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NVCC Fulbright Scholar Presents Caribbean Story Project

The multi-media presentation shows the interdisciplinary link of art and education to social and environmental projects.

Naugatuck Valley Community College’s 2013-14 Fulbright Scholar-in-Residence, Oonya Kempadoo, presented her collaborative story approach to ecological sustainability as her “gift” to the College on Tuesday, April 22, 2014 at in the Playbox Theater. The project includes an interactive website that offers a multitude of ways for readers to engage with Kempadoo’s story “Naniki”, which in the indigenous Taino language means “to be active” or “spirit”. Based on this concept, the story has integrated interdisciplinary elements to link art and education to social and environmental concerns.

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Kempadoo worked inter-collegiately this semester on the project with NVCC, Capital Community College and Yale University students in digital arts technology, visual arts, literature and language, and social sciences. She also assembled a Board of Advisors for the project that ranges from fantasy/science fiction writers to environmentalists and communications professionals.

Through the collaborative process, Kempadoo explains that the story comes through multiple “remediations,” or revisionings through different types of media in order to demonstrate the interactivity of creative thinking and text. The culmination is a multimedia presentation narrated by music student Jennifer Arnold and featuring a native Taino prayer – in Taino – by Waterbury resident Tatianne Carr.

“I’ve never done anything like this before,” said Carr before the event. “You don’t want to do anything to disrespect their culture by saying words wrong or misrepresenting them. It’s been a lot of work and a lot of research, but I’m really excited.”

Students in Megan Marden’s drawing class created visual pieces to represent varied elements of the story that were then scanned electronically and added to the Naniki website. Digital arts students pulled all of these elements together online in a way that entices reader engagement with the story and its outcome.

“It’s a really cool story for this kind of thing because the characters, in different parts of the story, they go through different physical transformations,” said Marden. “So its ok to do a 20-person project and incorporate different illustration styles. It all works together because the story allows for that.”

The evening’s presentation of the project included remarks from Naugatuck Valley Community College President Daisy Cocco De Filippis, Ph.D., a concept overview from Kempadoo, and creative input from students, advisors and NVCC faculty in the Arts and Humanities division. The event was standing room only and even pulled in some e-attendees via Skype!

Story Overview & Background:
A fantastical love story aimed primarily at young adults, “Naniki” is a story of survival that is set in the future and begins underwater in the Caribbean Sea. The tale goes back in time through the history of the Caribbean to the Orinoco, the Essequibo rivers, and the interior of Guyana B.C. The Naniki story project and presentation of the collaborative website – built with the assistance of NVCC digital arts technology students and Professor Ray Leite – entails imaginative artwork from NVCC art students led by Prof. Megan Marden, music by Prof. Nick Biello and Waterbury community member Tiatianne Carr, story narration by Jennifer Arnold, video and photography intertwined with Kempadoo’s prose. The website itself is being constructed with HTML coding and CS5 scripting.

Born in England of Guyanese parents, Kempadoo, an award-winning novelist and social development researcher, is the author of three novels: Buxton Spice (1998); Tide Running (2001); and All Decent Animals (2013). Both of her first two novels were nominated for International IMPAC Dublin Literary Awards. She is also the recipient of a Casa de las Americas prize and her latter work was a 2013 Oprah’s Summer Reading List feature.

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