SCOPE Magazine publication: A world of icons, not alphabets

Art, Design, Frida Larios, Language, New Maya Language, Toronto

Via SCOPE Magazine in Toronto, Canada. Written by I. Garrick Mason

Frida Larios SCOPE Magazine

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.

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Ron James Canadian Comedian Praise

Art, Copan, Frida Larios, New Maya Language, Toronto

Ron James, TV-show host and writer, acquired two of my paintings: Planting Seeds and Crop Harvesting. He wrote a beautiful note on my guest book:

I’m taking a window on the Mayan soul back to Toronto thanks to you and your exemplary talent. What a corner of Paradise you capture with your work! Inspired, unique and accessible (not ‘democratic’. See I listen!)

Thank you –– Ron James

You can learn about his show and up-coming tour here.

This entry was posted in DESIGN by A Theron.

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.

Beautiful quote

Frida Larios

I am sharing with you this note left on my guest-book by a charming Hacienda San Lucas guest this past weekend:

Dear Frida,

In an era where the wealth of knowledge and wisdom, reflected in ‘language’ is dying at an alarming rate, it is refreshing, encouraging and inspiring to see and view your dedication to creating a modern day Mayan language.

Your insight and beautiful art will make a difference.

Best Regards

Steve Gillick
President & C.O.O
The Canadian Institute of Travel Counsellors

My art in Toronto, Canada

Frida Larios

The Carlton’s purchased three of my original paintings at Hacienda San Lucas and after refurbishing the dining area and commissioning a new hand-made table, this is how they were framed.

“This is what everyone that comes into our home will now see as they walk in.  We have gone from the old county look to the new Central American look … We love your work and you have made our home more welcoming and full of love.  Thank you for the wonderful artwork.”

Dining Room

From left to right Ixchel Goddess, Supernatural Portal and Hacienda San Lucas symbol