This week we put up a number of the green-hued tiles, forming an earthen mound and a crawling vine. The leaves of the vine display more words written in many languages. Several kids stopped by to help affix tiles or talk about the project. One boy looked up and pointed to a leaf written in Nepali. That’s my language! he said. As we developed this project, we wondered how working with the kids to create artwork might create flickers of meaning for different people. The poet Rodrigo Toscano writes about the uneven cultural terrain, how for each of us, some words might hold more meaning than others. When we bring different languages together, the words that we do understand seem to light up with significance.
At the same time, words that we don’t understand also are important. Earlier this fall, a first-grader glazing a tile that read pua (“flower” in Hawaiian) said to another child, Look! This is the word for flower in a language I don’t yet know!
Already, many parents and neighbors have stopped to check out the mural and scan the tiles for recognizable script — it is such a delight to see what pleasure the mural brings !