The alphabet as ideographic art.

Author:Reynolds, Clarence V.
Position:Afrikan Alphabets: The Story of Writing in Afrika - Book Review

Afrikan Alphabets: The Story of Writing in Afrika by Saki Mafundikwa Mark Batty Publisher, May 2004 $34.95, ISBN 0-972-42406-7

Although the alphabet as we know it today was first scribbled down during the Middle Ages (the earliest known alphabet dates back to 1700 B.C.), Saki Mafundikwa believes there is yet room for another. His own artistic sensibilities propelled him into this realm of thought. As a graphic designer, typographer and teacher, Mafundikwa says that the "the letters and symbols we write with are extremely important to a visual communicator like me."

In Afrikan Alphabets, the author introduces a number of ideographs, pictographs and scripts devised and designed by Africans to express and represent a voice sound, a word, or an idea. His mason for researching and creating the book is not simply to present a now aesthetic, but to inform readers of the various African writing systems used to convey an action or a concept, and to represent the spirit of its users. (There is a brief though unfortunately unclear discussion about substituting the letter "k" for "c" in the word Africa.) And it makes sense, too, as other cultures (Arabic and Chinese come to mind) have used symbols and words that embody an idea or state of being for ages. Mafundikwa spent 20 years journeying from places such as Calabar, Cameroon, Havana, Lagos, London and Suriname to study the beliefs, cultures and religions of peoples from the...

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