Logos – Narrating Nubia: The Social Lives of Heritage


The following is an abridged report written by one of the collaborators for Earth Odysseys: Nubia, and a sample of guided student responses.

Arbaab’s Report:

I draw a lot — it’s kind of my job — but when I’m drawing for pleasure rather than business, I like to redesign the logos of my favorite cartoons and television shows in the Meroitic and Nubian alphabets.

For those of you who don’t know, Meroitic and Nubian are two of Africa’s oldest writing systems. Each one was the main script in Nubia for centuries before being replaced by a new dominant language: in the case of Meroitic, Nubian; and in the case of Nubian, Arabic. Nowadays the two scripts are mostly of interest to historians (Meroitic especially), but in the case of the Nubian alphabet there are activists pushing for its revival as a way of writing modern Nubian languages (including myself). But even then, I have to admit, not a lot of people write in or read these scripts. A lot of people don’t know they exist. But, when I have time and inspiration, I can’t help myself from remaking one of my childhood (or current) favorites in one of these alphabets.

Phoenix WrightAce Attorney

Prompt Questions:

  1. What do you think Arbaab’s message is with this report? What’s most important for him to say?

— Second, what does Arbaab’s report inspire YOU to think about?

Student Responses:

I think this report was mainly about uncommon languages and redesigning logos. Arbaab’s message was that because Nubian and Meroitic are not common languages anymore, they are often thought of as invisible, forgotten or even dead languages. I think it’s really cool that you can translate different logos in English into Meroitic or Nubian.

I think it’s cool how Arbaab changes the cartoons into Arabic or or Meroitic. I think Arbaab is trying to say how they’re “a modern citizen of the global community while also being an inheritor of an ancient culture”. Arbaab’s report inspires me to think about if I was living there, speaking that language if I would still like similar songs or games. I didn’t realize how different some things are until I started to learn about Nubia

I really liked this report because I love the message of how some languages don’t get enough rep around the world, and I totally agree. as someone who is chinese (chinese is obviously a super popular language) I think the other languages need more recognition cuz there are a bunch of super cool languages around the world. I would do anything to make these languages popular!!! especially because of how beautiful other languages are. visually and how they sound.

While he comes across as inspired when he creates his logos, I think that he is trying to say that although this is his background/heritage, he is still a member of the modern world. He does this by redesigning common logos that he likes into Nubian or Meroitic. This shows his love and affection for his heritage. However, in the text we see that he designs logos just for fun, and not for representation Overall, his message is that although he is from a ancient background, he is still a member of modern society.

I think Arbaab’s main message is that representation in media is important, and that art can get inspiration from any culture and any culture can inspire art, whether it is traditionally represented in mainstream media or not. I think it is most important for Arbaab to say that it feels bad when cultures aren’t represented in art. It feels like the culture is faded, endangered, or even dead. I think it is important to say because I think it can inspire change in media.

Thomas (UM Undergrad and Mentor)
Thank you for this response G., I think your dedication to being an ally to underrepresented communities really shines through. I can see how much this resonated with you and the connection you made helped me see this in another light…

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