Two years ago, audio engineer Brenda Ray wanted to get creative with language and sound. She wanted her project to be universally understood; more importantly, she wanted it to be meaningful.
After searching through powerful documents that included many of Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr.’s speeches, Brenda found what she was looking for: the United Nations’ Universal Declaration of Human Rights. The document was translated into 335 languages, and Brenda had a “beautiful idea.”
She set out to get the text recorded in as many different languages as possible. She believed that humans all shared a common humanity, and that it was important to communicate this humanity with one another.
Her finished product, entitled the World Voices Project, was an audio installation. Brenda installed 50 headphones with 50 different languages reading the Universal Declaration of Human Rights. Each headphone set was marked with the country of origin and accompanied by a map with the location. The World Voices Project was displayed at the South Street Seaport on pier 17 in the food court on Sunday.
Brenda’s mission for the future of the exhibition is to make it a traveling show, visiting various national and international locations. She would also like to get involved in schools and thinks that it is important for students to be taught courses dealing in human rights.
The Universal human Rights Declaration will celebrate its 60th birthday in December. Brenda’s display could be ideal for a commemoration of the event, she said.
“When we hear another language, we hear another voice speaking that language,” said Brenda. “This opens our mind to the other person’s culture, and his life; it’s all interconnected. As we become curious about other languages, we become curious about other people. This leads to respect, which then leads to respect for human rights.”
Although the South Street Seaport exhibit concluded on Sunday, Brenda’s exhibit, she hopes, will continue to travel.