Language is not only a product of human life—it is a pre-requisite that humans require to form relationships. As a fundamental form of expression, language binds us together.
But not all languages are spoken. A language can be visual—made up of complex ideas of truth deeply rooted in symbols, custom and imagery. 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 is a healing process—stimulating creative dialogue between indigenous and non-indigenous designers, students of design, poets and writers. Mother Tongue celebrates that underlying our languages, we are the same after all.
Mother Tongue also offers a forum for non-indigenous designers to respond to the position that indigenous language iconography, process and design knowledge can and should play an integral role in contemporary design.
Mother Tongue is a cross-cultural platform to open discussion around the role of contemporary indigenous design. It encourages collaborative projects that deepen our understanding of people’s culture in our visual world of this 21 century. Claude Levi-Strauss said that no one culture is more advanced than another, each is unique and there is much to learn from everyone.
“We need a culture shift. Can design reconcile differences? Does it hold this power? If design has the power to market products and services that make consumers consume, then I am sure it can. Let’s begin a journey of understanding—fostering a new respect for life, nature and the natural world. Let’s value the principles of truth, honesty, generosity, equity and kinship.”
—David Lancashire, Melbourne, Australia (from the Mother Tongue brief)
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INDIGO, the International Indigenous Design Network, has launched Mother Tongue, an innovative online exhibition that seeks to capture the power of language—verbal and visual, formal and informal. Intended to stimulate creative dialogue, Mother Tongue offers designers a forum to respond to the position that indigenous language iconography, process and design knowledge can and should play an integral role in contemporary design. This cross-cultural platform will honour languages at risk and encourage collaborative projects that deepen our understanding of people’s culture in our visual world of this 21st century.
Mother Tongue is an open, multi-disciplinary, online exhibition. You may submit multiple entries, but each submission must be a single piece. The form of response is yours to determine—a poster, a photograph, a poem, a product, a piece of architecture— that interprets the spirit of Mother Tongue.
Visit the Mother Tongue project page here. Download the Mother Tongue brief (484 KB PDF) here.
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Imagery: 1907 photograph of an Inuit/Inupiat woman; James Evans’ Cree syllabary developed in Norway House, Manitoba in 1841 (as a blend of Devangari script from India and the phonetic Pitman Shorthand from Britain)—this syllabary was later adapted by Edmund Peck to form the basis for the modern Inuktitut writing system.