Loma [NEW]

The Loma script is one of the so-called Mande syllabaries—indigenously-created syllabic scripts invented for the Mande family of languages in West Africa, in this case northwest Liberia and neighboring Guinea.

(The language is also known as Loghoma, Looma or Lorma, and local names for Loma include Löömàgìtì,LöghömagitiLöömàgòòi and Löghömàgòòi.)

The syllabary was developed in the 1930’s for the Loma language by Widɔ Zoɓo of Boneketa, Liberia, and was used among the Loma people over the next decade or two for personal documents and correspondence. Like the Vai (LINK) syllabary, the linguistic and graphic godfather of all the Mande syllabaries, it consists of a collection of symbols with no great investment in similarity, sequence or continuity—perhaps an indication that Widɔ Zoɓo was more interested in drawing from a culturally familiar visual vocabulary than in mimicking the letterform traditions of the Latin alphabet.

Not surprisingly, the Latin alphabet, which was the established official script of education, business and Christianity in the region, maintained its dominance, and mainstream Western scholarly sources state that Loma is no longer used.

Charles Riley, an expert on West African scripts at Yale, points out that rumors of the demise of the syllabary may be premature. “A New Testament translation, Deʋe Niinɛi, was produced in 1971 in Liberian Loma.  Numerous small texts were produced in Wozi, Liberia, by the Loma Literacy Center between 1953 and 1972.”  He also identifies several people in both Guinea and the U.S. who are working to revive the syllabary, in the process founding AIEL (Association pour l’Innovation de l’Ecriture Loma) in Guinea.

Latitude: 6° 26′ 1.32″ N · Longitude: -9° 25′ 18.31″ W