Art & Language
An island muse
Sark has long been associated with artists, crafters, eccentrics and bohemians throughout the centuries. From William Turner, who's sketch of La Coupee from circa 1832 now hangs in the Tate, to the many present day artists, writers and photographers who visit the island to be inspired, Sark has been home and muse to many celebrated creative minds.
Some of the islands most notable artistic connections include; William Arthur Toplis who visited Sark in 1833 and was so captivated by the island that he never left, producing a wealth of extraordinary paintings and sketches. Victor Hugo, who famously stayed at Dixcart Hotel during his exile in the 1850s, described the island as “a sort of fairy castle, full of wonders” and found here his inspiration for Toilers of the Sea. In later years, Mervyn Peake, renowned novelist, poet and artist, joined the rather bohemian Sark Art Group in the 1930s and spent many formative years living on Sark. So great was his love for Sark that he later returned to live with his young family in the 1950s.
In 2011 Sark was the location for the Artists for Nature Foundation 20th Anniversary Project. This saw a group of well renowned writers, artists, musicians and film-makers travel to the island with the aim of recording its beauty and diversity at a time when its way of life and its flora and fauna were under intense pressure of rapid change.
"Buon jur! Cume ci'k t 'e?"
'Hello, how are you?'
Sercquiais, also known as Sark French, Sertchais, ‘Sark patois’ or Sarkese, is a dialect of Norman French, originally derived from Jèrriais, as modern day Sark was settled & populated by Jersey families in 1565 and influenced by Guernésiais through proximity to the island of Guernsey.
There exists very few written examples of Sercquaise, although the earliest recorded is an interesting one; the Parable of the Sower from the Gospel of Matthew, written by linguist Prince Louis Lucien Bonaparte, who visited Sark in 1862 to transcribe samples of insular language varieties.
Today, Sercquiais is only spoken by a handful of older generation residents, although it remains ever present in the names of Sark's houses, streets & landmarks. Linguist Martin Neudörfl is currently working with Sark residents and Sark School to help us preserve our endangered language.