Increasingly, more of my email interactions with Lulit, my language teacher, happen in Amharic. Lulit still needs to alert me to new vocabulary, but I can tell she's trying to make frequent use of words I already know to build my confidence. Early on, we decided to communicate using the Amharic fidel (ፊደል, "alphabet" or "letter") rather than transliterations of Amharic words.
|In this email, Lulit confirms our next lesson and wishes me a happy Friday.|
But even if Lulit's former student had learned the ፊደል, he could not have used it to text Lulit. While the Amharic script can be used on Apple laptops, the company does not support it for the iPhone or iPad. Lulit is starting a formal petition to get that changed, but in the meantime I sent my individual feedback (an "enhancement request") to Apple just a few days ago, asking that Amharic be readable across all its devices.
|I suppose somebody at Apple gets paid to read fringe feedback like this.|
|Luckily, I don't need to rely on my iPhone to schedule my lessons.|
|This Amharic keyboard is now conveniently accessible in my Bookmarks toolbar.|
"the first contemporary Ethiopian-born artist to use the script forms – fiedel [yet another spelling!] – of his native Amharic as a core element in his paintings and sculptures. This recognizable ‘signature’ emerges from the way he elongates, distorts, dissects and reassembles Amharic symbols – not as literal words – but as images that speak for themselves in a visual language accessible to international audiences."His visual language is certainly appealing to me. A few examples:
|The Color of Jazz|
Yet I am actually interested in the literal words Wosene uses, since it is a fun way to build my vocabulary and increase my fluency with the script. For instance, the painting above is clearly about New York. You can even see the word ታክሲ ("taxi") just left of center between the yellow and black checkered squares. Written on the bridge are the words ብሩክሊን ("Brooklyn") and አዋሽ ("Awash"), which, in addition to being a river entirely within the boundaries in Ethiopia, is a popular Ethiopian restaurant in NYC. In the blue section are the words ግም ውሃ ("bad smelling water"). I wonder if Wosene is implying he prefers life in the Bay Area, since the color of the bridge seems to reference the Golden Gate Bridge rather than any bridge in New York.
|Details from Lady Liberty|
"The more you look, the more you see." This was a favorite expression of a colleague of mine; she used to remind her teenage students of this 'truth' all the time. Another colleague who taught art would ask his students only two questions when he showed them a painting or sculpture: one was "What do you see?"; the other was "What else do you see?" I adopted these pedagogical techniques into my own teaching over time. Wosene has also worked with adolescents for a good part of his life, teaching them "The Pleasures and Danger of Learning to See." I even think he embeds the Amharic character ሲ ("see") in many of his paintings as a bi-cultural pun.
|Detail from Wax and Gold X|
|Ethiopian Grammar. 2001. Acrylic/Canvas. 19"x19"|
When I got home from my lesson, I immediately went on Wosene's website to see what his work costs. The offset lithographs are certainly affordable in the $200-400 range but I decided to buy his limited edition silk scarf for $40 (with free shipping!). It should arrive early next week.
|Perhaps this will add a splash of color to Suzanne's all-black outfits.|