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Kata-Kata 2100: How will our language change in the next century?

The highlight of Johor Bahru Writers & Film Festival 2017 for us is this exhibition of language’s beauty and history! Kata-Kata 2100 will be running from the 20th of October until the 18th of November 2017 at Big Bites Cafe

7Gianluca Menini, an Italian service designer, and Sarah Ahmad, a Malaysian artist designer both came together to form Something Meaningful – a creative studio that pushes the envelope of information transmission by exploring the artistry of digital and physical spaces. At the core of Kata-Kata 2100 is an exploration of one of humanity’s central cause for scientific advancement, beauty and conflict – language.

In a country like Malaysia, where colonization and trade has been a significant part of our history, language and culture is a rich yet nebulous being, as elements from disparate civilizations come together to give birth to an entirely new form of spoken and written identity. From being the lingua franca of South East Asia, to “deyh macha, let’s go makan and yumcha!

KATA-KATA 2100 brings to light this evolution through the usage of floating words dangling at the end of the strings as though signifying the flimsy nature of linguistics. There is something oddly cathartic and perspective in seeing words like alamak suspended in mid-air amidst a cacophony of vocabulary from across all languages.

We got to talk to Sarah Ahmad to get her insight on the exhibition:

What is your favourite example of how much language has evolved so far?

What I absolutely love about the modern Malaysian language is actually our everyday use of Manglish! I know that many people might think that it’s just slang that butchers our traditional Malay language but Manglish is a representation of the diversity of our country. No where in the world can you combine 4 languages and make up a sentence that Malaysians will understand! Here’s an example: “Dey macha, jom yumcha later ok?” In this sentence alone, we have Tamil, Malay, Mandarin and English! That’s amazing!KATA-KATA 2

Does social media actually erode language?

I don’t think that social media is the cause of any language erosion to be honest. It’s merely a tool that’s used to express our cultures and styles of communication within our communities.

Also, based on our own research and observation, the way we type online or via message is really how we usually communicate through speech. Nobody has the time and patience nowadays to sit down and write messages with full grammatical precision! I think sooner or later, we won’t even have to type. It might just be speech-lead, or mostly visual images.

How did you and Gianluca meet and what’s the history behind Something Meaningful?

Gian and I are both personal, business and creative partners. He’s from Italy, I’m from KL and we both met 4 years ago while studying our masters in service design in Glasgow School of Art in Scotland.

Something Meaningful came about as an idea that we both wanted to bring more meaning to our work outside of our client-based design practice. As creatives, we have big ideas and plans but we felt like we didn’t have a platform to express this freely. We are also passionate about working with people from all sorts of communities to create beautiful things! So with this in mind, almost 2 years ago, we began researching, conceptualizing, designing and making art, which resulted in the birth of our brain-child, Something Meaningful.

Something Meaningful is still a young studio/platform that’s constantly developing but we want to grow in and with the ever-evolving creative landscape, and essentially achieve our goals of making meaningful things!

Should dying languages be left to extinction, or should there be active efforts to preserve them?

I’m kind of stuck in the middle about this one because it’s a shame when a language disappears, however it’s wonderful when everyone speaks one language and understands each other!

I think the best answer would be that it’s inevitable that certain languages will die as the modern world progresses, however it’s important that we as citizens of a community acknowledge, learn, understand and preserve the roots of the languages they speak. Language is not just a means of communication, it’s a culture and one of the representations of society. If we don’t acknowledge this, we will lose our identity. But we also shouldn’t be stubborn and not learn new ways of communication. We have to be clever and work in parallel to modern methods of communication.

Johor Bahru’s Writers & Film Festival will be held from 20 – 28 October. To find out more, check out their website!


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