CHESS Making Connections Speaker Series Presents the Endangered Alphabets Wood Carvings Exhibit
New research has found nearly 300 written languages are still in use. Sadly, likely over 85% of these face the threat of disappearing.
The CHESS Making Connections Speaker Series brought Tim Brookes, artist, speaker, and founder of the Endangered Alphabets project, to Gannon. Brookes brings with him the Endangered Alphabets Wood Carvings Exhibit, available to experience in the Nash Library through March 27, and spent an evening this week discussing the importance of preserving scripts that have been abandoned or suppressed while drawing attention to global issues of cultural endangerment. He also shared with us the following insights:
About Tim Brookes, Artist and Speaker
When Tim began carving in late 2008 he wasn’t a linguist, or an anthropologist, an artist, or even a woodworker – he was a writer. Fast forward to 2023 and you'll find him in his carving studio, on the road, or conducting research for the non-profit Endangered Alphabets project. Through this project, Tim partners with people all over the world who want to preserve or revive their own traditional language and culture. In his words, the project is doing "whatever we can to support the efforts of indigenous and minority peoples everywhere to regain the identity and respect they are in danger of losing permanently."
About Endangered Alphabets
Our mission is to play an active role in preserving endangered cultures by using their writing systems to create artwork and educational materials.
More Information Available Online
Why Do Endangered Alphabets Matter?
Since 2009, the Endangered Alphabets Project, a federal 501c3 non-profit based in Vermont, has been the world leader in identifying, researching, and promoting both endangered and emerging scripts by using them to create artwork, games, and educational materials.
It is no exaggeration to say that this entire field did not exist before the launch of the Endangered Alphabets, so the impact of the work has involved not only support for minority cultures in the developing world but the equally challenging task of changing perspectives, attitudes and values in the privileged world.
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, and their understanding of their world. What they have collectively written in those languages is the record of their cultural identity: spiritual texts, historical documents, letters between family members, legal documents, medicinal properties of local plants.
In scores of countries, though, those minority languages are unofficial, suppressed, ignored or even illegal. As a result, adults have to speak a second or even a third language to get social services or deal with the law. Children sit through classes listening to teachers they can barely understand. All ages are mocked for being “stupid” or “primitive” for not speaking the majority language from birth.
Denying members of a minority culture the right to read, write and speak in their mother tongue defines them as inferior and unimportant, and leaves them vulnerable, marginalized, and open to abuse. The extent and quality of education go down, while levels of homelessness and incarceration, and even suicide go up. Such cultures often face economic, healthcare, environmental and criminal justice system oppression.
Researching and promoting endangered alphabets is a matter of human rights; it is a matter of public health; in some countries, it is literally a matter of life and death.
To learn more, check out our website at endangeredalphabets.com and our Atlas of Endangered Alphabets at endangeredalphabets.net.