The Anglo Central American Society invites you to a lecture about the Mayan Predictions: Maya: End of Days?
When? Wednesday, 24 October 2012 at 6pm
Where? Denys Holland Lecture Theatre, UCL Faculty of Laws, Bentham House, Endsleigh Gardens, WC1H 0EG London
Who? Lectures by Elizabeth Graham, PhD; Elizabeth Baquedano, PhD and Francisco Diego, PhD
NEW MAYA LANGUAGE sustainable jewellery pieces, book and toy exhibition by Frida Larios.
Members – £5
Non-members – £10
UCL students – Free
With many thanks to ACAS [through its Chairman, Judith Pollard, and Vice-chairman, Edith Ball] for supporting the New Maya Language cultural and sustainable message.
Excerpt from Hat Trick Magazine 9-page feature in their September 2012, Volume 1 Issue 2.
Frida Larios, International Indigenous Design Network (INDIGO) Ambassador, designer and creator of a new pictographic language.
1. Tell us a little bit about yourself?
I think it is safe to say that I am a multi-tasker extraordinaire. I went to a private German School (odd thing I know, but it was only a block away from my parents house) in San Salvador where I was raised. My peers in school always remember me painting with a full set of large-format paper, brushes and temperas displayed on my desk while paying attention and participating in a lesson about heavy German, Bertolt Brecht-type literature–all at the same time. I was attracted to both: art and sports since I was a little girl. From five until fifteen I was a gymnast representing my country at international level. I then moved on to indoor volleyball where I was part of the national team for five years and finally settled with beach volleyball. From 1996 until 2003 me and my partner were reigning Central American champions traveling in the FIVB Beach Volleyball World Tour across Europe and South America. Beach volleyball was my passion, but design was equally as inspiring and important to me, I had learned that since my school days, so I never ceased to do either. It wasn’t easy as it meant waking up at 5am every day for practice so that I could have a full day of study, while I was finishing college, or designing, while I was managing my design studio. Then in 2003 I moved to London to study a masters degree in communication design in one of the most prestigious design schools in the world: Central Saint Martins College of Art & Design sponsored by the government of El Salvador through a sister fullbright scholarship programme. I had already lived on and off in London and the west coast of England while I was completing a bachelors degree in Graphic Design at University College Falmouth.
2. What was the inspiration behind your New Mayan Language Art Project?
Being far away from my home country while living in London, but at the same time being so close to one of the mecca’s of contemporary art and culture brought me close to my own roots. Central Saint Martins College of Art & Design was two blocks away from the British Museum in Holborn, which holds the most beautiful carved lintels in the Maya world from the Yaxchilán site. Being in touch with both: thousands of years old and at the same time the most contemporary art expressions sparked the idea of reviving the dead Maya hieroglyphic language.
Continue reading the rest of the 12-question interview in Hat Trick’s ISSUU edition page 28.
Enviado por Paco Calles el Martes, 14 agosto 20124 Comentarios
This is an excerpt from the book New Maya Language by Frida Larios for CreativeRoots.org
The native Mayas lived in the Mesoamerican region (Central America) from about b.C. 1000 to 1500 a.C. Their intelligent and beautiful written language is quite unknown to the western world, even to Central Americans, because it remained undeciphered for centuries. The Maya scribes had a very privileged position in the socio-political system and were multi-talented — they were artists, sculptors, and calligraphers, and were also believed to be astronomers, mathematicians, historians and royal book-keepers.
Original Maya hieroglyphs were both pictographic and syllabographic. My New Maya Language is a redesign of certain pictograms that communicate concepts and even sentences. My work parallels the principle of the Chinese-concept script where primary root pictograms can be combined to generate compound pictograms that signify a more complex idea. For example, ‘Stone’ + ‘Fire’ combined equal the ‘Lavastone’ New Maya Language ideograph.
The ‘Maya Language’ section of this book excerpt introduces a basic understanding of how the Maya writing system works.
The ‘New Maya Language’ section aids in the integral understanding of an archaeological site. My case study, ‘Joya de Cerén’ UNESCO World Heritage Archaeological Site in El Salvador in Central America, is about common citizen’s way of living, about their eating habits, social relations, architecture and agriculture — very unlike the majestic religious temples usually found in the region. Because the Maya written language was not totally democratic, my New Maya Language can help surpass language barriers and literacy disadvantages while at the same time enhance users experience and learning in public locations; or simply be appreciated as an art form.
By reviving and celebrating the Maya cultural and visual identity, the New Maya Language can inspire present and future generations and bring new life to the sacred stones.
Original Maya hieroglyphs
The Maya writing system
The Maya writing system is one of the most beautiful and intelligent of dead languages–it was only recently understood– in the 1950s, and is still in the process of being deciphered. Unfortunately, when the Spanish conquered the region they burnt most of the screen folds (books), unable to destroy stones and temples.
The Maya could express everything in writing. Their writing is logo-syllabic, which means that one symbol can be composed by syllables (arranged mostly in a consonant-vowel- consonant order) and logograms, just syllables or justlogograms — extremely complex indeed and comparable to logographic Japanese writing and Chinese classic ideographic script.
A great part of the nearly 2000 deciphered hieroglyphs are polyvalent (multiple meanings for a single hieroglyph) so the context of the word becomes crucial.
Most of the time half of the story is dedicated to say when a certain event occurred since their calendar system was one of the most important disciplines culturally and politically; it is as exact as any millenary civilisation would have got to measure time.
Which language did the Maya speak? Different dialects were spoken throughout such a vast region. The most generalised idiom was Yukatek Maya, named by some authors as Classic Maya, although some texts are written in Ch’olan, more characteristic of the southern populations of Mesoamerica. These languages evolved into one that was mainly for reading and writing, rather than for everyday speaking.
The Maya script could have been invented solely syllabically, which has lead people to think that it was an elitist language available only to a privileged class. They could have had several reasons in allowing this to happen: the preservation of the ideographic meaning’s cultural value and the assurance of its survival through selective use. Nevertheless, the variables in this written language’s system left ground for creativity, allowing it to be used to please the artist’s eye rather than fit a rigid rule. Its flexibility allowed the scribes to free their imagination while still caring about legibility—any designer’s dream!
This vase from the Dumbarton Oaks collection in Washington DC clearly shows how the royal book keeper, who is looking into a mirror being held by a subordinate, had an aristocratic position in Maya society. To show this they wore a distinctive head dress with a water-lilly thrust and what is probably a brush pen, depicted in blue.
Maya hieroglyphs have multiple meanings making reading them a complex task. For example, the hieroglyph illustrated on the right has four different translations.
The representation / spelling of a symbol can change depending on the composition of different pictographic affixes, suffixes and infixes. For example, the BALAM–jaguar– hieroglyph illustrated on the right has six different ways of being spelled.
New Maya Language
The Mesoamerican natives created their writing system in a very practical manner with specific subject matters applications. They wrote about their gods, rituals, politics, relationships, time and its measurement, and relevant events in history.
This allowed me to create a basic classification, that divides the vocabulary of the Maya hieroglyphs into eleven categories.
The colour code represents how the different subhieroglyphs (affixes, suffixes and infixes) within a hieroglyph belong to one of the twelve different subject matters’ categories.
Contemporary textbooks present the hieroglyphs as on-site illustration scans that are successful in reflecting the ancestral artist’s materials (stone, clay, paper, etc.) peculiarities. Thus, a visual communicator’s perspective helped me identify that through consistent computerised vector drawings of the hieroglyphs would strengthen readability and recognition, and aid learning in a contemporary context. They were consistently coded with different line weights, drawn one-by-one in Adobe Illustrator software. The stroked line hieroglyphs could as a result be colour-coded.
The unique colour and keyline codings can help anybody interested in understanding this written language, travelling to any of the archaeological sites in Mesoamerica, or be used as a teaching guide for children.
The vocabulary presented in the New Maya Language section interprets the archaeological site’s content and is an example of how my system works. The system can be of course taken forward to infinite applications as long as the site, public or private space’s content is related to the
A universal language
The visual codes we sometimes believe to be familiar can certainly be interpreted in different ways. Here is an example: What do different people read upon looking at a skull icon? That depends on the context. If it was positioned within a flag it could be read as pirates on board.
Another very common pictographic international code is for example the toilet signs represented by a man and a woman’s icon. In the same way my pictography uses canons that a contemporary audience can recognise.
New Maya Skull
Each theme has an assigned colour. The colour helps comprehend the action that hieroglyph has in the Maya writing world.
The New Maya Language, just like the original Maya script, reads from left-to-right and top-to-bottom–like other western written languages.
The columns are read in pairs of hieroglyphs–like shown in the above illustration.
The New Maya Language
The set of twenty-three New Maya Language hieroglyphs tell the story of the UNESCO World Heritage archaeological site studied–Joya de Cerén in El Salvador.
Writing through the artist’s feeling
Tz’ak is a Maya word meaning whole, complete. The curious thing about this word is its logographic spelling. According to different variants found on sites and specific research presented in ‘On the Paired Variants of TZ’AK’ by David Stuart, Peabody Museum, Harvard, it seems like a word is syllabographically corrected spelled, however, logographically it was substituted by a metaphor or the ‘feeling’ of the word by the artist.
In this sense the word is represented by the sum of two parts that in the Maya spiritual and physical world where perceived to be either complementary or opposing, one could not exist without the other. The TZ’AK syllabogram is substituted by a semantic illustration of what the meaning of the word, whole complete, stands for according to the scribe’s perception.
The Maya hieroglyphic language was seriously performed by its scribes, they respected their Gods and their kings vision when it came to writing, nonetheless, it seems in this specific case they were looking for a little artistic freedom and flexibility.
tz’ak – whole
The New Maya Language is an apt parallel to this type of subjective graphic language variations. The system depicts the sum of one, two, three or more parts or logo-legos (like I call them) that are strong individually but become even more meaningful conjugated as a whole. Just like ancient Maya artists, my intention is to express the ways of life practiced by our Maya ancestors.
Ink illustration based on drawings by David Stuart©
New Maya Night
New Maya Rain
This is a guest post from the book New Maya Language by Frida Larios, for CreativeRoots.org.
Frida Larios holds a bachelors degree in graphic design from University College Falmouth and a masters of arts in communication design from Central Saint Martins College of Art & Design. She was a Visiting and Associate Lecturer at the London College of Fashion and Camberwell College of Arts while living in England for nearly a decade. Originally from San Salvador, she now lives in the San Francisco bay area. Her New Maya Language has been exhibited, published and awarded worldwide. Frida was recently named Ambassador for INDIGO – International Indigenous Design Network by ICOGRADA.
Have just received an invitation by the Museo para la Identidad Nacional (Museum for the National Identity) in Tegucigalpa, Honduras to be a Guest Artist for the 2012 IDEARTE International Art Auction. The exhibition will take place from the 9 – 30th of November, 2012. The auction night is on October 18th.
Me acaban de para participar que seré Artista Invitada en la Subasta Internacional de Arte IDEARTE por el Museo para la Identidad Nacional en Tegucigalpa, Honduras. La exhibición será del 9 al 30 de Noviembre del 2012. La noche de la subasta es el 18 de Octubre.
Reviving a dead language is not normally a recommended practice in communications: road signs in Latin (say, NON DEXTER VICISSIM instead of “No Right Turn”) are certain to cause more accidents than not, and billboards written in runic Old Norse will do little to increase sales and a great deal to confuse and annoy pedestrians.
Undaunted by such conventional advice, graphic designer Frida Larios has set about reviving and redesigning the pictographic language of the Maya civilization for use in the twenty-first century. Originally from El Salvador, Larios got her MA at the Central Saint Martins College of Art & Design in London, where she began her love affair with Mayan hieroglyphics in 2004. The “New Maya Language” that she developed is comprised of simple pictograms reworked and combined to communicate more complex concepts, and these images in turn are used in logos for Central American companies and in signage for regional historic sites.
Larios’s longer-run vision is not driven by the needs of institutions, however, but by the needs of people. She is acutely aware of the immense gap in the region between urbanized descendents of Spanish settlers and impoverished native communities in which modern-language literacy is all too rare. As she writes in a recent photo essay for the Indigo Design Network:
My ideal would be a world with no alphabetical words—where icons were the only language. This would help bridge the gap between illiteracy and emotional comprehension of a message. Some indigenous peoples who don’t know how to read or write the Spanish language nor their own heritage hieroglyphics’ codex, feel close to the New Maya Language pictograms because they don’t need to know the alphabet or numbers to understand it. It just comes to them naturally.
A 100% pictographic language bridges the gap between a once highly literate community now living extremely poor and undermined, and our modern era of over-information. In my vision, it is the answer to include minorities who are otherwise diminished by not being able to access the physical or digital world of information around them.
Intrigued? Larios publishes a gorgeous hand-bound book explaining the language and its components (it can be ordered here); to see more of her work visit her website. June 2011′s DESIGN> magazine also contains a fascinating essay by Larios about the project and the philosophy behind it.
His Excellency the Ambassador of México in Guatemala has confirmed a wonderful event to take place during January 2013, in which my full body of work will be exhibited, including: New Maya Language hand-painted pictographic poster series, jewellery, and dress collection.
The exhibition will be inaugurated with a keynote conference and presentation of my book–New Maya Language on Tuesday January 8, 2013 at the Centro Cultural de México ‘Luis Cardoza y Aragón’, Embassy of México in Guatemala.
This is the perfect celebration of the end of a 5,125 year cycle in the Maya Long Count calendar in 2012, and the beginning of a new one in 2013.
Written by Paola Torres, Frida Larios’ studio intern.
Being an international student, I felt flattered with my recent experience. As an Adobe Design Achievement Award finalist, I received a ticket to Taipei to attend the ADAA Awards, the Taipei World Design Expo 2011, and the 2011 IDA Congress. Taipei is an amasing city, with gorgeous monuments, a super well-organised transportation system, fabulous people, and of course, exotic food.
Once in Taipei, I had the opportunity to visit the Originality 100 – International Indigenous Cultural And Creative Design Exhibition at the National Taiwan University of the Arts’ Art Museum. This collection exhibited more than 100 pieces of international cross-cultural and domestic aboriginal designs. The designs originated from aboriginal cultures and totems, combining current design concepts and applications.
Mother Tongue exhibition is an INDIGO – the International Indigenous Design Network – project. It is a cross-cultural platform to open discussion around the role of contemporary indigenous design and to encourage collaborative projects that deepen our understanding of people’s culture in our visual world of this 21 century.
The exhibition’s introduction read like this:
Mother Tongue – a rapidly changing concept in a world where growing immigration affects not only the economic and social structure of the host
society, but also its culture and, as such, its language.
27 posters were selected from over 500 by designers from around the world. I felt proud when I contemplated the calligraphy poster design of my boss/mentor/teacher/inspiration, Frida Larios. The description of her Mayan poster, named yal-Child of Mother, read the following way:
The Maya natives of Mesoamerica, in their nearly 2000-year ancient hieroglyphic writing, pictured the “thumbs-up” hand as a symbol of harvesting, completing, and binding. In the case of the word ya-AL (yal), the harvest is a child – the fruits of the womb. In the same way our mother tongue is the product of our upbringing and culture. The flames represent the fire coming out of our mouth when we speak – when we speak with the passion of our native language.
I loved the idea of how designers nowadays are involved in this global culture. The role of designers here is crucial, and it is what will someday make a difference in our rapidly changing world. This exhibition was not just a design exhibition. I felt it was design for the people, for the world, its different cultures, and each others roots. Frida Larios, and the rest of the designers, deal with issues about life itself. It is not easy to understand cultures, especially when such racial differences are affecting our society. This exhibition was about a connection to the earth, about learning to accept diversity, and about respecting what others conceive as their Mother Tongue.
All photographs courtesy of Paola Torres, except were noted.
Tyler y Frida, SapoSerpiente, tendrán su primera exhibición conjunta titulada NUEVA VIDA MAYA en la Fundación Museo del Hombre Hondureño en Tegucigalpa el 8 de Junio de 2010. Para aquellos que no conocen el trabajo de Tyler los invito a ver su blog.
NUEVA VIDA MAYA realza el valor a la cultura maya de más de 2000 años de antigüedad. Su ancestral escritura es resucitada a través de las nuevas composiciones picto / gráficas de Frida Larios y a su vez reinterpretadas a través de las fotografías de la vida rural contemporánea en Copán Ruinas de Tyler Orsburn. Estas creaciones de esta pareja de esposos busca inspiración en la sencillez de vida de los Maya-chortí, sus evolución de jeroglíficos y su sensible de imagen se identifican uno a otra en armonía.
Tyler & Frida, will have their first exhibition together titled NEW MAYA LIFE at the Fundación Museo del Hombre Hondureño in Tegucigalpa on the 8th of June 2010. For those who don’t know Tyler‘s work I invite you to check out his blog.
NEW MAYA LIFE highlights the more than 2000-year-old native Maya culture value. Their ancient script is resuscitated through the new picto / graphic compositions by Frida Larios and in turn re-interpreted through Tyler Orsburn’s contemporary Copán Ruinas rural life photographs. These husband and wife creations look for inspiration in common Maya-chortí simplicity of life, her evolved hieroglyphs and his powerful images complement and echoe each other.