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One woman's mission to keep her language alive in New York City. Read more

Brooklyn, NY Documentary
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This project was successfully funded on April 23, 2014.

One woman's mission to keep her language alive in New York City.

Brooklyn, NY Documentary
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About this project

Welcome! To stay in touch with the Living Quechua community, find us on facebook, on twitter, and sign up for email news updates. Thanks!

THE STORY  (español abajo)

Elva Ambía’s first language was Quechua, a language indigenous to the Andean region of South America. Through an intimate portrait of Elva, Living Quechua explores many challenges that Quechua speakers face in keeping their language alive, focusing in particular on immigrants of Andean heritage who have moved to a place where Quechua is not the dominant language.

Born in 1941, Elva grew up in Apurimac, Peru, at a time when Quechua was not recognized by the Peruvian government as an official language, which meant that it was neither taught in schools nor accepted in courts of law. Discrimination and marginalization of Quechua languages and Quechua speakers—the products of numerous processes taking place over hundreds of years—are unfortunately still common in Peru and elsewhere today.

In a 2012 article, the BBC called New York a “graveyard for languages.” UNESCO includes Quechua on its atlas of the world’s languages in danger.  Elva rarely spoke Quechua since she moved to Brooklyn from Peru as a young woman.  Now, having recently retired, 73-year-old Elva is determined to create a stronger Quechua presence in New York City.  

For the past few years, I have developed a close relationship with Elva.  As a Quechua student, I met Elva while participating in a language event; we began making Peruvian food together, conversing over tea, and brainstorming ways to make the Quechua language more visible.  Among other projects, we decided to collaborate on a short documentary because of its power as a storytelling tool to connect people.

Living Quechua is an uplifting story of hope and perseverance.  Whether capturing Elva teaching Quechua to a multigenerational family in Manhattan, leading a singalong with a live band in Queens, or hosting a conversation hour that turns into a dance party in her Brooklyn home, this film shows a vibrant and growing community in New York City not often portrayed in mainstream media.  Given that most (if not all) films about Quechua have been produced exclusively in the Andes, this film will break new ground and raise critical public awareness.

REWARDS

For those with the Archival Print reward, choose from the following options:

Coca tea in the morning / Mate de coca por la mañana
Coca tea in the morning / Mate de coca por la mañana
Fiesta de la Mamacha Carmen, Pisaq
Fiesta de la Mamacha Carmen, Pisaq
El Lago Titicaca
El Lago Titicaca

The tote bag and 1-inch pins will be printed with the Quechua version of the film title, Runasimiwan Kawsay. Carry and wear with pride! "Qoricha," a trilingual children's book written by Elva, comes with a recording of Elva reading the story in Quechua: allinmi!! 

Our picture flashcards feature unique creations by Sarah Ferone, an illustrator based in Philadelphia, Pennsylvania.  An excellent way to brush up your language skills!  There are 20 in a set.

 LA HISTORIA

El primer idioma de Elva Ambía fue el quechua, un idioma de la región Andina de Sud América. A través de un retrato íntimo de Elva, Living Quechua explora los múltiples retos que quechua-hablantes enfrentan en mantener su lengua viva. El corto se enfoca particularmente en inmigrantes andinos que se han mudado a un lugar donde el quechua no es el idioma dominante.

Nacida en 1941, Elva creció en Apurimac, Perú, en una época en la cual el quechua no era reconocido por el gobierno peruano como lengua oficial. Esto significaba que no era ni enseñado en escuelas ni aceptado en las cortes. Desgraciadamente, la discriminación y marginalización de las lenguas quechua y los quechua-hablantes siguen siendo comúnes el día de hoy.

En un artículo escrito en el 2012, la BBC escribió que Nueva York es “un cementerio para idiomas.” UNESCO incluye al quechua en su lista mundial de idiomas en peligro de extinción. Elva casi no hablaba quechua desde que se mudó de Peru a Brooklyn cuando era joven. Ahora, recientemente jubilada, Elva, de 73 años, está determinada en fortalecer la presencia del quechua en la ciudad de Nueva York.

En los últimos años, Elva y yo nos hemos vuelto íntimas amigas. Como estudiante de quechua, conocí a Elva mientras participaba en un evento de quechua. Comenzamos a cocinar comida peruana juntas, hablábamos durante el té, pensando en maneras de hacer que el idioma sea más visible en Nueva York. En medio de otros proyectos, decidimos trabajar juntas en un documental corto. Decidimos usar este medio por el poder que tiene como herramienta para contar historias y conectar a la gente.

Living Quechua es una historia inspiradora sobre la esperanza y la perseverancia. Sea capturando a Elva enseñándole el quechua a una familia multigeneracional en Manhattan, cantando en vivo con una banda en Queens, o viendo como una hora de conversación en quechua en su casa rápidamente se torna en un baile en su hogar en Brooklyn, este corto muestra una comunidad vibrante en constante crecimiento que no se ve usualmente en los medios populares. Dado que la mayoría de películas o documentales sobre quechua han sido producidos exclusivamente en los Andes, espero que este corto ayude a concientizar al público a un nivel más internacional.

LEARN MORE

To learn more about Elva and Quechua-language activism in NYC more broadly, check out the New York Quechua Initiative (founded by Elva), and listen to a conversation in Quechua between Elva, Jorge Saavedra (of Quechua Miami), and two members of CLACS at NYU's Runasimi Outreach Committee recorded for the Rimasun, a Quechua language podcast series. 

THANKS...

This campaign would not be possible without the help of many friends and family, especially Michael Buishas (for the fantastic musical score), Sarah Ferone (for the amazing graphic design), Inkarayku, Cheryl Furjanic, Pegi Vail, Faye Ginsburg, Rachel Lears, Marco Williams, Noelle Stout, Tejaswini Ganti, Natasha Raheja, VP class of 2013-2014, Gladys Camacho Ríos, Constanza Ontaneda Rehman-Khedker, Michael Abbott, Charlie Uruchima, Naomi Sturm, Doris Loayza, Emily Thompson, CLACS at NYU, the Runisimi Outreach Committee, Odi Gonzales, Sarah Bruni, and Eathan Janney.

Risks and challenges

As confident as we are that this project will stick to its timeline, it is, of course, still a work in progress. While we plan to finish the film this summer, we did build in a couple of extra months in case we run past this deadline...if we need to extend beyond that (which we hope we won't!) we will keep backers well-informed of any delays.

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Rewards

  • You selected
    Pledge $2 or more

    3 backers

    A sense of satisfaction in knowing that you helped bring this film into the world! Thanks! //
    ¡La satisfacción de saber que ayudaste a traer este corto al mundo! ¡Gracias!

    Estimated delivery:
  • You selected
    Pledge $5 or more

    7 backers

    A SHOUT OUT on the Living Quechua facebook page, plus email updates about the film's progress // Un SUPER GRACIAS en la página de Facebook de Living Quechua, y mensajes en tu correo electrónico sobre el progreso del corto

    Estimated delivery:
  • You selected
    Pledge $15 or more

    14 backers

    A download of the Living Quechua short documentary // Podrás bajar el corto Living Quechua

    Estimated delivery:
  • You selected
    Pledge $25 or more

    33 backers

    A DVD of Living Quechua and two “Runasimiwan Kawsay” 1-inch pins // Un DVD del corto Living Quechua y dos broches de una pulgada que dicen “Runasimiwan Kawsay”

    Estimated delivery:
    Ships anywhere in the world
  • You selected
    Pledge $45 or more

    2 backers

    A set of 20 Quechua language picture flashcards illustrated by Sarah Ferone, a download of Living Quechua, and two “Runasimiwan Kawsay” 1-inch pins // Un paquete de 20 tarjetas de vocabulario en Quechua ilustradas por Sarah Ferone, la abilidad de bajar el corto, y dos broches de una pulgada que dicen “Runasimiwan Kawsay”

    Estimated delivery:
    Ships anywhere in the world
  • You selected
    Pledge $50 or more

    2 backers

    A Living Quechua tote bag, a download of Living Quechua, and two “Runasimiwan Kawsay” 1-inch pins // Un bolso de mano que dice Living Quechua, la abilidad de bajar el corto y dos broches de una pulgada que dicen “Runasimiwan Kawsay”

    Estimated delivery:
    Ships anywhere in the world
  • You selected
    Pledge $60 or more

    0 backers

    A Living Quechua tote bag, a DVD of Living Quechua, and two “Runasimiwan Kawsay” 1-inch pins // Un bolso de mano que dice Living Quechua, un DVD del corto y dos broches de una pulgada que dicen “Runasimiwan Kawsay”

    Estimated delivery:
    Ships anywhere in the world
  • You selected
    Pledge $85 or more

    4 backers

    “Qoricha” trilingual softcover children’s book, written by Elva and illustrated by her niece, with an audio recording of Elva reading the book in Quechua, a Living Quechua tote bag, a download of Living Quechua, and two “Runasimiwan Kawsay” 1-inch pins // “Qoricha”: un libro de niños escrito en Quechua, Español e Inglés, escrito por Elva e ilustrado por su sobrina, con un audio de Elva leyendo el libro en Quechua, un bolso de mano que dice Living Quechua, la abilidad de bajar el corto, y dos broches de una pulgada que dicen “Runasimiwan Kawsay”

    Estimated delivery:
    Ships anywhere in the world
  • You selected
    Pledge $100 or more

    8 backers

    An archival print taken by Director Christine Mladic Janney in Peru (choose from 3 options, see left), a download of Living Quechua, and two “Runasimiwan Kawsay” 1-inch pins // Una impresión de una foto tomada por la directora Christine Mladic Janney en Perú (escoge de tres opciones, mirar a la izquierda), la abilidad de bajar el corto y dos broches de una pulgada que dicen “Runasimiwan Kawsay”

    Estimated delivery:
    Only ships to: United States
  • You selected
    Pledge $300 or more

    3 backers

    Two seats at a small dinner party at Elva’s house, with Peruvian food cooked by Elva and Christine, your name in the film credits, a Living Quechua tote bag, a DVD or download of Living Quechua, and two “Runasimiwan Kawsay” 1-inch pins (Event will take place in NYC; travel and accommodations are responsibility of backer) // Dos invitaciones a una pequeña cena en la casa de Elva, con comida peruana cocinada por Elva y Christine, tu nombre en los créditos del corto, Un bolso de mano que dice Living Quechua, un DVD del corto o la abilidad de bajar el corto, y dos broches de una pulgada que dicen “Runasimiwan Kawsay” (El evento será en NY, todo el viaje es responsabilidad tuya)

    Estimated delivery:
    Ships anywhere in the world
  • You selected
    Pledge $500 or more

    0 backers

    An exclusive dinner (you and a guest) at a Peruvian restaurant in NYC with Elva and Christine, your name in the film credits, a Living Quechua tote bag, a DVD or download of Living Quechua, and two “Runasimiwan Kawsay” 1-inch pins (Event will take place in NYC; travel and accommodations are responsibility of backer) // Una cena exclusive (tú y alguien más) en un restaurante peruano en Nueva York con Elva y Christine, tu nombre en los créditos del corto, un bolso de mano que dice Living Quechua, un DVD del corto o la abilidad de bajar el corto, y dos broches de una pulgada que dicen “Runasimiwan Kawsay” (El evento será en NY, todo el viaje es responsabilidad tuya)

    Estimated delivery:
    Ships anywhere in the world

Funding period

- (26 days)