AGORA Magazine No.2 | Language

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APR. 20, 2021





For this second issue of AGORA, we focused on the theme of ‘Language’. We touched on the theme from various angles: we, of course, talked about spoken languages and how they interact with each other in our globalised world; but also how we curate the image we share to our private and professional circles; we lastly shared how art is universally understood regardless of language barriers. We believe that this second will top the first one. A key reason is that, while keeping our quality standard, we have added content and bump up the size to 64 pages. Another reason would be the process, we found a flexible system that gives us time to refine our works. We hope that this issue will be, for you, a quick and enjoyable read that you will revisit from time to time! — THE AGORA TEAM





Creative Direction • Editorial Design • Writing

Interviewed by Stanya


CHAN, Visual Art

Photographies of “Black Flags”, Arthur Jafa



Writing • Visual Art

ISABEL, 3D Art • Writing

LIZI, Writing

MARAWAN, Writing • Visual Art

MIRNA, Proofreading • Writing • Photography

MONICA, Writing, Visual Art

NATALIA, Writing, Visual Art

PAUL, Writing • Proofreading

STANYA, Writing

TAMTA, Writing • Visual Art

SCY, Writing

ZHENIA, Visual Art

Photographies of “Fons Americanus”, “Gone”, and portraits of Kara Walker, delivered by Sikkema Jenkins & Co.

HOWELL P., Photographies of “Rumors of War”, Kehinde Wiley, delivered by Virginia Museum of Fine Arts








CENSORSHIP 06–07 • 22–23 • 56–57













Let’s imagine a typical morning, an ordinary routine for many of us. As you are getting ready to start your day, whether it is school or work, or any other responsibility you are about to take on, you stand in front of the mirror and look at yourself. Is my hair okay? Do I look presentable? I need to brush my teeth. I should hide my dry skin and puffy eyes. A shower. Clean clothes. Should I wear this neon pink sweater? Perhaps it is too much. I got a lot of attention last time I wore it and I felt as if I am in the spotlight. Awkward. Let’s go with something more acceptable. Beige will do. Better polish my shoes. Put some perfume on. Last check in the mirror. Good to go. The obligatory “hellos” and “how was your weekend?”. You are polite. Not that necessarily you enthusiastically care about your fellow colleagues’ mundanities. No. Not at all. But naturally you feel as if that makes you part of the normality. That is just something you do to...belong. The lunches, chit-chats, and nods, awkward smiles and handshakes and eye contact. Too much? Weird. Not at all? Weird. Wrong. It is in the social nuances, the art of balancing between politeness and distance, being involved and minding your own business. Having an opinion, but constantly checking whether it is okay to think that way by receiving the influx of acceptance or rejection waves from the society. Being confident, but not too much. Like an acrobat balancing on a wire to perform in front of the audience. One wrong move and it could result in a disaster. A risky and right move? Gasps and applause. The microscopic world is almost identical to the macroscopic one. Just like you check whether you “fit in”, so do cells. Let’s take the example of a heart cell- how does it know that it indeed is a heart cell? Well, it is called cellto-cell communication, and that is an essential function of all


The parallel between our way of communication and self-reflection in the grand scheme of society and that of the cells within us, is fascinatingly close. Every living organism, no matter how big or small, smart or primitive they are, all belong to a system that is self-regulating and every component is necessary for it to work and exist.


living organisms. In order to perform the correct duties that a specific tissue requires, the cell has a language that lets it check its normality. The language they use is a bit different from ours. Instead of words and gestures and facial expressions, cells use chemistry to communicate. They send signals to each other that let them know they are in the right place. The heart cell sends a signal molecule that is a protein or other molecule, like a message in a bottle, and the receiving cell has to have a receptor that can receive and interpret this ‘message’. Then it will send a message back “Hey, you are okay!”. The signaling molecule is oftentimes called a ligand that, through the extracellular space, travels to the surrounding target cells. This leads to a chemical change in the cell receiving the ligand, which leads to the interpretation of the message. If everything is alright- the cells know, chemically, that they understand each other, thus, there is an optimal function in the tissue. In case the surrounding cells do not have the right receptors or the signaling molecules lead to incorrect chemical change in the target cells, that initiates a process called apoptosis or “cell death”- elimination of the wrong cell that is produced by the signaling cell itself. Sometimes the cell can decide not to perform “cell suicide” and those are malignant ones, also known as cancerous cells.



Why do we have difficulties rolling our R’s when speaking to little kids but turn into saints when talking with the elderly? Why is it that when a friend makes a racist remark, we argue for hours, but when the same comment comes from an anonymous taxi driver, we ignore it, as if they were commenting on the weather? Why does the word “layer” mean completely different things when I’m talking to a designer, compared to a geeky friend who’s into psychology, or a cook who likes to make lasagnas? Why are there experiences I would never share with you (hello readers!) but have no problem repeatedly ranting about with my closest friends? Perhaps, every speaker has an invisible net in their mouth that sifts the information they give away, and every listener has an extensive dictionary in their ear that translates everything they hear.

NETS IN OUR MOUTHS Humans have a set of unspoken rules that dictate the language we use with different people. Yes, they vary among cultures, but we tend to choose our audiences. Slip up, and you might get labeled “impolite” or a “roast me” sign on your back. For instance, try talking with your friends as if they were a highly respected politician. We can agree, we have to have filters stretched across our lips to make sure we stay on track. We have to upgrade our filters from time to time, but it’s almost impossible to fully remove our initial ones.

PAGE 13 DICTIONARIES IN THEIR EARS Maybe a “dictionary” isn’t the best metaphor but the gist of it is - when you and I hear the same sentence, we don’t interpret it the same way. Once my history teacher asked me what were the advantages of traveling some guy did hundreds of years ago. Since I wasn’t much of an English-speaker, all I heard was that she wanted a list, so I listed the issues the guy might have encountered. These sorts of misunderstandings happen all the time, and often it has nothing to do with a weak vocabulary, but instead with our core values, beliefs, and cultural differences. The dictionaries in our ears hold the information concerning what various words or combinations of words mean in different circumstances. Depending on where and how we grew up, what books or songs we have surrounded ourselves with, and how different people reacted to specific languages, we molded our perceptions. Since every dictionary is a little different, we are prone to misinterpretations. All we can do is trust ourselves that our bias didn’t completely alter the message.

SHOULD WE TWO-WAY CENSOR OURSELVES? Now that I’ve discussed the way we censor outgoing and incoming information, let’s talk about the effects of self-censorship. More importantly, is it good that we do it? I often say that it’s better to talk to everyone the same way because we are all equals. However, it’s not quite so. Sometimes, we have to pick our battles carefully. Is it worth arguing with a nationalistic taxi driver about racism, when it might not lead anywhere (especially not during a five-minute drive)? Probably not. Avoiding needless conversations is just good time management. Should I write official emails to my friends and send memes to my college professors? Again, this would be an ineffective way of communicating, so it’s better to keep the filters on. Conversely, insulting your sister for the sake of a couple of laughs and praising your hated boss to get a raise are selfish and insensitive actions. Moreover, pretending like you can’t pronounce words you’ve been saying for 20 years in front of a small child is confusing. Why are you imitating them when they are supposed to be imitating you? And for everyone who thinks it’s cute, my last words are - nio, it is niot.







How we speak and communicate is essential in how we represent ourselves to the people around us. Formality and the use of language differs depending on the scenario and to whom we are communicating, but have you ever noticed how much influence successful people wield based on their speech and persuasive demeanor? Or their body language and their image? Our podcast “Viewpoints” will offer an in-depth conversation illuminating the use of language as a formation of a brand, through a discussion with experienced guests in the industry. Language as brand reflects on the concept that powerful business people, leaders and executives, invent themselves. They establish their roles through the way they communicate, selling themselves and their brand, luring others to follow. Body language and the manner in which we communicate (our tone of voice, volume, etc) have been a part of theatrical and public speaking practices for centuries. Mannerisms, the awareness of one’s behaviour and ways of communicating, have historically portrayed status and class , yet till this day are deceptive ways in which people build an image of themselves. Deceptive, because it doesn’t always mean that it’s the true version of themselves, in fact most times it’s just a different portrayal of one’s personality to match the brand. When building a brand, it’s helpful to build your image too. It’s important to establish which part of yourself you’d like to portray to represent your brand. For example, the language you choose to use, whether vulgar, formal, informal or the tone of voice you take will set an expectation for your brand and what you represent. Concluding that when working with people or leading a team, it’s useful to understand the ways in which you use your language that will make you a respected, yet fair, director.



If having multiple personalities is a sickness, then all multilingual people are ill because, as it happens, when switching languages, we change more than just the used language about ourselves. Don’t worry, you are not crazy, but you are more like an onion than you know (cool “layers” metaphor, huh?). There are a variety of things to consider to estimate how much we change when switching languages. For instance, the purpose of learning a specific language or the circumstances in which we use these languages. WHY DID YOU LEARN THE LANGUAGE? Let’s start with our mother tongue. We learn our native language to be able to communicate with the people around us. When one grows up with a specific language, they associate the language with their culture. For example, I have certain beliefs, values, and social norms associated with Georgian culture, which affect my thoughts, feelings, and behavior. Let me take a little detour - do you notice how sometimes a distinct smell can trigger a memory? The same happens with languages. The use of a particular language can trigger the associated culture and even the way we perceive ourselves. What are the reasons for learning additional languages? For instance, did you learn German for better work opportunities? Then, when speaking German, you might unknowingly act more professional, reserved, and motivated. In contrast, did you learn Russian because you have a lot of Slavic friends who switch to Russian when drunk? Well then, I assume, when speaking Russian, you are goofy and more laid-back.




way when speaking that language, even when taken out of that environment.

When learning a new language in an environment with little exposure to the language’s cultural context, for instance, in a classroom or on Duolingo, the personality change is minimal.

I’m going to use myself as an example again (sorry). I’ve only had proper verbal fights in Georgian because the closest people to me are all Georgians. Hence, I’m a bit more aggressive when speaking my native tongue. In comparison, I mostly write in English. Consequently, now, my internal monologues are led in this language, which could be the reason behind my being more honest when speaking English.

On the other hand, people who have extensive experience with two cultures access different knowledge structures when speaking one of the two languages. According to a study, “Bicultural-Bilinguals: The Effect of Cultural Frame Switching on Translation Equivalence,” people who have internalized two languages/cultures feel like a “different person” when switching between them. That’s because bilingual biculturals have a deep understanding of what it means to be a part of each culture and view themselves differently in various contexts. To use myself as an example, I speak three languages. However, my personality doesn’t change much when switching languages. That’s because I don’t have sufficient experience with German or English to have it internalized as a second culture. Still, I do change my behavior when shifting to nonnative languages, but that’s because I tend to use them in dissimilar situations. WHEN DO YOU USE THE LANGUAGE? The environment in which we often use a specific language gets linked to the way we feel, think, and act in those circumstances. So, we might behave the same

WHAT OPPORTUNITIES DOES THE LANGUAGE GIVE YOU? There are some inconsistencies between languages that allow us to express ourselves differently. For example, in Russian or German, we have an opportunity to address elders or people of higher rank with a polite tense, using the plural tense of “you.” Neglecting the polite tense can be perceived as rude or as a bold statement that says, “you are not better than me.” English, however, gives us no such opportunities. FINAL WORDS Do I get a cockney accent, speak about weather and eat scones when speaking English? Nope. Do I become unpunctual, sing songs, and drink wine when speaking Georgian? No, again. However, I do feel, think, and behave slightly differently when shifting languages. DO YOU?









“I worked in a restaurant for 9 months, and I still don’t know how to order food in Czech” Coming a long way from Costa Rica to Cyprus, later to Kenya, and finally to the Czech Republic, Adri Mendéz is a 21-year-old graphic design student, currently studying in her final year at Prague College. Having lived in Prague for 3 years now, she recalls her beginnings in Prague, learning the Czech language and getting closer to the Czech community via social media. WHY DID YOU CHOOSE TO MOVE TO THE CZECH REPUBLIC? WHAT BROUGHT YOU HERE? I chose to move here because of Prague College. The story in itself was that I came to Prague when I was 8 years old for Easter holidays, and I remember saying to myself ‘Oh, this is such a pretty city! I would love to live here.’ And then when I was looking for universities, I was about to apply for architecture at the Architectural Institute in Prague. Then a Facebook ad popped up for Prague College. Last minute I changed my mind and decided to do graphic design. I applied to Prague College, started the process and came here. It’s literally like a dream come true for me. A childhood dream to live in the middle of Europe. Coming from

a Latin-American country, we always dream of living in Europe because we see it as the best thing ever! (laughs) It is inaccessible to many people and when you live in Europe, it’s like “Oh, wow!”. So I kinda grew up with that desire. HAVE YOU EVER TAKEN CZECH CLASSES TO LEARN THE LANGUAGE? IF YES, HOW DID IT GO? Yes, I took the Czech classes at school. The issue was that every week there would be a different person coming into the classes, so we’d have to start all over again. So every time they would teach us ‘jedna, dva, tři’ and I was like “Okay, I know how to count to three, can you teach me how to count to ten?” Right now, three years in I can only count to eight because nine and ten are mixed up in my brain. I can count to three which helps me in the gym. The Czech book was also very difficult, it didn’t work for me. I am very bad at languages. I’ve lived in Cyprus, didn’t learn Greek. Lived in Kenya, didn’t learn Swahili. I live in the Czech Republic and don’t speak Czech. It’s a whole cycle, it’s my problem. But one of the things that I know is that for 3 years I’ve survived without Czech. It’s definitely not the best way of surviving, but it is a way. I wish I did learn Czech to communicate more freely. WHEN SHOPPING OR HAVING TO DEAL WITH COMMUNICATING WITH CZECH PEOPLE, DO YOU ATTEMPT TO SPEAK CZECH? Let me just say, the post office brings me so much anxiety because you never know if they speak English or not. Sometimes at the bank they don’t speak English, so they have to bring someone from the inside to

CONNECT WITH ADRI EMAIL—ADRI@ADRIMENDEZ.CO WEBSITE—ADRIMENDEZ.CO INSTAGRAM—@ADRI_MENDEZM TIKTOK—@ADRI_MENDEZ translate. It’s very difficult. It’s a very big limitant and I really wish I learned Czech just so I could live here a bit more freely. But I’ve survived without it till this point and that’s because Prague is more modern (than the rest of the country). I have a lot of friends, mostly latinos, who lived in different Czech cities, and they learned the language quickly because they are obligated to since nobody in a Czech town is going to speak to you in English. Only a few (laughs). That’s why I always tell people they have to go to a Czech town to learn Czech and not to Prague. In Prague you can survive with English. It just brings anxiety and that difficulty. When communicating with Czech people, I attempt to speak as much Czech as I can, but it’s super limited to little phrases. I usually don’t understand anything that they tell me, so I’m like “Pardon, mluvíte anglicky?” [Excuse me, do you speak English?] and they start speaking to me in English. I worked in a restaurant for 9 months in the Old Town, and I still don’t know how to order food in Czech. DO YOU HAVE ANY FUNNY EXPERIENCES WHILE ATTEMPTING TO SPEAK CZECH THAT YOU CAN SHARE WITH US? Funny moments are always when people try to flirt with me and they end up not speaking English. One day I was sitting in the park and a guy came up to me. I don’t know what he was saying, he said something in Czech, but I could see that he was trying to flirt with me. So I said: ‘Pardon, nemluvím česky.’ and he didn’t know what to do, he got scared off and left. It’s happened a couple of times and it’s weird.

HAVE YOU NOTICED ANY DIFFERENCES IN THE WAY CZECH PEOPLE COMMUNICATE OR BEHAVE COMPARED TO YOUR CULTURE? Absolutely! I come from a very crazy, loud, expressive culture. Then I moved from Costa Rica to Kenya where they are equally, or even more expressive. They’re always happy, always trying to get up in your business. And then I come to the Czech Republic and nobody cares about you, nobody bats an eye when you walk into a store. It takes a while to get into a Czech’s good side. At the beginning I thought “Oh my god, everybody absolutely hates me. What have I done wrong to the Czech people?” Then I realized it just takes some time for them to warm up to us and to get comfortable with us. I actually really appreciate that because in a sense in Latin America, everyone will be nice to your face, but they will speak really badly behind your back. I can see that it takes a while for Czech people to warm up to someone and when they do, it’s so real and so nice. That’s why I really enjoy having Czech friends, mostly friends from the gym, because I know they’re being nice to me because they like me. Not just because they have to be. That for me is very important. But on the other hand, in Costa Rica we hug so much compared to Czechs. I think Latin Americans and Central Europeans are a huge contrast. It was very, very difficult for me to adapt at the beginning, but now I am very used to it. I am even able to switch from the Latino to the European style because I do have a lot of Latino friends here, so I have that culture still around. I am very appreciative of both.

PAGE 25 LASTLY, WHAT IS THE MOST USEFUL ADVICE YOU WOULD GIVE TO PEOPLE WHO MOVED TO THE CZECH REPUBLIC, BUT DON’T SPEAK CZECH? My advice for someone who is about to move to the Czech Republic would be to learn how to say ‘Nemluvím česky. Mluvím anglicky.’ [I don’t speak Czech. I speak English.] Have Google Translate on Siri Commands and be very mindful and understanding. Don’t feel that people have to speak English to you. As an expat coming to this country, you are not entitled to be spoken in English to. You got to understand the history, the culture and the fact that the older generation will not speak English to you because of the history that they went through and because they never needed it. These people went through communism, come on. In my home country, in Costa Rica, nobody is going to speak to you in English either, they’ll speak to you in Spanish. I understand that and it makes me mad that some people think that just because they don’t speak Czech, they should be spoken to in English. You should obviously be making the effort to learn Czech. Well, I stopped making the effort a long time ago (laughs). But I don’t expect people to speak to me in English. I am okay when someone tells me that they don’t speak English. I will try my best, come another day, turn on Google Translate or anything. Just make sure to always have an open mind.




THREE CONTEMPORARY AFRICAN-AMERICAN ARTISTS USING THE THEMES OF SLAVERY, RACISM AND WHITE SUPREMACY IN ART AND VISUAL MEDIA. Historically, artists have always woven a thread of protest and social and political critique into our visual environment. Art created specifically as protest expanded greatly, especially in the 19th and the early decades of the 20th century. In response to the significant cultural, political and theoretical changes, groups such as Dada, acknowledging the horrors of WWI and the rise of Fascism and the Russian Constructivists, seeking a new artistic vision for a post-Czarist society, believed in the power of art as a catalyst for change. Unfortunately, throughout Western history—both in the United States and elsewhere—artists of color have not aptly been recognized for their talents, achievements, and contributions. This has culminated in a popular history of Western art, comprised mostly of the work of white (male) artists. Until relatively recently, African-American artists historically have played a small part in the production of widely-distributed or highly visible fine art in the United States, lacking the same access to arts education, opportunities or promotion as their white counterparts. This is changing in the late 20th and early 21st centuries. Three successful, highly visible and outspoken

African-American artists—Arthur Jafa, Kara Walker and Kehinde Wiley—incorporate historical symbols related to slavery, colonialism, and race relations into their works, questioning and challenging traditional narratives of power and social hierarchy and the historical role of art as a symbol of status. A much longer and more detailed discussion of the relationship between racism, slavery, white supremacy and artists’ responses to it over time can be found on the Agora website, in the article: Art as a Catalyst for Change. It includes historical and contextual background of African slavery to North America, its fallout and impact on race relations in the United States, that culminates in the works of Jafa, Walker and Wiley.


Arthur Jafa (2019, Prague) Jindřich Nosek

“The question is how come we can’t be as black as we are and still be universal? How come we have to refuse who we are in order for someone to be able to be able to identify with us? How come the audience can’t see themselves in that thing, whether or not it looks just like them or not? It’s what black people do because most of what we see are white people. It’s what women have developed the muscle to do because mostly what they see are men. It’s what gay people are able to do because mostly what they see is heteronormative stuff. It’s a muscle that everybody needs to develop: the ability to see themselves in someone else’s circumstances without having to paint that person white, make that person straight, or a man.” Arthur Jafa is an artist, filmmaker and cinematographer. His films, artifacts and installations “reference and question the universal and specific articulations of black being.” Jafa’s practice asks a recurring question: “How can visual media, such as objects, static and moving images, transmit the equivalent power, beauty and alienation embedded within forms of Black music in US culture?” (MCAChicago, n.d.) He sees a disconnect between the broad multi-cultural popularity of Black music and a lack of acknowledgement in other forms of Black expression. He simultaneously explores history and contemporary African-American visual culture, most often in highly layered and intercut video pieces.

PAGE 29 BLACK FLAGS Jafa incorporated the Confederate battle flag in two related pieces- Black Flag (2017) and Black American Flag 1.0 (2017) The tactile, hand-sewn Confederate Flag Black Flag (2017) is sewn out of black cloth, embedding the flag in Blackness, which it historically is a symbol against. (Moderna Museet, 2021) In Jafa’s very powerful 2019 show A Series of Utterly Improbable, Yet Extraordinary Renditions at Prague’s Rudolfinium gallery (which I went to twice and was mesmerized) art critic Max Feldman remarked, “The flag’s cross-and-stars pattern is only revealed, like a hideous secret code, when the viewer adjusts their bodily position. (2019)

In a similar way he created Black American Flag 1.0 (2017) where the classic United States flag, a banner of stars and stripes has been blackened and suspended behind a massive Confederate Flag. The typical symbol of democracy and freedom has been relegated to cowering in the dark. Jafa has symbolically inverted the structure of power.

LOVE IS THE MESSAGE, THE MESSAGE IS DEATH HTTPS://WWW.YOUTUBE.COM/WATCH?V=D1MCJ8CCI3Y Perhaps Jafa’s most well-known piece, the video, Love Is The Message, The Message Is Death is underscored by Kanye West’s gospel-inspired hip-hop track, “Ultralight Beam.” It is composed of 150 pieces of intercut found film clips and photos that trace African-American identity through a vast range of contemporary imagery, including politicians and civil rights leaders, helicopter views of race riots, police violence against blacks, professional athletes, as well as anonymous bodies in various states of elation and despair. The writer and scholar Saidiya Hartman writes, “I think what the film captures is the Black struggle to live. It’s a series of iconic images that show the brilliant virtuosity of the Black thinkers, artists, and athletes that ordinary Black folk have given to the world, alongside some of the forces that have negated Black life. You don’t have to know the exact reference for each image to feel the work’s density and power.” (Tomkins, 2020) New Yorker In the video, an unnamed woman comments , “What would America be like if we loved Black people as much as we love Black culture?”

Black Flag (2017) Photography by Daniel Peters


Portrait of Kara Walker, 2018 Photo: Ari Marcopoulos

“I think really the whole problem with racism and its continuing legacy in this country is that we simply love it. Who would we be without the “struggle”? Kara Walker, explores issues of race in her work, address the prevailing history of racism in the United States, looking to expose the ongoing and tragic legacy of slavery. She has gained national and international recognition for her cut-paper silhouettes depicting historical narratives haunted by sexuality, violence, and subjugation. She often uses the expression of large-scale installations re-imagining scenes of the Antebellum South using silhouette cutouts, referencing both the popularity of that medium before the Civil War and referencing the cycloramas, popular in the late 19th century. She noted: “I had a catharsis looking at early American varieties of silhouette cuttings.” “What I recognize, besides narrative and historicity and racism, was very physical displacement: the paradox of removing a form from a blank surface that in turn creates a black hole.” (Walker Art Museum, 2012)

PAGE 31 FONS AMERICANUS Fons Americanus, recreates the image of an historical monumental fountain, weaving an allegorical tale of the narrative of the transatlantic slave trade. It is inspired by the Victoria Memorial in London, but can also be associated with the role of monumental statuary (specifically to Confederate monuments created by the United Daughters of the Confederacy), as historical symbols of power, colonialism and white supremacy. Walker’s fountain inverts the usual function of a memorial and questions narratives of power. It explores the interconnected histories of Africa, America and Europe, especially in the context of the transatlantic slave trade.

pieces of painting and sculpture. Here, Walker has inverted the association of the black Venus, referencing Thomas Stothard’s 1801 etching The Voyage of the Sable Venus from Angola to the West Indies. Triton, the Greek god and messenger of the sea, carries the British flag triumphantly and guides a black slave recast in the image of Venus, propelled by cherubs across the waters. The image was used as a form of propaganda to promote the transatlantic slave trade. (Tate, 2019). It is likely that Stoddard was inspired by Sandro Botticelli’s 1485 Renaissance painting The Birth of Venus, part of the canon of white, European art history. Here, Walker has put the figure of an African woman as a regal queen, priestess or mother, again, challenging the historical omission of black people represented in positions of power.

She uses water as a key theme and the larger fountain is an extended metaphor of the Black Atlantic. “The Black Atlantic is a term first used by the historian Paul Gilroy to acknowledge how the legacy of transatlantic slave trade has shaped the development of Black identity and culture in America and Europe.” (Tate, 2019) She alludes to the tragedy of the millions of slaves who died in transit on the dangerous journeys through the Middle Passage and the absence of this story from accounts and depictions of this history. (Tate, 2019) Other figures and details of the piece reference the imagery of violence, as well as reinterpretation of iconic pieces of European art. One very direct example of this violence is Walker’s sculpture of the tree with a noose hanging from a branch. It evokes images of the frequent lynchings of African-Americans by white supremacists, especially in the post Civil-war era. Sometimes called the “Negro holocaust,” between 1882 and 1968, at least 3,446 black people were lynched in the United States. Blacks accounted for 72.7 percent of all recorded lynchings, even while they represented no more than 12 percent of the population during that period. (NAACP, 2021). “Lynching” means to put to death by mob action without legal approval or permission, but in the United States it is very specifically associated with death by hanging. The piece is crowned by the figure of Venus, a mythical figure depicted in countless historical

Kara Walker Fons Americanus, 2019 Non-toxic acrylic and cement composite, recyclable cork, wood, and metal Main: 73.5 x 50 x 43 feet (22.4 x 15.2 x 13.2 meters) Grotto: 10.2 x 10.5 x 10.8 feet (3.1 x 3.2 x 3.3 meters) Installation view: Hyundai Commission: Kara Walker – Fons Americanus, Tate Modern, London, UK, 2019 Photo: Matt Greenwood


“In these toxic times art can help us transform and give us a sense of purpose. This story begins with my seeing the Confederate monuments. What does it feel like if you are Black and walking beneath this? We come from a beautiful, fractured situation. Let’s take these fractured pieces and put them back together.” Kehinde Wiley’s works challenge the “norms” of race, gender, and the history of the Euro-centric art of power and privilege. Wiley’s signature portraits of everyday men and women reference specific paintings by Old Masters, replacing the European aristocrats depicted with contemporary Black subjects, drawing attention to the absence of African Americans from historical and cultural narratives. The subjects in Wiley’s paintings often wear sneakers, hoodies, and baseball caps, gear associated with hip-hop culture, and are set against contrasting ornate decorative backgrounds that evoke earlier eras and a range of cultures. His large-scale figurative paintings “quote historical sources and position young Black men within that field of power”, repositioning Black youth within the classical European tradition of power and status, especially the tradition of monumental portraiture. (Brooklyn Museum, 2015)


Unveiling the sculpture Rumors of War by Kehinde Wiley, Virginia Museum of Fine Arts, December 10, 2019 Photo: Travis Fullerton © Virginia Museum of Fine Arts

RUMORS OF WAR Richmond, Virginia was once the capitol of the Confederacy. For over a hundred years, five massive Lost Cause equestrian sculptures of Confederate heroes, were positioned along Monument Avenue, an elegant thoroughfare in the heart of the city. In June, 2020, protesters tore down the statue of Jefferson Davis, President of the Confederacy. The next month, three more statues were removed by the mayor’s orders—those of Stonewall Jackson Matthew Fontaine Maury, and famed general J.E.B. Stuart. Before those monuments were removed, Wiley conceived the idea for the statue, Rumors of War, inspired by the 1907 J.E.B. Stuart statue. As with the original sculpture, the rider- a young, African-American with dreadlocks, torn jeans and high-top Nike sneakers- sits heroically upon a powerful horse. The bronze sculpture both makes an ironic

commentary on the place of public massive monuments to Confederate war heroes, and commemorates African American youth lost to contemporary social and political strife. This is Wiley’s first monumental public sculpture, but similarly to his painting works, which question the relationships of Euro-centric power and status, he expands this to the question of historic race relations and their symbols “while directly engaging the national conversation around monuments and their role in perpetuating incomplete histories and inequality.” (VMFA, 2019) In the 21st century, the complex and multi-layered expression and meanings behind the works of African-American artists Arthur Jafa, Kara Walker and Kehinde Wiley not only ask important and provocative questions about the historical and contemporary roles of art and iconography, related to culture, race and power, but also remind us that art does not merely function aesthetically, but has the power as well to elevate the artist to the status of provocateur and social critic.








GEORGIAN AND RUSSIAN How come some Russian words are so ingrained in modern Georgian that sometimes it’s hard to remember their Georgian translation? To be clear, it doesn’t only happen to people who were alive during the Soviet times or even people who speak Russian, but all Georgians. I suppose these are just some remnants from the Soviet period and we should be thankful that the Georgian language still lives today, for, under Russian rule, Georgians had to fight to keep their national language—a language that has a history of over 1500 years, as their national one. In 1977, the Georgian Soviet Socialist Republic adopted a new constitution where Georgian was no longer considered the national language. A series of demonstrations followed in the capital city, Tbilisi, to change the status of the constitution. As a result, since April 14, 1978, Georgian has been our national language, and since 1990 we’ve been celebrating its anniversary as the “mother tongue day.” Even though Georgian was the national language during Soviet times, Russian was a part of the everyday lives of Georgians, especially those seeking education or entertainment in the forms of print media or TV. There

were only three channels on TV and two of them were Russian. All foreign movies were dubbed in Russian and not even Georgian movies showed credits in our language. Also, all street signs, billboards, and posters were in Russian, and sometimes there wasn’t even a Georgian translation next to it. However, there were passionate linguists ready to call them out and make sure that every piece of writing in the street was also displayed in Georgian. Trips to the library didn’t start with expectations to conduct literary research in Georgian. All foreign books were translated into the language of the occupants. In schools, there were parallel classes taught entirely in Russian. Moreover, many Russians walked the streets of Georgia. Shortly, for most people, though unwillingly, Russian was not considered a foreign language but a second language. To conclude, I feel lucky that Georgian persisted during the Soviet Union, and I’m proud to know this beautiful language.


YA5I 6ALE3 BEL SECTION H9Y BEL ARTICLE While this might seem to be gibberish, it actually is a “very comprehensible” sentence to a lot of people, including myself. No doubt, even though we could talk for days about how a lot of foreign words are currently embedded in Arabic nowadays, what’s even more interesting is the electronic “colonization” of our language. Enter Franco-Arabic, or Arabish (if you’re extra). Initiated with the rise of text messages, at the time where you could only input a set number of characters per message and surprisingly each Arabic character counted as 2 Latin characters, adapting to the technical limitations, somehow people figured out a system to convert certain characters that do not exist in English. To this day we are quite unsure how majority of the almost 420 million Arabic speakers decided to correspond on this system of numbers. Mapping out Arabic characters to the numbers isn’t as random as some people might think. In fact it’s based on visual similarities with the latin characters. For example, the Arabic letter ‫ ع‬has the number 3 as it’s equivalent, or ‫ خ‬and 5, 2 and ‫ء‬.

You’ve probably realised the plausible visual similarity between the counterparts, that a lot of people, including Arabic speakers, assume are merely coincidental. Is it though? Sike, it was never coincidental, in fact the number of counterparts are the original Arabic numerals, which existed since the 5th century and later spread to Europe under the influence of Middle Eastern mathematicians such as Al-Khawarizmi around the 12th century.

message between people, does it really matter how you express that message?

It has been a really controversial topic of debate. Some claim that it’s destroying our language, others argue that you can’t really destroy a language if you’re referencing something that you’ve founded (the numbers system). A person would be torn between both viable arguments, but if we take ourselves outside the equation, we would conclude that it goes back to our psychological nature, always fearing the unknown, or not unfamiliar. ‫اف اي كونتينو تو رايت زس ارتكل ان زس فورم‬ (If I continue to write this article in this form) both English and Arabic speakers would be quite outraged. People tend to refuse the unfamiliar, but what if it satisfies the reason that languages exist? To convey a



SO I’VE HEARD YOU WANT TO LEARN FRENCH? Several years ago, I used to work for a ‘French as a Foreign Language’ school back in France. This experience made me realise how non-native speakers tend to learn dated versions of a language. So if you have any interest in learning French, let me give you some tips. The first one is that we French borrow a lot of foreign words! The second one is that we don’t pick from the same languages depending on social contexts. I would say that there are currently three main trends in France: popular classes borrow words from former African colonies and the Antilles, such as Northern African Arabic dialects, African tongues; urbanites enjoy speaking “Franglish” a mix of French and English while higher realms of society are actively rejecting foreign languages. So, how come popular classes take words from the former colonies? Because this is where French multiculturalism strives. I believe that it is where our culture and language is evolving the quickest. Thanks to social mobility, words that were frowned upon are slowly accepted by the middle class.

A simple way of making fun of Parisians is replacing half a sentence with English words. Entrepreneur communities, dubbed “startup culture” by our current president, are heavily inspired by North American culture. I would say that France has a 2-year lag with the USA in terms of culture, trends and technology. Another reason French people use English would be the professional fields where we mostly find these communities: they are usually in the tertiary sector. Using standardised English words makes international communication simpler. On the other hand, higher French society rejects foreign languages in order to preserve traditional French vocabulary. The spearhead of this movement is the French Academy, which is an institution overseeing the evolution of the language’s grammatical rules. An example easy to understand would be how it has translated commonly used English words, such as email into “courriel”. I won’t lie, we use the translated terms so rarely that I assume people using it in casual conversation are from Québec! In conclusion, I would say that the beauty of our language is its stylistic

flexibility. Speaking French is making double-entendre, metaphors, allegories… And the party is open to everyone!








This is my visual piece on colonialism and the death of language. In collaboration with Mr. Leo Emmanuel Castro, a Filipino cultural researcher and executive director of Sanghabi. His poetry can be seen on the left side, written in Baybayin, one of our country’s pre-colonial scripts. The visuals reflect on my personal relationship with my mother tongue and how western influences shaped my identity. MR. CASTRO ON HIS POEM “Amabahan is a poetry form of the Hanunuo from the island of Mindoro, Philippines. The poem is rendered in Sulat Tagalog otherwise known as Tagalog Baybayin. Ambahan has a 7 syllable verse with an indeterminate number of verses with the end syllable rhyming. Often these Ambahan poems are not just read but also sung. It can also be noticed that poems are not just recited/sung but also also read: each line having symmetry in terms of the written words per line.”



I’ve been amazed by music since the day I was born. When I was only five or six years old, my mom would bring me home from elementary school on her bike, and I would sing until I made myself cry from the emotional melodies. At age nine, I would sneak into my sister’s room after school to play on her guitar. During high school, I saved my pocket money for guitar lessons, and by age 14, I played well and bought my first guitar. Since the moment I got my guitar, I have been trying to write songs and lyrics. I wrote a lot of poems but always felt like something was missing. I was never satisfied with the result. Somehow, my written words just couldn’t capture the feeling I was trying to express. One evening when I was about 20 years old, I was playing my acoustic guitar in the corner of a big room where members of my church were praying. I wasn’t there for a specific reason, and no-one was paying attention to the music. I was just softly playing some melodies from a metal band. I noticed how the sound was actually filling the room as background music and how the people unconsciously responded to it, praying more intensely when I played more intensely and calming down when I did. It still amazes me how my music touched people that night and how they felt encouraged and inspired by it. Ever since, I feel like music doesn’t need any lyrics. It can be complete and sometimes express a feeling even better without words. When you leave out the text, people make the song what they want it to be. This also happens to me when listening to music of which I don’t understand the words.

PAGE 45 your feelings. Music is like a painting; it is a reflection of what is in the mind and the heart. Some people are good with words and can write beautiful poems or songs that wouldn’t be the same without the text. But you can often hear the message through the music by focusing on where the melody leads or what It makes you feel.

In 2018 I spent half a year in Finland and started listening to Finnish music. I still listen more to Finnish music than to any other genre. I like the sound and the music melodies Finnish’ artists make, but the language is what amazes me most. I think the Finnish language is the least like Dutch from everything I’ve ever heard. Even Czech has similar words to Dutch, so I am slowly starting to understand Czech. But Finnish is a whole different level because unlike other European countries, the Finnish language isn’t an Indo-European language. and I have only lived with it for a little while. I love that I don’t understand at all what they are singing about. To me, it’s also the same with grunts and screams in metal music. They give a mood to the song and show passion or strong emotions. You can try to understand what the songs are about, when going through the text, but I think It’s much more fun to just listen to the music holistically, and let it become about feelings or memories. I have many memories attached to songs and I have a lot of songs in my playlists in languages I don’t speak or understand. They say that music is a universal language that everyone can understand, and I agree. You don’t need words to express

Over the last few years, I have found what I felt was missing in my music and the reason why it seemed that my songs were never finished. I was trying to live up to my own expectations about music; that it needs lyrics that people can relate to. I thought about writing songs in Dutch because it’s my first language. It could be easier to express my feelings, but I don’t like how it sounds. Eventually, I realised that the key for me to produce things that I am satisfied with is letting go of all expectations. Lately, I’ve been working more on instrumental songs, and I don’t feel pressured to write lyrics, even though I still sometimes have ideas for text. I like to make music for Youtube videos, the ones that play in the background. This is the perfect opportunity to explore and investigate moods and what certain sounds do to the mind and the heart. When I experiment with video background music, I sometimes create something that doesn’t fit in, but it gives me an emotional feeling reminding me of my childhood on the bike with my mom. I save these melodies -there are many- waiting to one day be thrown into the world when I feel like the time is right.



Plants are one of the core essentials which assure life on our planet. However except for keeping us alive, they often bring us joy and excitement but also help us communicate our emotions. Who would have guessed that such a pretty thing like colourful fields of flowers, can also help us tell stories? The language of flowers has been here for centuries and even made it into Shakespeare’s works, ancient mythologies or sonnets all across European and Asian culture. In the Victorian era flowers represented complex scheme for communication, for example, the apple blossom meant “Will the glow of love finally redden your delicate cheeks?” or red rose petal meant agreement but white was a rejection. Each flower had a meaning and an emotion. And it stuck around till this very day. So I would like to make a bouquet of few flowers which tell us a story.

It is a story about bravery, just as Protea, named after Proteus the Poseidon, who was ironically defeated by courage of Trojan solder. And our main character did need a lot of it.

But it is also very dreamy story. Just as white poppy flowers carry this adjective. Sometimes it can get very surreal.


A tale full of danger. For that emotion I imagine Begonia, the carrier of warning about misfortune.

On the other hand, what kind of tale it is without a happy ending? Exactly the same happiness when we are given blossoming pink rose. With happiness there comes laughter, and one character in our story is pretty merry. For this character I have pretty special flower, Chrysanthemums, carrying the meaning of joy. And the journey of the main character is pretty long and full of riddles. They go together wonderfully and can look like a blue rose, the embodiment of mystery. However everything needs to end. But goodbyes don’t have to be sad, just as Sweet pea flower means Goodbye and thank you for a lovely time.

That is my flower story bouquet for Alice in Wonderland.



We’ve all had trouble expressing our thoughts and sorting through our feelings from time to time. It’s nothing unusual. The human psyche is an intricate structure made of experience and personality. So, what happens when we try to sound something that goes on in there? Getting a bit lost happens more often than one might think, but what happens when we try to explain a thought or an idea in a foreign language? Dealing with the various language barriers that arise can be somewhat tricky. Now imagine having to convey 500 pages of thoughts which aren’t even your own! Translating literature is an artform in itself and quite a delicate one at that. There are a few things to keep an eye out for when translating literary works. Among the most important ones are the aesthetic and expressive values. The wording, figurative language and the general style of writing fall under the category of aesthetic values while the expressive values keep the writer’s train of thought and emotions true. The approach to literary translation is not set in stone. However, the one that captures the core of it follows a blueprint consisting of two seps. The text must first be interpreted, then, the composition of the narrative is composed in the targeted language. Poetry, as it happens, requires a bit more attention than other forms of literature. Its structure differs completely from other genres and even daily language itself. Maintaining the rhythm and rhymes through translation is one of the most difficult responsibilities someone could be tasked with. As different cultures, naturally, have different phrasing and metaphorical structure, the logic

PAGE 49 of poetry makes it fairly demanding to carry a thought from one background into another. Even with all the details covered to offer a most correct translation, there are some gaps which can never be bridged. Sure, the form of all literature is the same regardless of the language they were written in and the methodology was devised to try and cover up all the possible perplexity as subtle as possible, but there will always be droplets of water which seep through the cracks of the dam. No matter the number of languages in the world, we still use the same words to describe how we might feel towards our soulmate and dessert. You love both, no? Try to think of the limitations faced when attempting to adapt someone’s notions and ideas into a completely different setting. Those notions spread over thousand-page novels, stories, essays, delicately intertwine with the composition of poetry and date back thousands of years. They depict times long forgotten and emotions buried too deep. A far too comprehensive venture to try and conform the reach of human passions. A most blatant example of hardships faced might be the translation of religious texts. Not only does the meaning of words get tossed around too freely and even mistranslated, but the many religious truths are too open to interpretations to successfully carry on the original idea. Howbeit, that’s all I’m willing to delve into concerning that topic. Linguistic limitations do not just stop at written texts but continue to storm through the film industry as well. Taking on the form of dialogue, scripts and plots stay native to the region they were written in. As Bong Joon-Ho said, pointing out our shortfall, “Once

you overcome the one-inch tall barrier of subtitles, you will be introduced to so many more amazing films.” Without touching on the aftereffects of californication, countless movies have been overlooked due to our incapability to open our minds a bit broader. Instead of vandalizing the artwork with dubbing, we have simply resorted to avoiding productions which cause discomfort by straying a bit from our own understanding. Fenced off by the barriers our own languages have set, we’re unable to even glance on what might await on the other side. I won’t rant on long for my closing remarks. Instead, as a finishing touch, I’ll leave you off with some substantial words that helped open my eyes to what we have been faced with amidst our trials in breaking through the socio-semantic ceiling hovering over our heads.

“Poetry in translations is like taking a shower with a raincoat on.”

TRANSLANGUAGE Over time definitions adapt and meaning modulates with every new iteration. It is unsurprising that linguistic shifts cause rifts in religion, popular culture and academic discourse. We have begun to rely heavily on the mechanical auto-translation from online dictionaries, yet at what cost? What nuances dissolve through literal translation, what idioms go unacknowledged, and how to interpret words without a context? ORIGINAL POEM A monotonous utterance, may not seem as if the bullet was bit, A bash around the bush, amidst flame and blue moon, in haste, Overlooked, as a secondary wind takes flight, misunderstandings conveyed, Yet scripts are repeated, written, orated.



CZECH Monotónní zamumlání, možná nezní jako kousnut do kyselého jablka, Chůze kolem horké kaše, při blankytném měsíci a plamenu, spěchám, Přehlížen, podružný vítr se vznese do letu, nesrozumitelnosti sděleny, Však scénáře se opakují, psané, vyřčené.

BACK TO ENGLISH A monotonous murmur, it may not sound like a sour apple bite, Walking around a hot mess, by the azure moon and flame, I’m in a hurry, Overlooked, a secondary wind soars into flight, incomprehensibility communicated, However, the scenarios are repeated, written, spoken.

CROATIAN Monoton izgovor, možda se ne čini kao da je suočeno, Izbjegavanje, među plamenom i plavim mjesecom, u žurbi, Zanemareno, dok još jedan vjetar polijeće, nesporazumi preneseni, Opet, skripte se ponavljaju, zapisuju, propovijedaju.

BACK TO ENGLISH A monotonous excuse, it may not seem like a confrontation, Avoidance, between the flames and the blue moon, in a hurry, Ignored, as another wind blows, misunderstandings carried over, Again, the scripts are repeated, written down, preached.

ARABIC .‫ تحت البدر االزق و دفئ الحطب‬،‫ دام تجاهلنا لتفاديها مماطلة‬،‫تعابير بال هويه‬ .‫ ناقلة سوء الفهم رغم كل ذلك النصوص تكرر و تكتب و تنطق‬،‫ حتى الرياح حلقت‬،‫غافلين‬ BACK TO ENGLISH Expressions without identity, as long as we ignored to avoid them, Stalling, under the ravishing full moon and the warmth of firewood, Oblivious, even the wind roared, conveying misunderstanding, Despite all that texts are repeated, written and spoken.

FRENCH Monotone énonciation, semblant souffrir silencieusement, Un langage imagé, parmi flammes et bleue lune, hâtive, Négligé, tandis qu’un second vent prend vol, malentendus communiqués, Cependant écrits sont transcrits, composés, prêchés.

BACK TO ENGLISH Monotonous utterance, seeming to suffer silently, A colorful language, among flames and blue moon, hasty, Neglected, while a second wind takes flight, misunderstandings communicated, However writings are transcribed, composed, preached.

COMPLEX FLUIDITY A while back while digging through Spotify, I came across a sporadic gem, by surprise an Egyptian Trap / Eastern fusion record by Cairo based producer “Molotof” featuring Alexandria’s “Wegz”. At the time I landed on that record, I barely had any knowledge of the Arabic rap scene, it was quite interesting to see what the successors of the poetry G.O.A.Ts are doing these days. I genuinely think that a single bar in that track pulled me into this genre to begin with, (‫)نوصل بالسالمة و انتوا بالسالمة‬ - Which roughly translates to “We would arrive safely (blessed) and you guys would screw off” Although not a really impressive punchline, but the way it was conveyed in Arabic, is quite interesting, utilizing the same word (‫)بالسالمة‬ for two juxtaposing impressions is quite interesting, neither a homophone or a homonym as well since homonyms aren’t necessarily following both the same pronunciation and spelling. It’s a very “audible” phrase to the ear there’s a certain fluidity to it. Is it just some clever wordplay from rappers? Well, it isn’t in fact it’s been around ever since the bedouins were roaming around the peninsula, for an instance the legendary 7 hanging poems “Al-Mullaqat” which utilized the same technique (‫ جناس تام‬/ Genas Tam), but to an even more extreme extent, using the exact same word to conclude each line of these poems and each single use has distinct meaning, bare in mind that each of these poems have by minimum 60 lines. Quiet mind-blowing isn’t it. While Arabic is deemed to be a really complex language, it’s quite vindicating that there is also a fluid rhetoric nature at the same time.






In Georgia, not the state in the USA, but a beautiful country among the Caucasus Mountains between Europe and Asia, we speak a unique language - Georgian. It belongs to the Ibero-Caucasian language family. How is it different from other languages? First, there are 33 letters in the Georgian alphabet, some of which need some serious training to be pronounced correctly by foreigners. If we look at its grammar, which, by the way, is dreadfully difficult, we have seven cases for nouns. If you are used to Indo-European languages, it might be normal for the subject to always be in the nominative case, however, Georgian also uses ergative and dative cases. Okay, fine, enough about boring grammar. Let’s talk about the origins of the language. The oldest extant Georgian literary document is over 1500 years old. Its title translates to “Suffering of Shushaniki”. What’s more, specialists believe that such a refined piece of literature couldn’t be the first one, and several books must have been written earlier. It’s also important to note that the book mentions how the main character carries several books with her, proving the existence of earlier literature that has disappeared. Whether a legend or reality, it seems like the Georgian alphabet has existed since King Pharnavaz, from the 3rd century BC. However, if we take into consideration discoveries in the town of Grakal, the alphabet might be several centuries older than we’d believed earlier. Nonetheless, the first attested script, Asomtavruli, dates back to the 5th century, BC. Although the origin of the language is uncertain, unquestionably, Georgian is one of the oldest, independent languages to still exist and that persisted even after a long history of

PAGE PAGE 55 constant occupation (read about one of the examples on page 39.) You may have come across the Georgian letter “ღ” before, thinking it’s a cute icon representing a heart. This is actually the 23rd letter in the Georgian alphabet and sounds like a French person trying to pronounce the letter R. Numerologically, the letter has a numerical value of 700, giving it important symbolic meaning. Just to give you an idea of how unusual this is: in the English language the alphabet’s numerological theory of a letter doesn’t exceed past 8, whilst in the Georgian language, it even goes up to 10,000. What comes to mind when you think of Georgia? It may be nothing specific, or perhaps mountains and the sea, wine, good singing during feasts, or a conservative country with traditions that have remained in the culture for centuries. Despite its reputation for being very traditional, you may be surprised to find that within the Georgian language there is no differentiation between genders, nor the use of any pronouns that may indicate whether or not we are referring to a male or a female. How cool is that? It is a language that dates back for many centuries, which, from its inception, never separated men and women through its use of pronouns or labels. To add onto that empowering fact, from 1184 to 1213, Georgians had the greatest King that they value and cherish till this day... and that King was a woman- King Tamar. She was strictly labeled the King and not a Queen, as Kings had more power and were in charge of ruling the country. The public refused to demote her to the title of Queen just because she was a woman.





Our souls salivate from existential curiosity, Creating cultivated sustenance, Reimagining spiritual manna to Tantalise oral decadence.


AGORA is a magazine helping art & design students, professionals and enthusiasts express and share their creativity. CONTACT US Website: Email: Instagram: @agora.mgzn WITH THE SUPPORT OF PRAGUE COLLEGE