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I plan to create a major exhibition of carvings for International Mother Language Day 2017 to celebrate and support endangered cultures
I plan to create a major exhibition of carvings for International Mother Language Day 2017 to celebrate and support endangered cultures
168 backers pledged $15,137 to help bring this project to life.

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$15,137

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The new Endangered Alphabets "Mother Tongue" poster
The new Endangered Alphabets "Mother Tongue" poster

 

Balinese "Thank you" print
Balinese "Thank you" print

Since I began carving endangered alphabets in 2009, I've far exceeded my original goals, thanks to the support I've received via Kickstarter.

The Endangered Alphabets project has created entirely unique artwork, published educational materials in endangered languages for indigenous children, and raised awareness of the need to preserve the world’s minority cultures. We’ve even introduced the concept and the phrase, “endangered alphabets,” to the global vocabulary.

Now I want to raise the Alphabets to the next level, but I can only do so with your help.

Here’s the challenge. As you probably know, in countries all over the world members of indigenous cultures have their own spoken and written languages—languages they have developed to express their own beliefs, their own experiences, their understanding of their world. Their mother tongues contain the sum of their cultural identity: stories, sayings, metaphors, spiritual texts, historical documents, deeds, letters between family members, poems, songs.

In scores of countries, though, those languages are unofficial, suppressed, ignored, even illegal. Children sit through classes listening to teachers they can barely understand; adults have to speak a second or even a third language to get government services or deal with the legal system.

Denying members of a minority culture the right to read, write and speak in its mother tongue defines them as inferior and unimportant, and leaves them vulnerable to all kinds of abuse. Levels of education and quality of life go down, levels of suicide, homelessness and incarceration go up.

My response is to dignify those languages by showing their inherent richness and beauty—in other words, by making them art.

My goal is to create the most ambitious and significant set of Endangered Alphabets carvings yet—20 separate carvings of the phrase “mother tongue” in the traditional written languages of those cultures, carved in woods native to those cultures. These will make up a major exhibition to open on International Mother Language Day, February 21st, 2017, the largest and most high-profile display of the Alphabets so far. My aim is to spur public discussion and awareness of the importance of inter-cultural respect, and the dangers of language loss.

And once the exhibition has run its course, each of the carvings will be donated to an organization in the United States or overseas dedicated to preserving that culture’s language and identity. We have already done this for the Somali Bantu, the Ainu of Japan and the Mro, Marma and Chakma of Bangladesh, and now we’re extending this work many times over.

To achieve this, we’re shooting for our most ambitious Kickstarter goal ever: $15,000. In case that sounds like a lot, the cost of shipping these carvings off to their countries of origin alone will be over $2,000.

What I keep hearing from all over the world, from Bali and Java and Morocco and Australia and India and Sumatra, is that the Endangered Alphabets are beautiful, and they are important.

Please help. Kickstarter support is easily our largest source of funding. We can’t do this work without you.

Here are some of our rewards:

Balinese "Thank you" carving
Balinese "Thank you" carving

 

Balinese "Sacred text" carving
Balinese "Sacred text" carving

 

Endangered Alphabets guitar
Endangered Alphabets guitar

 

Javanese "I love you" carving
Javanese "I love you" carving

 

Endangered Alphabets mugs
Endangered Alphabets mugs

 

Endangered Alphabets postcards
Endangered Alphabets postcards

 And the following carvings are available as 8"x10" prints, ready for framing:

Balinese "Thank you" print
Balinese "Thank you" print

 

Mongolian "Happy New Year" print
Mongolian "Happy New Year" print

 

Javanese "I love you" print
Javanese "I love you" print

 

Cham E print
Cham E print

 

Risks and challenges

I'm not anticipating many challenges or risks in this particular campaign. I already have a number of calligraphers standing by to write "mother tongue" or "language of our ancestors" in their own traditional script--my only challenge is going to be finding remarkable pieces of wood, sustainably sourced, from the countries of origin. I'm tracking half-a-dozen lumber importers, though, so I'm reasonably confident. And although we don't yet have a specific site for the exhibition, we have expressions of interest from sites in New York, Washington DC, and Los Angeles.

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  1. Select this reward

    Pledge $5 or more About $5

    Endangered Postcards

    A packet of three assorted Endangered Alphabets postcards, little works of art in their own right.

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    Pledge $10 or more About $10

    Poster pdf

    A pdf of the elegant and powerful Endangered Alphabets “Mother Tongue” poster, featuring a carving in the Manchu script, ready for printing.

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    Pledge $25 or more About $25

    The Endangered Alphabets Mug

    A coffee/tea mug with the phrase "endangered alphabets" in English and Baybayin, a pre-colonial alphabet of the Philippines. Astonish your friends! Also a great gift.

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    Pledge $25 or more About $25

    Endangered Alphabets carving prints

    A print of one of the wonderful hi-res photographs Tom Way has made from four of the Endangered Alphabets carvings. Ready for framing. Dimensions: 8"x12". See the project home page to see which carvings are available as prints.

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    Pledge $30 or more About $30

    Endangered Alphabets Postcards

    A packet of five attractive assorted postcards featuring Endangered Alphabets carvings. These cards are already collectors' items!

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    Pledge $40 or more About $40

    Endangered Alphabets Poster

    A copy of the elegant, powerful Endangered Alphabets poster, featuring a carving of the phrase “Mother tongue” in the endangered Manchu script with the caption "The Right To Read. The Right To Write."

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    Pledge $50 or more About $50

    Endangered Alphabets tote bag

    A well-made, sturdy, handsome tote bag featuring the beautiful, sinuous letter E in the Cham alphabet. Everyone in the checkout line will envy you!

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    Pledge $75 or more About $75

    Endangered Alphabets: The Book

    A signed copy of the brand-new expanded second edition of Tim Brookes’ book Endangered Alphabets: An Essay on Writing--a coffee-table-style book with great photos of some of the carvings, stories about language and culture, and reflections of the many issues and questions raised by the project.

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    Pledge $100 or more About $100

    Endangered Alphabets Clock

    An Endangered Alphabets wall clock, featuring either the sinuous E of the Cham alphabet or the Tibetan phrase “Graceful kindness” carved twice in a circle, like a mandala. A great gift.

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    Pledge $250 or more About $250

    Uzbek-English Dictionary

    A signed copy of Michael Horlick’s comprehensive Uzbek-English dictionary. The perfect gift for the Uzbek- or English-speaker who has everything.

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    Pledge $275 or more About $275

    Namaste carving

    A vertical carving in tiger maple of the word "Namaste" in Tibetan, based on the calligraphy of the Buddhist monk Tashi Mannox.

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    Pledge $350 or more About $350

    The Om and Shanti carving

    What makes this carving really remarkable is the combination of the text and the wood. We don't know what the wood is, it's a one-of-a-kind outlier. The grain swirls like blood stirred in mercury. And as such it seems to embody the chaos of the universe, over which the chant, "Om and shanti, shanti and om" rises like the very human impulse to try to find or create order. In fact, language itself is an effort to create order out of uncertainty and chaos.

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    Pledge $375 or more About $375

    Balinese "sacred space" carving

    There’s nothing like this in English: it’s not, strictly speaking, even a letter. It signifies that the piece of text that follows is sacred or spiritual writing, and as such it implies the reader should adopt a particular openness of heart when reading. It says something about our culture that we don’t understand the need for such a written device.
    It struck me that carving this character, and thus converting it from two dimensions to three, implies a metaphorical change: especially if hung on a door, perhaps, it might mean “You are entering a sacred space.”
    Carved in an unknown wood with pockets of burl, between and around which the lines flow like grace.

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    Pledge $500 or more About $500

    Carved Monograms

    A carving of a pair of initials/monograms of the donor’s choice. This could be a wedding or anniversary present (a popular choice), or simply a celebratory gift. The initials can be in English or any other alphabet, though the backer may need to provide the accurate lettering if it is to be in an non-familiar-to-us alphabet!

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    Pledge $575 or more About $575

    "I love you" in Javanese

    The traditional Javanese script, now severely endangered, is one of the world's most beautiful, a flowing, rhythmic cousin to its Balinese neighbor. This carving reads "I love you" in Javanese--a perfect gift for someone very special.

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    Pledge $800 or more About $800

    The Balinese Om table

    A unique cherry table with the Balinese character Om carved in the top. Standing 26" tall, the table is ideal for a hall/mail table, for a nightstand, or as part of a sacred space or spiritual setting. See Updates for photograph.

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    Pledge $1,000 or more About $1,000

    "Thank You" in Balinese

    A carving in cherrywood of suksma, the Balinese for “Thank you.” The most popular Endangered Alphabets carving in one of the most beautiful endangered scripts in the world.

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    Pledge $2,500 or more About $2,500

    The Endangered Alphabets Guitar

    This beautiful instrument, this work of art, is a custom electric guitar, hand-made by Alec Julien. The woods are mahogany, walnut, and wenge. The pickups are Seymour Duncans, there's copper shielding in the electronics cavity, the electronics are all high-grade. Comes with a Gator hardshell case.

    Whoever pledges at this reward level gets to commission me to carve a monogram in the upper half of the body. This design could be their initial(s), or a word, or a symbol, in an endangered alphabet.

    I’d even stretch my usual definition of an endangered alphabet to include Elvish or Klingon.

    Is that cool or what?

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Funding period

- (31 days)