CELEBRATING DIVERSITY IN TYPOGRAPHY & TEXT
Akurucon 2021 l Official Art Partner | ARTRA Magazine & Daily ARTRA
In the process of comprehending words and letters on paper, written down or typed up, on a billboard in advertising, a landmark, a signage post, one may register the visual creation of each character as a passing remark – but perceiving beyond the word or letter is to understand the identity it carries behind its aesthetic. A letter albeit just a lone figure is a fundamental figure in the foundation of communication, language and bridging culture. The Akuru Collective aims to then create a crucial conversation to celebrate the diversity of Sri Lanka’s multicultural scripts and its rich typographic context while creating the discussion of its past, present and future. From Sinhala and Tamil, Thaana, Arabic, to Chinese, the multi-ethnic country of Sri Lanka is an island of varying languages and across the island one often perceives the representation of these languages. How can these scripts be perceived for its own identity and celebrated for its differences? This year’s AkuruCon set out to achieve such intentions.
The Akuru Collective is an initiative founded upon the purpose of providing a structure for the Sri Lankan typography enthusiasts to meet and act together towards the common goal of inspiring interest and improving standards of typography in Sri Lanka. In its aim, the Akuru Collective functions with the key objective of nurturing talent and building an efficient and meaningful service to the people interested in typography, writing systems, languages and literature of South Asia and Southeast Asian regions. Thus, taking place for the second time this year, AkuruCon 2021, organized by the Akuru Collective set forth on its journey to celebrate the diversity of the Sri Lankan languages and its typographic differences. Throughout the month of August, the Akuru Collective hosted an array of events and workshops alongside the popular ’30 Days of Akuru’ challenge that garnered much attention from the public and typographers alike in the aim to promoting interest and appreciation for Sinhala and Tamil letterforms.
‘A Multilingual Sri Lanka’ subsequently became the theme to this year’s AkuruCon, held virtually. The programme was held through the month of August, each week addressing the gradual change in typeforms and language across history. Beginning with the Past and addressing the subjects of coevolution and coexistence of Sinhala and Tamil letters in the past throughout week 1 with speakers Senior lecturer at the University of Moratuwa, Dr. Sumanthri Samarawickrama and Prof. Udaya Kumar, Head of Department of Design at the IIT Guwahati, India widely recognized for being the designer of the Indian rupee symbol. Followed by ‘Multilingualism in Sri Lankan Advertising, Packaging and Branding’ of the Present by Co-founder of Bayroo Design Studio and, Nisayuru Basnayake, Creative Director at Splendor Media, Chanuka Wijayasinghe and panel moderator, Art director and publication designer, Leyanvi Mirando. During the last week of August, AkuruCon hosted programmes that addressed the future of the typographic forms of the diverse and multicultural languages of Sri Lanka; with talks by S.T. Nandasara, Dhanika Perera, Sunita Dangol from Nepal, Tharique Azeez and the Akuru Collective Team including Pathum Egodawatte.
“I’m trying to provide fonts for people to communicate with each other; basically trying to give each other equal opportunity to communicate with each other,” said Co-Founder of Akuru Collective and Mooniak Pathum Egodowatte when we conversed with him in recognizing the dynamic mediums of art for ARTRA Magazine May E43, 2019. In our conversation, we explored the ways in which he attempts to expand the font with a unique and dynamic ability to merge cultures through language and art. We found his work to be that of art, as he connects cultures through aesthetically fascinating interpretations of alphabets. Thus, such are the objectives of the Akuru Collective; a study on the ‘Cultural Considerations: Arabic Calligraphy and Latin Typography’ by Sherry Blankeship also analyse similarly the distinction between texts. The study mentions, “The purpose here is to explore the underlying ideas that contribute to the aesthetics and thinking behind these two languages in order to find new approaches to their application and use.” Similarly, when we conversed with Co-creator of ‘30 Days of Akuru’ Chamodi Waidyathilaka, she discussed the significance behind the use of a simple letter and the meaning it carries. She said, “It’s not about technique, or learning rules and regulations – it’s about playing around with shapes and sizes. When you draw a letter – it has a life of its own. Letters aren’t just for books, it’s a whole new world and an artistic expression. I want people to explore and unravel the beauty of it.”
Consequently, AkuruCon 2021 in its initiative to begin a larger conversation on the multi-ethnic pool of language in Sri Lanka and celebrating its diversity and difference, the conference opened a discussion on the evolution of typography of Sri Lanka, for as a community, society could collectively contribute to the ever-changing typographic landscape in a post pandemic digital era. In her study on the multicultural typography of two languages, Sherry Blankenship mentions “In order to work effectively within these writing systems, it is necessary to understand and accept their differences. Personal predilections and prejudices may interfere with the understanding of the perspectives of their respective practitioners. Only through an understanding of their richness and recognition of the benefits of their differences and variations, can we appreciate these writing systems.” The fluid distinction between each typeform and difference between the language allows for a larger field of understanding each letter carries about its origin and derivation – comprehending its use throughout time from its cultural standpoint to its use in the modern world. The Akuru Collective, through its initiatives and AkuruCon 2021 intends to educate the design community and keep the conversation flowing so that the very essence of human communication is not disregarded in the visual design process.
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