Fulani Student in Conakry, Guinea studies the ADLaM alphabet. Courtesy photo
SANTA FE ― The New Mexico Historic Museum and the Santa Fe Book Art group jointly host a lecture in June by Santa Fe resident and professional calligrapher Randall Hasson.
Hasson will recount the fascinating story of the creation of a new alphabet, of bringing the script into the digital world, and its spread at an astounding rate. Hasson’s serendipitous meeting with Ibrahima Barry, one of two brothers who invented and implemented a unique alphabetic writing system in present-day West Africa is the topic of the presentation on this remarkable endeavor.
The lecture is free and open to the public and is 6-7 p.m. Friday, June 15, at the New Mexico History Museum Auditorium at 113 Lincoln Ave., in Santa Fe.
With background on the Fulani people and their history, Hasson’s presentation brings into focus brothers Abdoulaye and Ibrahima Barry from Guinea who, at the ages of 10 and 14 respectively, decided to create an alphabet for their almost wholly illiterate culture. The alphabet is called ADLaM after its first four letters and is also an acronym for a phrase that translates to “the alphabet that will save a people from disappearing.”
From the creation of the original glyphs (characters) of the alphabet in 1994, to time spent in jail for publishing a newspaper opposed by the government, to teaching methodology for the people, to present-day encoding, the Barry brothers’ story is an amazing account of how this newly created writing system has developed literacy among a widespread people-group of sub-Saharan Africa. This isn’t 3,000-year-old history, but a living, vibrant and vital movement in our presenttime.