An International Language

When I started kindergarten I could not speak English. I had a bilingual teacher, but communicating was difficult. I had incidents where I had to communicate but couldn't talk the language but I had one saving grace, a crayon. :)

I've been fortunate to have the ability and the interest to draw from an early age. I spent so much time copying illustrations from coloring books. I clearly remember learning how to draw Popeye before even learning how to spell. I remember drawing to communicate with teachers and every time they understood!!! I remember drawing a box of tissues and one time drawing a toilet in a really big hurry!!!!
(the restroom was about 10 more steps from where I was :P) but I was on to something! Even as a kid I remember how proud I felt people could tell what I was actually drawing. 
Drawing has been used as a form of communication going back to the beginning of man. Petroglyphs date back to the beginning, beautiful cave art like that found in Chauvet caves of Southern France and  ancient Tibetan dwellings are just incredible. All manners of recording stories of ancient past to pass down, a great form of communication.  

I was fortunate enough to attend a Festival of international falconers many years ago in England. Many different cultures and many countries were represented and all with the same  passion of an ancient sport. Interpreters were hired to help  bridge the language barriers between so many people. Every country represented had a big tent displaying their form of falconry. One evening I found myself with a friend that was showing footage of his eagles hunting the highlands of Scotland. We were chatting about eagles when in front of the tent passed one of the legendary eagle hunters of the steppes everybody always hears about. The Mongols, the Kazakhs, the Kyrgystani  all of these different eagle hunters  were visiting. Here was a golden opportunity for my friend, Roy to chat and talk "eagles." He quickly approached the man and shook his hand and said hi. He led him in the tent sat him down and pointed at the screen of the golden eagle chasing hares thru the snow.

The man smiled gave a thumbs up and continued watching. Roy then asked, "what do you think? That's my eagle, we catch lots of hares"... He looked at Roy and smiled. Uh oh, one problem. Did not speak English. Roy desperately looked around and expressed his woe. Here is one of these legendary eagle hunters and we can't communicate! We were stalled. He tried his skills at charades which worked for a little bit and we hit a brick wall. All of a sudden my mind went back to kindergarten! I asked Roy quickly, "do you have a crayon?" I quickly changed my statement to pen, "do you have a pen?" "Give me a piece of paper!" Roy caught on quickly to what I was about to do, "brilliant!" I quickly would cartoon Roy's questions to the gentleman. We were all having a good time, he would answer or point at whatever I was drawing and the "conversation" started. It was a bit one sided since both Roy and I couldn't understand when he wanted to talk. After our chat or "cartoons" he left and returned with his interpretor. We talked for a bit longer and he got to ask what he wanted too. We hugged and said bye for the day, I think he kept the drawings and ever time I would run into him at the festival he would smile and act like he was drawing with a pen and laugh. He gave me one of his countries traditional hats, a gift I loved and still have. 
A year later a friend from Kazakhstan informed me that the eagle hunter had passed away. It made me think back to our "conversation" and to the times I shared with him talking about a passion we both share. I wish I could have visited him in his country, see him fly his eagles and gotten to know him better, but I am thankful for the time we had. Thankful I could "communicate" thru art.

May you always soar high,

1 comment:

  1. Great story Manny, very inspiring. Drawing is a universal language for sure and I can't wait to go back on the road with a sketchbook! Adios