Today is the 63rd birthday of the N’Ko alphabet! It’s not often we know the actual birthday of an alphabet, so I couldn’t just let it go by unnoticed.
As I may have mentioned before, I’m a little crazy about writing systems. This one was developed by Soulemayne Kante, a Guinean man who was angry that Westerners treated Africans as “culture-less” because they didn’t have their own indigenous writing system. It’s interesting that Kante, like Sequoyah, has become a culture hero; it’s also interesting that there is a little bit of magic attributed to both men. Kante is said to have come up with N’Ko “after a night of deep meditation;” Sequoyah was repeatedly accused of “sorcery” and “witchcraft” while he was developing the Cherokee syllabary. (There is a sort of magic to writing, don’t you think?)
Today N’Ko is used to read and write the Mande languages of West Africa, meaning that populations in Guinea, Mali, and the Ivory Coast have been able to use a unique system to encode their languages and develop their own literary culture.
Happy 63rd birthday, and many more!