This profile is part of a series of interviews chronicling the experiences of researchers who use The New York Public Library’s collections for the development of their work.
The interview was conducted by Dr. Lyudmila Sholokhova, Curator of the Dorot Jewish Division. It was originally posted on the NYPL blog, July 5, 2022.
The visitor’s book of The Jewish Palestine Pavilion at the 1939 New York World’s Fair.
Malayalam language, spoken predominantly in the south Indian state of Kerala has an alphasyllabary writing system. Like other Brahmic scripts, the consonant-vowel sequences is written as a single unit- the consonant letter being the base and the vowel notation secondary. The u and uː vowel signs of Malayalam modifies the shape of the associated base consonants (or consonant clusters, called conjuncts). This article discusses various ways in which the shape of consonants get modified when followed by the vowel signs, u and uː.
The orthographic script style of Malayalam was reformed or simplified in the year 1971 by this government order. A detailed analysis of its reasons and its impact on popular culture is available here. The reformed orthography is what is taught in schools. The textbook content is also in the reformed style. The prevailing academic situation does not facilitate the students to learn the exhaustive and rich orthographic set of Malayalam script. At the same time they observe a lot of wall writings, graffiti, billboards and handwritings that follow the exhaustive orthographic set.
The sign marks for the vowels ഉ and ഊ (u and uː) have many diverse forms in the exhaustive orthographic set when joined with different consonants. But in the reformed style, they are always detached from the base consonant with a unique form as ു and ൂ respectively for the vowel sounds u and uː. Many native Malayalam speakers learn to read both of these orthographic variants either from school or from everyday observations. But while writing the styles, they often get mixed up as seen below.
u-sign forms on wall writings
with Noto Sans Regular in Latin, Chinese and Nüshu
一岁女，手上珠 (One year girl, hands with pearl) by Gao Yinxian 高银仙 (1902–1990)
Reading time: 15min
Note: To avoid any confusion in word meaning, I will use the following contractions: Chinese as Chinese spoken language. Hanzi as Chinese written characters (汉字). Nüshu as Nüshu script. Nüshu script as it is sounds redundant, as Nü (where the ü is pronounced like a French [u]) means ‘woman’ (女), and shū (书 – meaning more commonly ‘book’ but also ‘script’) stands for script already. Tuhua as local dialects (explanations further below).
In these modern times, literacy is something that we take for granted, and for (almost) everyone across the globe. All throughout human history, writing systems play an essential role to its evolution. The knowledge of writing and reading is something that we imagine accessible to all in a utopic world, with no barriers, bringing societies further and better… But obviously and unfortunately, it hasn’t been this way. There must have been solutions through the ages, around the world, created and developed out of a practical need, but very few of them become general knowledge, reach our times, or are in the spotlight.
‘Do you have at hand a list of women type designers?’ ‘can you give me a list of typefaces designed by women?’ ‘Is there a bibliography about works related to women in type?’ We all have received this kind of questions at one point or another, but here in Alphabettes we didn’t have a page or a blog entry listing this kind of material. This is an un-organised list of resources all related to women in type that anyone can use. Continue reading
This is the beginning of a bibliography of women in type. It was initially based in two main works, Julian Moncada’s and Laura Webber’s respective MA theses, but it has grown since then.
The first question when making a bibliography is what is this for? who is it going to help? This list might be useful for anyone researching the history and the roles of women in printing, design and type design. It could also be helpful to understand the contemporary situation of women in type. But also, for anyone who wants to research a particular type design. The list has been organised in three main categories, design, print and type. Continue reading
This is the last part of the series, “What does a feminist graphic design history in the United States look like? Read Part 3 here, Part 2 here and Part 1 here.
Because the assumption of universal and pseudo-neutral design is ultimately blind to nuances, visual alternatives emerged from countercultures. During the second wave feminism movement in particular, feminist design aimed to engage and connect in an experimental, interdisciplinary, participatory, non-hierarchical and non-authoritarian way, which broke the principles of the existing male value-constructs of “good” design. It is exciting to think of how design could be more egalitarian by discovering these alternative universes with those who were left out of design history.
Faith Ringgold, Woman Freedom Now, 1971, Accessed March 21, 2020: https://www.moma.org/collection/works/202866
This is Part 3 of the series, “What does a feminist graphic design history in the United States look like? Read Part 2 here and Part 1 here.
Early moderns from design reform to new typography created and followed rigid guidelines to define “good” design. When researching women in typography, I found that Elizabeth Friedlander is considered one of the first women to design a typeface, Elizabeth Roman and Italic, commissioned by the Bauer Type Foundry in multiple weights in 1927. In addition, she produced multiple geometric patterned prints and covers for Penguin Books inspired from nature. Just like Friedlander, more women have had their work obscured to put forward those who followed the sacred words of Tschichold.
Elizabeth Colwell, Notes on Hand-lettering, September 1904, Accessed March 14, 2020: http://alphabettenthletter.blogspot.com/2016/03/creator-elizabeth-colwell.html
This is Part 2 of the series, “What does a feminist graphic design history in the United States look like?” Read Part 1 here.
In the 19th and early 20th centuries, technological advancements helped information spread fast and far. The industrial revolution led to the creation of mass media as well as romantic and revolutionary outcomes. The mechanization of print culture facilitated the geographical spread of belief systems and information as well as offered the possibility to critique, question and reject established models of society to serve women’s rights.
Emma Willard, Temple of Time, 1846. Accessed March 8, 2020: https://bostonraremaps.com/inventory/emma-willard-temple-of-time-1846
Why are women’s contributions to society systematically overlooked and obscured? Design is no exception to the rule. There is a disturbing lack of literature on women’s impact in the history of graphic design. During this year’s Women’s History Month, I will share a curated collection of twelve artifacts, from the fifteenth century through the twentieth century, that offer, from a feminist perspective, a counter visual story to the traditional white male and widely received narrative in graphic design history. Before diving into contextualizing this work, I want to briefly explain my position and how I came to focus my research on illuminating female narratives.
As individuals, we are all irradiating complex systems defined by society along with our nuanced multilayered identities. When I walk into a room, at the most superficial level, one can read that I am a woman. I am light skinned. I have tattoos. When I start talking, my French accent suggests that I am from another country than the United States. I am indeed from Morocco and I am Arab. Living in Morocco was violent in many ways. My gender was enough to be constantly harassed since I was a teen, judged on every single thing I did and ultimately made me feel like an outsider every day. I came across the word feminism in high school. It made me feel somewhat normal that my mindset was not unique. But I did not understand the divide within feminism at that time until very recently. I just knew I did not want to be subject to anything or anyone. Freedom (from patriarchy) has always been a fight to be my own person and fulfill my own purpose. As a result, my work will always have a feminist point of view.