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Using art to preserve an endangered language

Posted by Kevin Hartnett  October 7, 2013 01:10 PM

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How do you preserve a language that's in danger of being forgotten? Turn it into art. The Sherman Gallery at Boston University is currently running an exhibition of works by Moroccan artist Hamid Kachmar, who for twenty years has been using his paintings to help keep alive an embattled, indigenous language. Tifinagh is the ancient script of the Berbers, a minority ethnic group in Morocco to which Kachmar belongs. Tifinagh has been suppressed historically in Morocco, but Kachmar makes the script's intricate symbols the main element of his colorful art. In some pieces, like the first one below, "Timitar 1 Symbols in Symbiosis," the symbols are presented in neat fashion, as if they were being catalogued. In others, like the bottom image, "Tafsut Berber Spring," Kachmar uses the symbols in more abstract form, to create images that evoke the Berber language's complicated place in Moroccan culture.

"Hamid Kachmar: Reviving the Ancient Tifinagh Script" runs at the Sherman Gallery from September 6-October 20.

kachmar 2.jpeg

kachmar 1.jpeg

Images courtesy of the Boston University College of Fine Arts.

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About brainiac Brainiac is the daily blog of the Globe's Sunday Ideas section, covering news and delights from the worlds of art, science, literature, history, design, and more. You can follow us on Twitter @GlobeIdeas.
Brainiac blogger Kevin Hartnett is a writer in Columbia, South Carolina. He can be reached here.

Leon Neyfakh is the staff writer for Ideas. Amanda Katz is the deputy Ideas editor. Stephen Heuser is the Ideas editor.

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Guest blogger Ruth Graham is a freelance journalist in New Hampshire, and a frequent Ideas contributor. She is a former features editor for the New York Sun, and has written for publications including Slate and the Wall Street Journal.

Joshua Rothman is a graduate student and Teaching Fellow in the Harvard English department, and an Instructor in Public Policy at the Harvard Kennedy School of Government. He teaches novels and political writing.


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