(CLOCKWISE FROM FAR LEFT) Iban Tattoos by Ernesto Kalum; Karijini National Park Visitor Centre by David Lancashire; The Teraph Cabinet series by Helmut Lueckenhausen; Green Child Puzzle by Frida Larios
“In the process of globalisation, everybody is losing a bit of his individuality … It is very timely for us designers to explore this issue – to rediscover who we are, and to celebrate our unique heritage. Let us take a step back so that we can go forward.” Russell Kennedy, Icograda past president.
Frida Larios is an Ambassador for INDIGO – the International Indigenous Design Network. Originally from San Salvador, Larios was inspired by Maya heritage, especially in the ancient Maya hieroglyphs. Her work during her postgraduate study gave birth to the “New Maya Language,” a set of twenty-three hieroglyphs that tells the story of her studied site, the Joya de Cerén UNESCO World Heritage Archaeological Site. The design process of “New Maya Language” involved streamlining the iconography of the ancient writing system and combining it with a modern visual vocabulary to create a standardised pictogram system that is comprehensible to contemporary audience. The result is a set of modern yet ancestral icons that is versatile in various applications: 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. Larios says that:
“by reviving and celebrating the Maya cultural and visual identity, the ‘New Maya Language’ can inspire current and future generations and bring new life to the sacred stones.”
In keeping with the intention of safeguarding traditional culture, Larios has fostered close collaboration with indigenous craftsmen to produce items using local resources. www.fridalarios.com
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.