian students of translation at MSU, Daphney Vastey and Pierre Malbranche, were interested in translating the documents as a part of their translation studies coursework. The Center for Digital Humanities at MSU offered their expertise to provide sound recordings of the translations.

In order to complete the translations in stages, this initial Haitian Creole Translation team at MSU proposed translating the first three documents of Issue 1.0 in an independent study format. During various discussion sessions, we shared research notes and translation strategies so that Laurence could properly guide Daphney and Pierre through their work. After Daphney and Pierre finished complete drafts of the translations, they had the chance to present before a group of scholars at MSU. Listening to them talk about their experiences as translators, seeing the colonial archive of Haiti as not merely a French archive, but the material traces of Haitian history was illuminating.

In September 2017, three years after our initial launch in September 2014, we were able to introduce the first three translations in Haitian Creole. This new addition to Colony in Crisis welcomes new members to the team. Translators Daphney Vastey and Pierre Malbranche, as well as Laurence Jay-Rayon Ibrahim Aibo, the director of the Haitian Creole Translation project, and our advisors who reviewed the first three Haitian Creole translations, Cécile Accilien and Laura Wagner. Without everyone involved, this endeavor would not have been possible, mèsi anpil.

In October 2017, the project received a first incubation grant from the New Jersey Council for the Humanities, which represented a first step towards sustainability. The project grew in an important direction, towards reaching students of Haitian Creole in Haiti and in the diaspora. The meaning of this step is not lost on us as we live in a world increasingly more hostile towards the teaching of foreign language, in a country where the government has ended the Temporary Protected Status program for Haitians living in the US, and when Haiti continues to be occupied by the United Nations. For these reasons, among many, it is crucial to turn to Haitian Creole as a mode of instruction, as means of accessing the past, and as a practice for shaping the future of Haitian Studies (others have indeed already signaled this necessity).

By October 2018, thanks to this initial NJCH incubation grant, three additional Haitian Creole translations, and the audio recording of the first three translations were added to the Colony in Crisis website.

Another volunteer phase followed from September 2018 to August 2020, spearheaded by Laurence, who is now teaching in the online Certificate in Professional Translation and Interpreting at the University of Massachusetts Amherst. Recognizing the importance of the Haitian Creole Translation project, the NJCH awarded the team another, more substantial incubation grant (2020–21) to continue with the translations and their audio recordings. At the beginning of 2021, the team evolved to identify Pierre Malbranche as the voice talent for all audio recordings and welcomed Cala Fils to join their written translation team.

Laurence Jay-Rayon Ibrahim-Aibo & Nathan H. Dize