This painting is inspired by my work as a Research Assistant in UNC Asheville’s Languages & Literatures department, through which I helped professor Dr. Kelly Biers with his language preservation/documentation project involving the segmentation and annotation of Walloon, an endangered language. This process, in addition to my interest in sociolinguistics and recent reading of ‘Linguistic Imperialism’ by Robert Phillipson, prompted me to process the intersection of linguistic diversity and human rights through visual artwork.
In the background, black bars are formed by a jumble of red letters symbolizing the violently constrictive act of banning a language. Although harmful language policies are implemented around the world, the letters in the painting are made up of the Latin alphabet to highlight the especially longstanding history of linguistic oppression for the promotion of colonial languages such as English, at the expense of numerous Indigenous languages. The strands of sound waves move freely through the bars and wrap around the hand, signifying the powerful relationship between humans and freedom of communication. Against systemic linguistic exclusion and oppression, the universal human right to self expression and accessible communication must always be valued, protected, and revered.
Eleanor Maybury is a French major and Management Minor at UNC Asheville and served on the editorial board.