Artist starts Tamizh typography project to raise awareness of language

Hemalatha Venkatraman’s Tamizh Type Project came out of two core aspects of her identity —she being a Tamizh woman and an artist/designer.
Artist starts Tamizh typography project to raise awareness of language
Hemalatha Venkatraman


“I moved to America to complete my graduate education six years ago. Much of my everyday life in the US happens in English -- research, blog writing, art accompaniments, work, basic everyday communication, etc. and while it’s second nature for a polyglot like myself, it’s not the most visceral language for me — I think in Tamizh. I have never felt more comfortable or proud about any language than my mother tongue. I started this project to raise awareness about Tamizh, its beautiful script, and the complexity of the language and to establish awareness that Tamizh is as beautiful and important as other languages and that we should be proud of our culture. No language is superior to another,” says Hemalatha Venkatraman. 
The artist enjoys the continuous learning process and challenging herself every day. “I admire our sign painters in Tamil Nadu. Their control of the brush to make the most exquisite lettering on our roadsides, trucks, etc. is a huge inspiration for me. It appears to be a slowly diminishing field. I see a lot of typography projects in English and I needed a Tamizh representation in the lot,” she adds. 
For this project, Hemalatha is creating a type design for all the syllables of Tamizh — uyir ezhuthukal, mei ezhuthukal, and uyir-mei ezhuthukal. “This looks like me designing each syllable/letterform using graphic design tools using a consistent style. Right now, I am in the process of using a more organic and flowing style that enhances the curves of the language and the visual style also represents how it rolls off of our tongues. Along with each syllable type work, I also create snapshots of one movie and one piece of Tamizh movie song to go with it. For example, for the Tamizh consonant ‘ag’/’ak’, I added a quote from Mani Ratnam’s movie Agni Natchathiram and a song sung by Mano called Akkam Pakkam Paar from the movie Kadhalum Kadanthu Pogum. I am a huge cinephile, a music lover and love analysing movies —it’s like bringing together all of those different things I love. Along with the Tamizh quote and song lyrics, I also add a transliteration in English for those who don’t understand Tamizh. That also gives non-Tamizh folks a way to engage with Tamizh in a simple and engaging manner. Some Tamizh people I talk to don’t have reading/writing comprehension of the language and they enjoy the educational aspect of how to write the syllables, how to pronounce it, and what type of vowel or consonant it is, etc. Seeing more Tamizh design/art content will inspire other artists and designers to create more Tamizh-based work, as well,” Hemalatha remarks.

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