The world has between 6,000 and 7,000 languages, but as many as half of them will be extinct by the end of this century. Another and even more dramatic way in which this cultural diversity is shrinking concerns the alphabets in which those languages are written.
Writing has become so dominated by a small number of global cultures that those 6,000-7,000 languages are written in fewer than 100 alphabets. Moreover, at least a third of the world’s remaining alphabets are endangered–-no longer taught in schools, no longer used for commerce or government, understood only by a few elders, restricted to a few monasteries or used only in ceremonial documents, magic spells, or secret love letters.
The Endangered Alphabets Project is the first-ever attempt to bring attention to this issue--by creating an exhibition of 18"x12" carved and painted boards in stunning Vermont tiger maple that depict a variety of these vanishing scripts.
In each case, the text is the same–namely, Article One of the Universal Declaration of Human Rights, drafted in 1948 at the foundation of the United Nations: “All human beings are born free and equal in dignity and rights. They are endowed with reason and conscience and should act towards one another in a spirit of brotherhood.” The irony, of course, is that many of these forms of writing are endangered precisely because human beings do not always act towards one another in that spirit.
I've already created 14 of these boards. My goal is to double that number (a process that involves searching the world for the few people who can still read and write these vanishing scripts) and then take the exhibition on tour, to provoke thought and discussion on the importance of preserving traditional cultures.
Ideally, I'd raise enough money to take this exhibition to the countries where the scripts are still used: Indonesia, the West Bank, the Philippines, Vietnam, Canada, Liberia, Cameroon, Bangladesh, and the Cherokee Nation headquarters in Oklahoma. In many cases this will give attention and encouragement to small, dedicated groups of people trying to rescue or revive these vanishing art/text forms.
- (30 days)