A Guitarist Carves Out Long Lost Notation

The words "mother tongue," written in Manchu .  Text courtesy of Naoki Watanabe, photo by Tom Way, design by Alec Julien.  Pilfered entirely from Tim Brookes' Endangered Alphabets Project website.  Please click image to visit.

The words “Mother Tongue,” written in Manchu . Text courtesy of Naoki Watanabe, photo by Tom Way, design by Alec Julien. Pilfered entirely from Tim Brookes’ Endangered Alphabets Project website. Please click image to visit.

 

[6/22/16 UPDATE:  Tim has launched a Kickstarter campaign for this project.  Please visit the link to view the video and participate!!]

My friend Tim Brookes, the author of Guitar: An American Life, spent the past few years pursuing his interest in both wood-carving and the alphabet scripts of lost languages, which lead to an incredible adventure and the publication of his book, Endangered Alphabets.  Accompanied by high quality, mesmerizing photographs, he adeptly tells the story of “the very nature of writing…its relationship to anthropology, culture, technology, aesthetics, physics, even the bones of the human wrist.”

Brookes established a non-profit, Alan Lomax-style effort to research and collect the unique texts and writing systems of as many indigenous languages as possible, particularly as they stand upon the precipice of no longer being taught and are soon to fade along with the last of their knowledgeable elders.  As it stands, handwriting, in general, is being supplanted the world over by the ubiquitous QWERTY keyboard.  He points out the significance of the cultural loss that is at stake when he writes, as his “Alphabets Anthem”:

These are our words, shaped
By our hands, our tools,
Our history.  Lose them
And we lose ourselves.

Brookes is currently working in a partnership to create and publish schoolbooks and coloring books to help teach children in the text of their own languages.  “Instead of drawing people’s attention to linguistic disappearance and cultural erosion, we’re now trying to do something about it,” he says.

If you would like to read more in-depth details about the ongoing project, complete with photo galleries of the incredible array of scripts, please visit The Endangered Alphabets Project.

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