Currently recruiting participants!

Do you speak an endangered or otherwise disadvantaged language?

If you're interested in sharing your voice and your story and you live in Denmark or southern Sweden, please contact me by email or through my Instagram account @treesaremygods.


This is a deeply personal project. Not because I myself am a speaker of an endangered or vulnerable language, no. But because it causes me almost physical pain to witness the decline of language diversity and the injustices many around the world face because of their language.

I’ve always been fascinated by language — by words, the way they sound, how they’re related with other words from other tongues. I grew up exposed to multiple languages. I was spellbound by what I thought were whole other worlds they could take me to. Mystery, excitement, adventure —that’s what I thought of when I thought of other languages as a kid.Already then I didn’t understand why many adults (and by extension,their children, too) were so dismissive of certain languages. Why were some languages considered prestigious and others of lower value, beauty, or merit? It was all very puzzling.

Later, at university, I studied linguistics and anthropology. I learned how languages fade and die, and about how this process is very often not a “natural” one but a result of very concrete policies and cultural attitudes. It is hard for me to pinpoint why it stirs in me such sadness, discomfort, and very often anger. I can cite all the logical reasons about how losing a language makes humanity poorer in our understanding of the world, about how we lose a connection to our environment Or about how much more vulnerable democratic institutions become in a monolingual society. The bottom line is: I detest injustice, colonialism, and imperial thinking. I detest bullies, and indigenous languages are often simply bullied into oblivion.

But there’s also something more elusive. Beyond all the political, environmental, or cultural tension, language is something very intimate, private. It sits so deeply at the core of who each of us is. It can hold tremendous power over an individual. It is that aspect that I’m most interested in — the personal, the lyrical, the mystical. That’s what I want to explore.

What is the project about?

The idea is to create a series of portraits of people who speak a language that’s been in the shadow of a big, dominant language. I don’t want to set many boundaries for participants because there can be so many exceptions. The very word ‘language’ in this context can be misleading, as not even linguists can agree on the distinction between language and dialect, for example. And often that distinction is a political one.

My intention is to create the portraits as multimedia stories. There are three elements to each portrait:

-  A photograph. All portraits will be done on black-and-white film.

- A short interview. A list of questions that each participant answers about their background, their identity, what their language(s) means to them, how they use it, etc.

- A voice recording of 3-5minutes. Each participant is asked to select a passage from a book in their language and read it aloud. For languages that may not have a written tradition, any form of oral story is very much welcome!

Initially, I’m looking for those who speak a language fluently and (hopefully) use it relatively actively. I would really like to focus on the place of indigenous languages in a modern world, on the everyday life of their speakers. You can live anywhere in the world but carry the language with you. How big a part of you is it? How does it interact with your other parts, other languages?

Ultimately, I want others (especially speakers of the 30-or-so world-dominant languages!) to look at those portraits and see the beauty of another language — not just how it fares on the scale of  “practicality” or“usefulness”. I want them to see the challenges and the struggles. I want to confront them with uncomfortable truths and wonderful revelations. I want them to pause and contemplate the state of things in our world. There are many parallels between how indigenous cultures and languages are treated, and how nature is treated. There’s a lot to think about there! I don’t expect to knock anyone over the head with it but to sew a seed of reflection.

On the other hand, I also very much hope that other indigenous language speakers get encouraged to speak their own languages more and in more contexts, that they take inspiration from seeing the portraits, that they feel welcomed by the world and by the future.

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