There’s an exhibit called Voice and Void at the Aldrich right now, and former Yale professor Rachel Berwick has a piece of art up there called “may-por-e.”

See for the fascinating story of how the exhibit was put together: Bearers of a Lost Language by Sue Farlow, Issue 6, Sept.-Oct. 2002

“The proposed exhibit is a 10-foot-wide-by-10-foot-tall cylindrical aviary with translucent polypropylene walls and a central column of light illuminating it from within. Inside the aviary, Rachel wants to place a parrot that has been taught to speak Maypure, a South American language last uttered hundreds of years ago. Visitors to the exhibit will hear the parrot’s disembodied voice and glimpse its shadow, but won’t be able to actually see it. The idea is to focus visitors’ attention on the language being spoken.

“The end effect, Rachel hopes, will be not only a haunting live reproduction of words long gone, but the resurrection of a fantastic historical tale, too. According to legend, famed 18th-century explorer and naturalist Alexander von Humboldt was traveling along the Orinoco River in what is now Venezuela when he happened upon a Carib Indian tribe. When he asked his hosts why their pet parrots were speaking a dialect different from their own language, the Indians told von Humboldt the birds had belonged to the Maypure tribe, whom they had recently exterminated during tribal warfare. The birds were spoils of war. To von Humboldt’s amazement, the parrots were the last remaining speakers of the Maypure language.”

See and hear a video of the parrots at Berwick’s website.

Posted by: Tanya


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