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Excerpt from Today we would be kings: Frida Larios’ New Maya Language By Frida Larios in DESIGN>MAGAZINE No. 19.

My journey to revive the visual language of the ancient Maya started in 2004 when I was studying towards a masters in Communication Design at Central Saint Martins College of Art & Design in London, located only two blocks away from the British Museum which holds some of the most important lintels in the Maya world. I was the first Salvadoran woman to study at Saint Martins. How could I not look for my own roots within an institution, and city, with marked avant-garde tendencies? It was my opportunity to show my peers and now the world how the Maya are one of the founding six pillars of the civilised world, inventors of the notion of zero and of one of the most accurate calendars in history. There is also a lack of recognition of their intelligent and advanced hieroglyphic language’s art form, within Mesoamerica (modern Mexico, Guatemala, Belize, Honduras and El Salvador) itself, and beyond its boundaries. Now, as an ambassador for INDIGO (Icograda’s International Indigenous Design Network), it is my privilege to promote part of this ancient culture through my design work.

My New Maya Language is a unique system, in content and style, which rescues the ‘dead’ written language created by the Maya across Mesoamerica as far back as 300 BC. My vision for the New Maya Language is to recreate, re-compose and develop contemporary applications in different media: art, product and fashion design, brand identities, information design, wayfinding and education systems for archaeological sites and public spaces, as well as children’s toys. Through these diverse applications I aspire to promote iconographic meanings, education and play, whether it is by instigating conceptual thinking through a 0–12 year-old child’s game, T-shirts or simply by creating appreciation through my artworks, which to-date have been acquired by collectors around the world. Antonio Avia, Indigenous Education Director for the Organisation of Iberoamerican States had this to say about my artworks: “… your work presents another form of seeing, understanding, recreating, and above all, employing again in daily life, millenary means of expression. I am fascinated by this new vision of the glyphs.”

Continue reading this article in DESIGN>MAGAZINE No. 19.

The book I wrote, illustrated and designed the 120-page New Maya Language book so that people could learn about the original language of the Maya in a simple and practical way and to decode my new interpretation to others. The main chapter provides the formula for each of my pictograms, original hieroglyphs on the left page and the new hieroglyphs or result on the right. Finally I showcase various design applications.

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Fashion design, Frida Larios, London

“Today we would be kings: Frida Larios’ New Maya Language”

Fashion design, Frida Larios, London, San Francisco, South Africa

This is an extract and published spreads’ gallery of lead article in DESIGN MAGAZINE No. 19.

I tried to preserve the ancestral artists’ spirit at the time of creation, highlighting, and not merely reproducing their strokes. Aptly, renowned Harvard Peabody Museum’s epigrapher Alexandre Tokovinine describes my work with these words:

“Even though there has been a growing body of scholarly works devoted to the subject of Maya calligraphy, few artists systematically sought their inspiration in Maya letters beyond mere reproduction of certain glyphs and glyphic patterns, usually in the context of contemporary indigenous art.  Frida’s project stands apart as an attempt to explore and reinvent Maya calligraphy as a symbolic and aesthetic system from an artist’s viewpoint.  The New Maya Language creates its own world that blends Maya imagery and symbolism with Frida’s unique vision in a series of artworks which would make an ancient calligrapher proud.”

To read full article click here.

Back to our Roots to Become Different

El Salvador, Frida Larios, Indigenous, Indigo, Madrid, Montreal, New Maya Language

Article featured in Yorokobu Design Magazine July-August 2010 print edition in Madrid, Spain.

By Marcus Hurst

Indigo promotes a coming together between designers and indigenous culture in search for distinctive elements in a world that is day by day more homogenous.
“Globalisation is standardising everything.  We share languages, in many cases, English.  A uniform design aesthetic is starting to impose itself.  In an environment where the local and global breathe next to one another we cannot forget about our roots”, said Russell Kennedy, Icograda (International Council of Graphic Design Associations) President.

PORTADA_YOROKOBU_09_JULIO_2010 INTERIOR_YOROKOBU09_JULIO2010INTERIOR_YOROKOBU09_JULIO2010INTERIOR_YOROKOBU09_JULIO2010Since 2006 Kennedy is one of Indigo’s promoters, an organisation that helps study and experiment with indigenous design.  The aim is to explore different ways of highlighting and exploiting its identity without appropriating its customs.

“It is a very delicate subject because a lot of the times it has many political and colonial connotations.  With Indigo we have wanted to create a network of designers that explore this field.  At first, it was born to study the aboriginal peoples and the American Indians.  Upon advancing with the project we realised it is a theme that can be applied to any part of the world.  It has special relevance in Asia where countries are trying to establish a differentiating element.”

According to Kennedy, cultures’ over-protection prevents evolution. “In Australia, on the other hand, there is the belief that indigenous cultures need to be protected above all and the museums do it very well.  But sometimes this obsession doesn’t allow for their culture to change and evolve.”

The New Maya Language
Frida Larios is one of the designers who actively participates in Indigo as an ambassador.  In her case, she has done by exploring ways of redesigning Maya art and design and translating it to our present context.

In what year did you start the project? It started in 2004, when I was studying my masters in Communication Design at Central Saint Martins College of Art & Design in London.  I was the first Salvadorean woman to study there – ¿How could I not look for my own roots within an institution, and city, with marked avant-gardé tendencies? The Maya are one of the founding six pillars of the civilised world.  Nonetheless, there is a lack of recognition of their intelligent and advanced hieroglyphic language’s art form, within Mesoamerica – a term used for the shared Maya geographical area within Central America – itself, and beyond its boundaries.

How has it evolved? The project is a unique system, in content and style, which rescues the dead written language created by the Maya civilisation across Mesoamerica 300 BC.  The New Maya Language’s vision is the recreation, re-composition and contemporary life’s application in different media: art, product and fashion design, brand identities, information design, navigation and education in archaeological sites and public spaces, children’s toys.  It has been warmly received by public and private entities in Central America.  Through its applications, it aspires to promote culture, education and play.  These three characteristics are its developmental roots.  Whether it is by instigating conceptual thinking through a 0 – 12 year-old boy or girl’s game, through a t-shirt design or, simply by being appreciated through my artworks, which to-date have been acquired by collectors around the world.

Do you continue to explore indigenous art application in design? This is a project that has as much application ground as desired – it can even be expanded to other hieroglyphic languages.  Hence, my goal is for it to always remain democratic, accessible, not only to northern hemispheres’ academics who are the ones who command the hieroglyphic writing knowledge, but to common Mesoamerican citizens.  Above all, and this is one of the shared objectives with my fellow INDIGO colleagues, I want it to be inclusive of native inhabitants so that they have the opportunity to recreate themselves in it.  A lot of these populations are illiterate and my New Maya Language, in a certain way, even touches their emotional fiber.  It is a language without words that makes them feel included in a world where the letters of the alphabet are their uppermost barrier.

What does a designer have to consider when inspiring him or herself in indigenous art and communication? Does he or she have to avoid appropriating his or her culture? In my case I illustrated how it came to light, decoded it so that others could understand where each line, each form and each concept came from.  First by explaining in my book, the original Maya hieroglyphic language to then arrive to what I can call my own, or of my own intellectual property, and the formula for each pictogram’s creation.

Before being historians, mathematicians, or astronomers, they were artists.  Their writing not only gathered the political life and other relevant affairs, but it was also a work of art in itself manifested through different mediums: stone sculpture, ceramics, murals, calligraphic manuscripts, garments and utilitarian products, etc.  There is not much difference between a practicing artist or designer in our days, right? Except that our profession is not as valued as in those old times, in which – like Mayanist Michael D. Coe says – “artists could even be kings.”  It was indeed a royal profession.  When a designer attempts to develop indigenous-iconography based designs, he or she must preserve the ancestral artists’ spirit at the time of creation, highlighting, and not merely reproducing, their own culture.

Do you think Latin American countries should deepen in their roots to reinforce design with an individual identity instead of obsessing with what Anglo-Saxon countries do? But of course. There are parameters at the time of designing, or international design standards, which in fact, were born in the Anglo-Saxon world.  But this is very different to searching for inspiration in European styles that breed from their own history and tradition.  Why not look for inspiration in what is ours, which by the way is very different to the rest? Indigenous cultures had magnificent artistic development, sourcing themselves in their natural and social environment, respecting it.  If we Central American designers, had been able to continue until our present days with that legacy – a development defrauded by many conquests during the course of over 500 years – the roles would be reversed and it would be the western world looking for reference in our culture.  Today, we would be kings.

www.indigodesignnetwork.org
www.fridalarios.com

You can download the Spanish published PDF version here:

Yorokobu – Volver a las Raíces para Ser Diferentes – versión Español.

Or comment on the article on the INDIGO website.

Frida in Scandinavia and Europe

Frida Larios, London, Madrid, Paris

Have started my European tour with a leg in Helsinki.

You are wondering what am I doing here?! The answer is–-presenting some New Maya Language surface designs. Will be here in Helsinki until Thursday the 18th. On Thursday I am off to Paris to see some fashion designers, and meeting-up with my dear friend Ana María Echeverria and Sali Sasaki, INDIGO Ambassador. On Sunday 21st November Madrid awaits with its Iberoamerican Design Biennale 2010 where my Green Child puzzle will be exhibited. Finishing in London from Thursday the 25th to Sunday the 28th to see Gaby my sister, my brother-in-law, niece and some clients.

So there you go, have published my itinerary so that my friends and family know where I am!

Next I will be sharing some first pictures and short descriptions.

Copan-Helsinki

From the Tropics to the Nordics

Photography contribution by Tyler Orsburn and Rosa Meléndez©

Central America’s Creative Roots

Frida Larios

The Creative Roots blog “creates an art and design collection, based on countries of the world. Every post has some historical or cultural relationship expressed through art and design, which is either related to or influenced by a specific country.”

The International Indigenous Design Network [INDIGO] was born to research, promote and celebrate indigenous design around the world, through highlighting local and multicultural design.

Now an El Salvador and Central American indigenous art-inspired project like the New Maya Language has participation on this significant blog, aiding in the promotion of the unique INDIGO platform.

Check out the Central America category that has a colourful range of art and design projects.

Creative-Roots-Website

New Maya Language Book Cover

Image on the Creative Roots website

Mother Tongue [Lengua Materna] Call for Entries

Frida Larios
Mother-Tongue

Lengua Materna: Invitándolos a enviar sus proyectos visuales o verbales.

Mother Tongue is about the power of language –verbal and visual, formal and informal. First language. Native language. It honours languages at risk of being lost in our globalising society and those that have survived the forces of colonisation.

Mother Tongue es acerca del poder del lenguaje – verbal y visual, formal e informal. La primera lengua. La lengua nativa. Honra a las lenguas en riesgo de ser pérdidas por nuestra sociedad globalizada y las que han sobrevivido las fuerzas de la colonización.

A todos mis amigos diseñadores, artistas, arquitectos, escritores o poetas:

Los invito a participar en Mother Tongue, una exhibición enlinea que trata de estimular el diálogo creativo entre diseñadores indígenes y no-indígenas, estudiantes de diseño, poetas y escritores. Mother Tongue celebra el hecho de que por debajo e indistinta…mente de que lengua hablemos, todos somos iguales.

Fechas claves:

1 June: Anuncio del brief
12 de Julio: Se inicia periodo de envío de trabajos
1 de Diciembre: Fecha límite de entrega

Pueden obtener más información y descargar el brief y todos los detalles aquí en el website de INDIGO.

Honoured to be named an INDIGO Ambassador

Frida Larios


Montréal, Canada – I was honoured to accept the role of INDIGO Ambassador last week.  INDIGO is an International Council of Graphic Design Associations or ICOGRADA led initiative that supports and celebrates modern indigenous design through uniting designers and their cultural contexts through a global collaborative platform.  I am fascinated by INDIGO and its aspirations, as expressed by Brenda Sanderson, icograda’s Managing Director:

Showcasing indigenous design as a vibrant and living profession, not simply drawing on historical practice and iconography engaging indigenous populations in a manner that is inclusive and respectful, and empowers improved livelihoods.

Indigo is represented by ambassadors from around the world: Australia, the United States, El Salvador, Zimbabwe, Canada, South Africa, Malaysia and Switzerland. They are individuals committed to creating an awareness of the network, its projects and promoting engagement with designers, stakeholders and the public at large within their communities.

As an Ambassador I hope to be able to open a space for indigenous design dialogue in the Central American region for crafters, designers, stakeholders and their audience. Even though the region is rich in traditional native art and craft, designers are still to discover its potential transforming it into research, collaborative projects and products that enhance history – with a modern voice – that speaks to our own Central American citizens, the international community and the public sector.

Respect and knowledge of indigenous populations, the main actors and carriers of unique ancestral artistry, is key for the INDIGO local network (that I intend to promote) to be able to evolve design inclusive of ethnic, environmental and social context. Furthermore, indigenous design needs to create a real platform for the improvement of livelihoods in third world conditions’ framework. INDIGO is a beautiful ICOGRADA project that can help embrace local identities shared on a global scale and I hope my participation will contribute to reach these objectives.

Macaw Mountain’s New Sign

Copan, Design, Frida Larios, New Maya Language

The New Maya Language has a new addition to the family–a new Macaw Mountain Bird Park and Natural Reserve (Montaña Guacamaya Reserva Natural y Parque de Aves) wood crafted sign.

This is a tropical bird reserve in western Honduras that cares for rescued and endangered birds of the American tropics.  Inspired by a Maya sculpture, the pictogram promotes ecological conservation by reflecting human immersion into the richness of his ecosystem.

Macaw Mountain wood sign

Wood sign close-up

Look out for large arachnid friends finding home at the sign

The proud designer

Rehabilitated Macaws