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 Their mother tongues contain the sum of their cultural identity: stories, sayings, metaphors, spiritual texts, historical documents, deeds, letters between family members, poems, songs.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:
And the following carvings are available as 8"x10" prints, ready for framing:
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.Learn about accountability on Kickstarter
- (31 days)