This exhibit explores how people remember trauma through auditory cues. Our focus is the Haitian earthquake of January 12, 2010. This earthquake is colloquially referred to as goudou goudou, an onomatopoeia for the sound of the earth shaking.
The very mention of the earthquake’s nickname evokes the auditory memory of the experience for survivors, but the sound of the earthquake was different for each survivor. We examined survivors stories and experiences to see what their auditory memories of the trauma contained.
We found three ways of interpreting the sound of the earthquake:
Some survivors used onomatopoeia, or the formation of a word by imitation from an associated sound. This is done when the abstract sound is beyond comparison or best described through recreation.
Others used comparison sounds to make sense of the events. Often, this is done via analogy. “It sounded like…” This was commonly used for abstract sounds in order to make it understandable.
Some survivors focused on one common sound during the experience. Often, this was an everyday noise that was out of place within the context of the earthquake, but many survivors experienced a sort of tunnel-vision for these routine auditory experiences, blocking out all other sounds.
These personal testimonies, along with the sound associated with trauma, are included in the exhibit below.