Monday, July 4, 2011

Recreate/Houston/Reuse: Words On a Wall

Yesterday afternoon and evening, Robynn Sanders painted the first section of the 88 foot long basement corridor wall. We are working with recycling and all kinds of 're-words' in five languages, the concept being to reflect the cultural diversity in Houston and the universality of remaking, recycling and reinventing.
Now that I've just written the word 'reinventing,' it occurs to me that this word speaks directly, not only to diversity, but to the opportunity that Houston offers each of us to reinvent ourselves using individual talents and skills. So, this 88 foot wall does not only carry a recycling message. It goes further than that to say that in Houston, "We can reinvent both ourselves and our city. We can grow ourselves and our city." I may be getting a bit too metaphorical and poetic here, but you get what where this wall could go.
Here are photos from yesterday. Robynn has found it a challenge to use 'green' paint, as it seems to be thinner both on the wall and on the brush. It is definitely not lush and creamy.
Here's the palette she mixed. Blue for English, terra cotta for Spanish, red for Chinese, green for Vietnamese and teal for Arabic, plus a dose of gray for the recycling logo.
Here are the first two words or characters being painted. Spanish and Chinese.
Najwa, the wonderful lady who worked with me on Arabic translations, chuckled when she saw these two photos, because Phil is painting the Arabic from left to right. Arabic reads from right to left. Doesn't matter. Those who can read it, will move their eyes from right to left.
The genesis of this wall occurred last fall when I attended the ribbon cutting for Neighborhood Centers' new Gulfton campus, where I learned that their clients speak over 80 different languages. Wow! Gulfton is just one part of Houston, a microcosm of the whole. I loved the fact that so many languages are used right here in my city. What a gift.
I suppose I could have visited Gulfton to collect the word 'recycle' in 80 languages. I did not do that. But I did think about using more than English and Spanish words. I wrote a list of English words that begin with re-. It was easy to come up with nearly 50 in a few minutes time. In retrospect, it might have been fun to play with the Latin root word from whence so many of these words come from. I digress.
The making of this wall has been very much a collaborative experience. To obtain 're-words' in at least five languages, I reached out to friends who speak the language I wanted or have a friend who can. As things progressed, at least a dozen people were involved in making or confirming translations. I am still toying with adding in at least a word or two of French and Russian, both languages well represented in Houston. I may still call friends for one or two more words. After all, this wall is 88 feet long and a work in progress.
This wall has become an unexpected joy on which to work, because it involved so many Houstonians. What might have happened if we'd involved 100? I see another project down the road.