INTERNATIONAL AMBASSADOR ENCOURAGES STUDENTS TO EXPRESS THEMSELVES WITH MAYAN GLYPHS

Anthrodesign, Children, Design, El Salvador, Graphic Design, New Maya Language, Washington DC

POSTED ON OCTOBER 7, 2015

INTERNATIONAL AMBASSADOR ENCOURAGES STUDENTS TO EXPRESS THEMSELVES WITH MAYAN GLYPHS

Milagros Reyes, a 13-year-old from Buck Lodge Middle School in Hyattsville, was fascinated when she learned about a “mini version” of Pompeii in El Salvador.

She had been creating a story using Mayan glyphs, which she learned from Frida Larios, an award-winning typographic artist from El Salvador

Larios works as an artist and ambassador for the International Indigenous Design Network. She collaborates with cultural institutions in El Salvador, as well as at the Salvadoran embassy in Washington, where she facilitates workshops that encourage young Salvadorans in the U.S. to embrace their native culture through art.

She brought this knowledge to campus Tuesday as a part of “Imaging Homeland and Belonging.” The event took place in Stamp Student Union’s Art and Learning Center.

The workshop attracted a large and diverse group of students.

For those of Latino/a heritage, and it provided an opportunity for them to reflect on [part of] their cultural roots and their idea of home.

For Frankie Jovel, a senior and a member of Lambda Theta Phi, a Latino fraternity on campus, this event helped him get closer to his Salvadoran heritage.

“This motivates me to look into my culture,” Jovel said. He was using the glyphs to write a sentence about corn tamales, which he said he loves to eat.

As an introduction to the event, Larios presented on Mayan culture and history, in which she discussed the meaning of the ancient glyphs and distributed a colorful guide that showed the various designs along with their English meanings.

“The Mayas were such thinkers. They are the ones who invented the number zero. They had a whole cosmology with constellations and stars. They domesticated corn and they invented chocolate. We owe a lot of things to the Maya. So we need to learn about them like we learn about the Greeks,” Rodríguez said.

Larios said she wants to show that Mayan glyphs are deeply rooted within people of Central American origin.

“We are genetically drawn to these forms due to the fact that the [Mesoamerican Indigenous] lived 2,000 years—maybe less—but the time we were colonized was even shorter. We belong to the region. We are natives. By exposing young people to the language, there is greater capacity for learning, because there’s empathy,” Larios said.

With the help of archaeological experts, Larios is working to [preserve] Mayan script. She is illustrating in bright, contemporary style that is immediately attractive.

One of her projects is a children’s book titled, The Village that was Buried by an Erupting Volcano, which she wrote and illustrated using Mayan glyphs. The book tells the story of an indigenous Mayan village in El Salvador preserved under volcanic ash for nearly 1,500 years.

Known as the Joya de Cerén Archaeological Park, this village is now an UNESCO World Heritage Site.

“That’s my mission—to transmit cultural heritage in a ludic, interpretative manner, using design as a tool,” Larios said.

She also designed the uniforms that the Salvadoran team wore to the 2015 pan-American games in Toronto. The uniforms, which were inspired by traditional Salvadoran costumes, were white and blue and adorned with ancient Mayan symbols.

However, Larios says it isn’t easy to encourage people in El Salvador to wear traditional costumes.

“It was a challenge because of the lack of attachment to traditional costumes. It’s a stigma. It’s persecution against indigenous peoples because they represent the peasant class, the class that [historically started] upheavals,” Larios said.

Featured Photo Credit: Belqui Ríos, a senior family science major taking a course called “Great Themes of the Hispanic Literatures; Home, Homeland and Be/longings in U.S. Latina/o Texts.” For students like Ríos, the workshop provided an opportunity to reflect on their cultural roots and the idea of home. (Gabriela Martinez/For The Bloc)

Gabriela Martinez is a communications graduate assistant at the College of Arts and Humanities and may be reached at gcmdavila@gmail.com

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Talk: Ancient glyphs inspiring new Maya design at the Smithsonian Latino Center

Anthrodesign, Art, El Salvador, Guatemala, Talk, Washington DC

Published by Hola Cultura, Washington, DC, June, 2015

A Maya-inspired design by Frida Larios. Photo by Oliver Garretson

A Maya-inspired design by Frida Larios. Photo by Tyler Orsburn

At the Smithsonian Latino Center recently, two designers decked out in colorful Central American outfits discussed how the ancient art of their Mayan ancestors influences their work; a design methodology that goes beyond  artistic endeavor.

Frida Larios, an ambassador for the International Design Network, is the creator of the New Maya Language; a multimedia design project. She is an author, lecturer, facilitator, typography consultant and educational product designer. Originally from El Salvador, she sported a contemporary tunic styled with modernized indigenous symbols at the May 28 talk.

Manuel León is a multimedia graphic designer originally from Chichicastenago, Guatemala. He is the owner of the design studio Potencial Puro and the art director and website designer for the United States Institute of Peace.León was dressed head-to-toe in traditional Maya clothing.

While the indigenous regalia looked a bit out of place in the conference room of the Center’s Southwest Washington D.C. office building, they had the full attention of the small audience of Smithsonian staffers and others who take special interest in Latino or indigenous cultures.

Larios and León are in the midst of creating a Maya design collective dedicated to Maya knowledge, symbolism, and preservation of their identity as indigenous people.

Their similar methodologies and values brought them together. They draw a deep influence from the Maya to inspire new art forms, while using ancient symbolism as a means to inspire people of Mayan descent to take an interest in their rich cultural heritage. They look to inspire others to take an interest in their heritage as Mayans and build a common understanding of its relevance. It’s a design methodology that could be used with other indigenous cultures to help people discover aspects of their identity in the same way it helped Larios delve more deeply into her identity as a Salvadorian, she said.

By reinterpreting ancient symbols they aim to breath new life into them. Larios said they envision their Maya design collective will “preserve our heritage and make it relevant to today’s citizens, using design as a bridge.”

In other words, design is the medium through which they connect the past and the present by adapting the Mayan visual language in a way that is understood in today’s world. These changes could be seen as the changes any language goes through over the course of time. Likewise, adaptation prevents Mayan hieroglyphics from becoming merely the subject material for history books.

For Larios, pictograms are stories. In some of her work she utilizes pictograms everyone knows, like a skull and crossbones. Then, integrates this common symbol into modern symbols to create a new idea—a new Maya language. These symbols are incorporated into her various mediums such as clothing, jewelry, and art prints.

Manuel León, Awakening Ocelote

Manuel León, Awakening Ocelote

For León, his work is much more than art; philosophy inspires the story behind his visual designs. He said the book “Ensueños Cosmovisión Del Maiz” by Daniel Matul is a particularly guiding aspect with regard to his philosophy. Of the designs he presented, an image of an ocelot with four points stands out; a traditional glyph of an ocelot reinterpreted in mid-yawn. León named this visual interpretation “Awakening Ocelot”.

When asked how their work is perceived by the natives and community, they agreed it was welcomed, particularly children thoroughly enjoy it. Despite the interest children show in their work, they noted that there is certain competition when it comes inspiring children to take an interest in their cultural heritage. This competition comes from pop-culture phenomena, such the booming superhero movie franchises.

What is known of the Maya glyphs is largely from Archeological study. Larios’ and León’s reinterpretations often begin from these archeological interpretations. The Spanish Conquest was a breaking point in Maya culture; their language and the related knowledge of hieroglyphs were lost. Larios and León are trying to construct a conceptual bridge between the past and the
present.

“What you see here is not even the tip of the iceberg,” said Larios, referring to an entire lexicon of glyphs waiting to be integrated into a modern symbolism.

—Oliver Garretson

Celebrate #HispanicHeritageMonth with author @FridaLarios. Join us today at 2pm!

Anthrodesign, Archaeological Site, Book, Children, El Salvador, Joya de Cerén, Reading, Washington DC

Published on Wednesday, September 17, 2014 – 9:49am

Celebre el Mes de la Herencia Hispana con la autora Frida Larios
Frida Larios

puzzle

Join us Saturday, Sept. 20 at 2 p.m. as author Frida Larios presents her book, The Village That Was Buried by an Erupting Volcano along with a workshop on the New Maya Language with the Green Child wooden puzzle.

Acompáñenos el sábado 20 de septiembre a las 2 p.m. donde la autora Frida Larios presentara su libro, La Aldea que fue Sepultada por un Volcán en Erupción, con un taller del Nuevo Lenguaje Maya.

Frida Larios — “The Village That Was Buried by an Erupting Volcano” #Boulder Book Store signing

Anthropology, Colorado, Design, El Salvador, Graphic Design, Joya de Ceren, Maya, New Maya Language

Start: 10/02/2014 6:30 pm

Frida Larios will speak about and sign her new book, The Village That Was Buried by an Erupting Volcano, on Thursday, October 2nd at *6:30pm*, Boulder Book Store.

Frida Larios will speak about and sign her new book, The Village That Was Buried by an Erupting Volcano, on Thursday, October 2nd at *6:30pm*.

Frida Larios will speak about and sign her new book, The Village That Was Buried by an Erupting Volcano, on Thursday, October 2nd at *6:30pm*.

About the Book:
The Village that was Buried by an Erupting Volcano, written in Spanish and English, is the real story about a community of Maya Indigenous peoples buried and preserved under volcanic ash for nearly 1500 years. This children’s picture book opens with a foreword by the site’s archaeologist, Dr. Payson Sheets from University of Colorado Boulder.

Vouchers to attend are $5 and are good for $5 off the author’s featured book or a purchase the day of the event. Vouchers can be purchased in advance, over the phone, or at the door. Readers Guild Members can reserve seats for any in-store event.

Location:
1107 Pearl St
Boulder, Colorado
80302
United States

Event Image:

Frida Larios -- "The Village That Was Buried by an Erupting Volcano"

Frida, Maya Language and Joya de Cerén [English version]

Art, Design, Frida Larios, Graphic Design, Indigenous, Language, New Maya Language, Sustainable Design
SAMSUNG CSC

Frida Larios’s murals at the Joya de Cerén Archaeological Park

Note: This article was originally published in Spanish on the blogs of El Faro newspaper in San Salvador, El Salvador.

Thank you, HondurasWeekly.com for translating to a wider audience./

Written by  Miguel Huezo Mixco

Ancestral heritage needs to reinvent itself, or die. Design, with its ability to synthesize and develop, interpret and create realities, is a powerful tool for representing and reviving our past. For these purposes, Frida Larios has created a “new Maya language.” The past is not a “sacred” place. The gods did not inspire the creators of the Temple of the Great Jaguar in Tikal, and the sculptors of the stelae at Copán. Neither artisans at Joya de Cerén. The “sacred” becomes untouchable and just an elected group possesses the power to change it. Such ideas produce arbitrary behavior.

The demolition of Fernando Llort’s mural, in 2011, was attempted to be justified by saying it contained signs outside the Catholic tradition, and the artist was accused of commercially promoting himself, as if that was sin. You have to be alert when there is pontification in the name of religion or science…

It is worth remembering these sad events, because now some sustain that the mural of Frida Larios in Joya de Ceren Archaeological Park in San Juan Ópico, El Salvador, is a kind of profanation to the spirit of the ancestors. Many of us do not think alike, and believe that the mural has given a new shine to that extraordinary place.

Because in El Salvador there has not been a constructive debate on the social uses of heritage, the idea prevails that the valuation of the past is an exclusive power of historians, archaeologists and restorers. But we must not forget that artists have a central role in this task. In this case, design in its many branches, is crucial so that more people appreciate and preserve their patrimonial heritage; as García Canclini says so that “the past has a future”.

The mural offers a version of the destruction of the ancient settlement of Joya de Ceren by a volcanic eruption, which occurred in the seventh century AC, with iconography sustained on the graph of the old village artisans. The enhancement of Joya de Ceren’s World Heritage, happens, among other reasons, for the need of the historian and archaeologist’s account to intersect and be combined with the artist’s.

El Salvador has a rich cultural heritage that is still undervalued and under enhanced. In part, because the matter has been addressed with a conservationist strategy. Cultural policy has a huge challenge to be linked conceptually to other networks, such as tourism, mass communication, entertainment, and with the social context of inequality and poverty that serves as a framework. This will open to us the possibilities offered by new languages, including art, so that the past matters to us, so that it becomes actual. (8/30/14)

Children’s book: The Village that was Buried by an Erupting Volcano by @fridalarios

Design, El Salvador, Frida Larios, Language, New Maya Language, Washington DC

Publicado para los niños y niñas de mesoamérica el 6 de marzo de 2014 por la Dirección Nacional de Patrimonio Cultural, Secretaría de Cultura de la Presidencia, con el apoyo de Boquitas DIANA de Centroamérica./Published for all Mesoamerican boys and girls on march 6, 2014 by the Dirección Nacional de Patrimonio Cultural, Secretaría de Cultura de la Presidencia, with the support of DIANA de Centroamérica.

Versión trilingüe: español, inglés y pictoglifos© del Nuevo Lenguaje Maya©. Con una actividad de cortar, pegar y crear pictoglifos©/Trilingual version: English, Spanish and New Maya Language© pictoglyphs©. With a cut, paste and pictoglyph© creation activity.

La Aldea que fue Sepultada por un Volcán en Erupción es la verdadera historia acerca de una comunidad de población Indígena maya que fue sepultada y preservada por ceniza volcánica por casi 1500 años. Abriendo con un prefacio del Dr. Payson Sheets, arqueólogo del sitio, fue escrita e ilustrada por Larios. La narrativa fue inspirada en su primer hijo Yax (el Niño Verde) y el sitio arqueológico Patrimonio de la Humanidad de UNESCO: Joya de Cerén. 

The Village that was Buried by an Erupting Volcano is the real story about a community of Maya Indigenous peoples buried and preserved under volcanic ash for nearly 1500 years. Opening with a foreword by the site’s archaeologist, Payson Sheets, PhD, it was written and illustrated by Larios. The narrative was inpired by her first son Yax (the Green Child) and the UNESCO World Heritage Joya de Cerén archaeological site. 
PREFACIO

Estoy contento y honrado de escribir un prefacio al maravilloso libro de niños de Frida Larios sobre el antiguo pueblo maya de Joya de Cerén. Debido a que personas de todas la edades vivían y jugaban en su pueblo Maya hace unos 1400 años, desde bebés y niños hasta los adultos y las personas mayores, es oportuno que la información sobre la vida en la aldea se difunda a los salvadoreños y de todas las edades. Estoy profundamente satisfecho de que Frida Larios ha escrito e ilustrado este libro para que los niños pueden aprender sobre su herencia profunda desde hace tantos siglos. En Joya de Cerén vemos las raíces de las familias salvadoreñas de hoy. Y las necesidades básicas
de las familias de hoy en día son muy parecidas a las de ayer, ya que los padres necesitan alimentar y vestirse a ellos mismos y sus hijos, y proporcionar refugio. Ellos necesitan almacenar y procesar los alimentos, y tienen que cooperar con sus vecinos para el mejoramiento de todos. Es mi esperanza que este cautivante libro sea ampliamente disponible para los salvadoreños y otros que visitan el sitio arqueológico, y en muchos otros lugares en todo el país. Todos tenemos una deuda de gratitud con Frida Larios.

Payson Sheets, PhD
Profesor del Departamento de Antropología Universidad de Colorado, Boulder, EE. UU.

FOREWORD

I am pleased and honored to write a foreword to Frida Larios’ wonderful child’s book about the ancient Maya village of Joya de Ceren. Because all ages of people lived and played in their Maya village about 1400 years ago, from babies and children to adults and the elderly, it is appropriate that information about life in the village be disseminated to Salvadorans of all ages today. I am deeply gratified that Frida Larios has written and illustrated this book so children can learn about their deep heritage from so many centuries ago. At Joya de Ceren we see the roots of Salvadoran families of today. And the basic needs of today’s families are much like those of today, as parents need to feed and clothe themselves and their children, and provide shelter. They need to store and process food, and they need to cooperate with their neighbors for the betterment of all. It is my hope that this compelling book be widely available to Salvadorans and others that visit the archaeological site, and in many other venues all across the country. We all owe a debt of gratitude to Frida Larios.

Payson Sheets, Phd
Professor, Department of Anthropology University of Colorado, Boulder, USA 

Front Cover

Front Cover

End paper

End paper

Foreword

Foreword

Story page 1

Story page 1

Bio and summary

Bio and summary

End paper

End paper

Taller en el sitio

Taller en el exterior del Centro de Interpretación del parque arqueológico de Joya de Cerén con niños del Colegio Alfonsina Storni del Sitio del Niño

Taller en el sitio

Taller en el exterior del Centro de Interpretación del parque arqueológico de Joya de Cerén con niños del Colegio Alfonsina Storni del Sitio del Niño

Edición

Edición

My blog’s 2013 in review

Design, Frida Larios, Honduras, Tegucigalpa, Washington DC

The WordPress.com stats helper monkeys prepared a 2013 annual report for this blog.

Here’s an excerpt:

A New York City subway train holds 1,200 people. This blog was viewed about 7,600 times in 2013. If it were a NYC subway train, it would take about 6 trips to carry that many people.

Click here to see the complete report.

Mandela en Xibalbá: una visión gráfica de Frida Larios

Africa, Art, Design, El Salvador, Frida Larios, Graphic Design, Honduras, Language, New Maya Language, South Africa, Tegucigalpa, Tyler Orsburn

95 years, 95 posters: Frida Larios poster selected for the #Mandela Poster Project Collection

Africa, Art, El Salvador, Frida Larios, Graphic Design, Honduras, Language, New Maya Language, South Africa, Tegucigalpa, Tyler Orsburn

Emerging-Underworld-Serpent-2-OUT-01  Photo courtesy of Eyescape 976336_486329781451007_1499123082_o 1072602_486329108117741_528142740_o Luis Yañez (Mexico) 1074829_485817071502278_842916305_o Alexis Tapia (Mexico) University of Pretoria  Photo courtesy of University of Pretoria  Photo courtesy of Ben Curtis.  Photo courtesy of Ben Curtis.  Photo courtesy of Ben Curtis.  Judge Yvonne Mokgoro, chairwoman  of the Nelson Mandela Children's Fund  Photo courtesy of Eyescape© 057444

Pretoria, South Africa – In May 2013, a group of South African designers came up with than idea to celebrate the life of Nelson Mandela by collecting 95 exceptional posters from around the world, honouring Madiba’s lifelong contribution to humanity.

The independent team of volunteers, now known as the Mandela Poster Project Collective, gave freely of their time and expertise to make the exceptional happen: In 60 days more than 700 posters were submitted by designers from more than 70 countries. The collection was curated and 95 posters (representing 95 years of Madiba’s life) will be exhibited around the world and will eventually be auctioned by the Nelson Mandela Children’s Hospital Trust to raise funds. In lieu of the high calibre of works received, it was felt more works needed to be showcased than the original 95. Plans are underway for a limited edition publication showcasing 500 of the posters submissions. The collective echoes the sentiments of South Africa’s beloved former president when he said “a good head and a good heart are always a formidable combination.”

Selected designers for the Mandela Poster Project 95 exhibition collection:

Abbas Majidi (Iran)
Aimilios Galipis (Greece)
Alan Grobler (South Africa)
Albina Aleksiunaite (Lithuania)
Alessandro Di Sessa (Italy)
Alexis Tapia (Mexico)
Ana Ivette Valenzuela (Mexico)
Ana Paula Caldas (Brazil)
Anton Odhiambo (Kenya)
Aubin A Sadiki (Democratic Republic of the Congo/South Africa)
Bibi Seck (USA)
Bradley Kirshenbaum (South Africa)
Brenda Sanderson (Canada)
Bruno Porto (Brazil)
Byoung il Sun (South Korea)
Carlos Andrade (Venezuela)
Celesté Burger (South Africa)
Charis Tsevis (Greece)
Claudia Tello (Mexico)
COP Youth Congress (Trinidad and Tobago)
Cristina Chiappini (Italy)
David Copestakes (USA)
David Iker Sanchez (USA)
David Tartakover (Israel)
David Teveth (Israel)
Derek Flynn (Canada)
Diego Giovanni Bermúdez Aguirre (Colombia)
Dominic Evans (South Africa)
Don Ryun Chang (South Korea)
Eduard Čehovin (Slovinia)
Elizabeth Resnick (USA)
Ellen Shapiro (USA)
Fabio Do Prado (UK)
Fabio Testa (Brazil)
Félix Beltrán (Mexico)
Fernando Andreazi (Brazil)
Frances Frylinck (South Africa)
Francesco Mazzenga (Italy)
Frida Larios (Honduras/El Salvador)
Gareth Steele (South Africa)
Garth Walker (South Africa)
Germán Jiménez Pinilla (Colombia)
Gyula Gefin (Canada)
Hervé Matine (France)
Hon Bing-wah (China)
Interbrand Shanghai (Sijing Chen, Hung Hsiang, Miaojie Li, Chuan Jiang) (China)
Interbrand New York (USA) (Craig Stout, Ross Clugston, Jessica Vernick)
Interbrand New York (USA) (Annalisa Van Den Bergh, Kristin Labahn)
Ithateng Mokgoro (South Africa)
Jacques Lange (South Africa)
Jacqui Morris (South Africa)
Jasveer Sidhu (Malaysia)
Javier Bulacio (Argentina)
Jeffrey Rikhotso (South Africa)
Jimmy Ball (USA)
Joël Guenoun (France)
José Luis Hernández “Chepe” (Mexico)
Juan Madriz (Venezuela)
Kyosuke Nishiada (Canada)
Lauriel Coscia (South Africa)
Lavanya Asthana (India)
Levente Szabo (Belgium)
Lin You Ting (Taiwan)
Lola Coudignac (France)
Luis Yañez (Mexico)
Majid Abbasi (Iran)
Marcelo Aflalo (Brazil)
Marco Cannata (South Africa)
Marco Tóxico (Bolivia)
Maria Papaefstathiou (Greece)
Marian Bantjes (Canada)
Martin Joel (Botswana)
Mervyn Kurlansky (Denmark/UK/South Africa)
Mohammed Jogie (South Africa)
Najeeb Mahmood (India)
Onica Lekuntwane (Botswana)
Onur Kuran (Turkey)
Pepe Menéndez (Cuba)
Rafael Nascimento (Brazil)
Rafiq Elmansy (Egypt)
Robert L. Peters (Canada)
Roberto Vilchis (China)
Roy Villalobos (USA)
Russell Kennedy (Australia)
Sally Chambers (South Africa)
Sindiso Nyoni (aka R!OT) (Zimbabwe/South Africa)
Sophia SHIH (Taiwan)
Steve Rayner (South Africa)
Sulet Jansen (South Africa)
Theo Kontaxis (Greece)
Thomas Blankschøn (Germany)
Travis Kennedy (Australia)
Unnikrishna Menon Damodaran (Bahrain)
Vesna Brekalo (Slovenia)
Vitor Andrade (Brazil)
Wessel Matthews (South Africa)
William Taylor (South Africa)
Zarina Mendoza (USA)

Mandela Poster Project collection traveling exhibitions:

– University of Pretoria, Department of Visual Arts, Main Campus, 18–26 July 2013

– The exhibition is at HP head office in Johannesburg until 10 August (printed version – viewing by invitation only)

– TEDxJohannesburg, 15 August (digital version – only accessible to registered delegates)

– Open Design Expo, Cape Town City Hall, 21-31 August (printed version – open to the public)

– SA Innovation Summit, IDC Johannesburg, 27-28 August (digital version – only accessible to registered delegates)

– Johannesburg City Library, 1-30 September (printed version – open to the public)

– Arts Alive 2013, Zoo Lake & Mary Fitzgerald Square, Johannesburg, 1-7 September (digital version – open to the public)

More international venues and dates to be announced soon.

Website: mandelaposterproject.org
Facebook: Mandela Poster Project

“L’alphabet maya des temps modernes” Section #Culture–Courrier international–no 1166 du 7-13 mars 2013 #NewMayaLanguage

Copan, Design, El Salvador, Frida Larios, Graphic Design, Language, New Maya Language, Paris, Sustainable Design

“Communiquer aujourd’hui en recyclant les pictogrammes précolombiens : c’est le projet ambitieux dans lequel s’est lancée la graphiste salvadorienne Frida Larios.” CourierInternational.com

Courrier International Spread 1

L’artiste salvadorienne Frida Larios s’est lancée dans un projet ambitieux : revisiter les hiéroglyphes précolombiens pour leur insuffler une nouvelle signification.

Poussée par le désir de s’extraire du quotidien, et lassée du minimalisme qui envahissait Londres [où elle était installée], la designer salvadorienne Frida Larios s’est lancée dans l’élaboration d’un “nouveau langage maya”. Elle a conçu un système visuel et conceptuel inspiré du système d’écriture précolombien. Pour cela, elle a redessiné les symboles ancestraux pour les adapter à la vie moderne, en remplaçant un élément du signifié par un autre, identifiable par nos contemporains.
Pour démarrer son projet [qui visait à l’origine à composer une nouvelle signalétique pour des sites archéologiques précolombiens], elle s’est entourée d’anthropologues et de chercheurs. Un lieu l’a beaucoup inspirée : l’Hacienda San Lucas, dans la ville de Copán [dans l’ouest du Honduras], située sur les ruines de la grande cité précolombienne de Copán. Sur place, s’enthousiasme-t-elle, flotte encore la présence sensible de Yax Kuk Mo, le premier roi de Copán [Ve siècle].
Ce travail a abouti à un premier livre, intitulé Nuevo lenguaje maya [“nouveau langage maya”, inédit en français]. Frida Larios y retrace l’histoire du site archéologique de Joya de Cerén, situé au Salvador. L’ouvrage passe également en revue toute une série d’articles textiles, de bijoux, de jouets éducatifs et de logos de marque que la designer a créés en s’inspirant des pictogrammes mayas. Les dix années qu’elle a passé hors du Salvador ne l’empêchent pas d’avoir une opinion bien arrêtée sur la façon dont le pays gère son héritage culturel.

Comment est-ce possible, alors que l’on réside à Londres, de se prendre d’intérêt pour la civilisation maya ?
C’est vrai, la culture précolombienne est la dernière chose à laquelle on pense quand on est à Londres. Mais la capitale britannique compose un environnement si avant-gardiste, si prompt à casser les codes, ancré dans une tradition artistique si particulière… C’est ce qui m’a donné envie de défis. En 2004, quand j’ai pris la décision de me consacrer aux hiéroglyphes, j’en avais assez du minimalisme ambiant. D’où ma décision de travailler sur les formes mayas, qui sont naturelles, organiques, riches de symbolisme – tout ce qui me fascine dans l’art précolombien.

Vous dites n’être experte ni en hiéroglyphes ni en anthropologie. Sur qui avez-vous pu compter pour vous imprégner du côté mystique de ce langage symbolique ?
C’est ma passion. J’avais déjà cette préoccupation quand j’ai fondé mon agence de design graphique il y a dix ans, ici au Salvador. J’avais un style inspiré du folklore, qui a par la suite fait école. Il est arrivé un moment où j’ai décidé d’arrêter le design pour me consacrer entièrement à mon “nouveau langage maya”. Je sens que je pourrais aller plus loin encore, dans une certaine mesure, être plus moderne. Mais, en même temps, la composante pédagogique du projet me contraint à une certaine clarté et concision.

Quels sont vos projets pour la suite ?
Dans mon livre, je présente déjà quelques transpositions de hiéroglyphes mayas à des fins commerciales. Je travaille aussi à un second volume, qui sera consacré aux dieux du monde souterrain. Mais franchement il y a des millions de sources d’inspiration possibles. Pour le volume en chantier, je n’ai pu étudier que les vases, je ne suis donc pas partie de hiéroglyphes classiques. Par
exemple, les chauves-souris y sont représentées de diverses façons, mais avec des traits récurrents, comme les taches du jaguar.

Vous dites n’être experte ni en hiéroglyphes ni en anthropologie. Sur qui avez-vous pu compter pour vous imprégner du côté mystique de ce langage symbolique ?
J’ai rencontré plusieurs chercheurs du British Museum qui travaillent sur le sujet. J’ai également suivi un cours avec Timothy Laughton, professeur à l’université de l’Essex, en Angleterre, qui m’a aussi conseillée pour mon projet. Par ailleurs, vivre à Copán m’a été très utile, parce que c’est le lieu de travail de nombreux chercheurs et anthropologues. Pouvoir parler avec eux a été très enrichissant, pour moi qui viens du monde des arts et du design.

Pourquoi vous êtes-vous d’abord intéressée au site Joya de Cerén ?
Tout d’abord, parce que le site se trouve au Salvador et que des gens ordinaires vivaient là. Il ne s’agissait pas de grands temples où avaient lieu les rituels officiels. Ce site donne à voir des aspects de la vie quotidienne, auxquels M. et Mme Tout-le- Monde peuvent plus facilement s’identifier.

Cette trame narrative aide à la compréhension du site. Comment avez-vous procédé pour
élaborer votre “nouveau langage maya”?
J’ai commencé par établir un classement des hiéroglyphes. Je les ai redessinés et vectorisés, mais sans leur donner de couleurs. Cela m’a servi de point d’entrée dans la pensée maya, pour initier un processus d’empathie avec l’artiste. Ensuite, des impératifs de la communication se sont imposés,
car il s’agissait de dessiner des logos. Il était impensable pour moi d’utiliser à ce moment une signalétique universelle. Les idées me sont venues naturellement, de la volonté de faire revivre l’Histoire à travers la signalétique locale. Par exemple, dans leur langage, le hiéroglyphe d’un volcan
en éruption n’existait pas, mais il y avait des sous-hiéroglyphes pour le composer. Je m’en suis servi pour créer de nouvelles combinaisons, de nouvelles compositions, et leur donner un sens plus fort.

Que voulez-vous dire par “empathie de l’artiste” ?
C’est ce que j’appelle l’oeil du créateur, il voit plus loin qu’un individu lambda. Dans ce cas précis, il s’agissait de percevoir les intentions des artistes mayas, mais à la lumière de recherches épigraphiques réalisées en amont. Il y a des signes qui ressemblent à quelque chose mais en désignent une autre : par exemple, ce hiéroglyphe qui montre un enfant à la tête fendue, aux airs
de petit homme, désigne en fait la naissance du maïs… Tout est comme ça chez les Mayas : tout est dans la mythologie, dans la métaphore, dans la sémantique. Et c’est pour cela qu’avoir vécu à Copán m’a aidée. C’est comme si les Mayas habitaient toujours le lieu. On a le sentiment que Yax Kuk Mo, le premier roi de Copán, continue de régner en maître. Des lecteurs ont pleuré en découvrant mon livre : pour eux, c’est comme s’il ouvrait une fenêtre sur quelque chose qu’ils ne comprenaient pas.

A quoi attribuez-vous le peu d’empressement de l’Etat salvadorien à diffuser l’histoire culturelle du pays ?
Il n’existe aucune volonté en ce sens. Prenons l’exemple du système d’écriture des Mayas. Ils ont fonctionné pendant cinq cents ans avec un mode de communication commun à toute la Méso-Amérique. Aujourd’hui, pour défendre ce patrimoine, il faudrait que tous les ministères de la
Culture concernés par cette région décident de coordonner leurs efforts.

—María Luz Nóchez

Repéres Frida Bio