Bruly Bouabré's Alphabet
Directed by Nurith Aviv • Documentary • 2005 • 17 minutes
In the 1950's, Ivory Coast artist Frederic Bruly Bouabré created several hundred pictograms, based on one-syllable words in his language, Bété, to help people in the Bété community learn to read more quickly. Although some 600,000 Bétés live in the Ivory Coast, their language is not taught in schools, and all education is conducted in French.
Bouabré's 400 pictograms, in various combinations, provide a playful yet tangible method of instruction, as demonstrated in BRULY BOUABRE'S ALPHABET. As the now elderly Bouabré explains, his aim was to "form a specific African writing from scenes of human life." Today a small number of people continue to use Bruly's alphabet, and museums around the world have exhibited his drawings.
"[Bouabré's work] reveals the universal need to make some kind of sense of the confusions of contemporary politics and culture. But while… the symbols are bursting with data, interpretations are left entirely to the viewer. In the end, these herculean efforts to create order only confirm the elusiveness of genuine knowledge or certainty."- Art in America