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Installation view, Frédéric Bruly Bouabré: World Unbound, The Museum of Modern Art, New York, March 13–August 13, 2022. Photo: Robert Gerhardt. Digital image © 2022 The Museum of Modern Art, New York

When you enter the first gallery of Frédéric Bruly Bouabré: World Unbound, you may hear a voice speaking in short clips. The sounds are the artist Frédéric Bruly Bouabré uttering the syllabary he invented for his native Bété language. In the 1950s Bouabré was working a government job in Dakar, the capital of what was then French West Africa, when he decided to devise a way to write Bété, a predominantly oral culture, using the phonetic structure of the language. It was a project astonishing in scope, leading to over 400 characters, each schematically depicting activities and things from everyday life. Decades later, once he returned to his home country of Côte d’Ivoire, Bouabré further developed the imagery in those glyphs into the monumental artwork Alphabet Bété, which comprises detailed drawings of the subject matter referenced in each of the glyphs. Image, text, and sound are equally important components of Bouabré’s project. That’s why we were so excited to feature an interactive digital platform in World Unbound that allows visitors to “write” their name or other words using the artist’s system, hear him pronounce each syllable included in the drawings, and then see its corresponding glyph.