Exonumia is an open source platform that allows its contributors to translate and publish content about Bitcoin into Native African languages. It is ran by the South African non-profit company of the same name and company registration number 2021/711041/08. It is ran by the South African non-profit company of the same name and company registration number 2021/711041/08.
Why does the Exonumia Project exist?
Africa is home to over a billion people who speak a diverse set of languages. Some estimates claim there being over 3000 dialects spoken by the many ethnicities of the continent. Regardless of its rich history, a majority of the countries are still rural/developing countries. Almost all of Africa was colonized by Europe during the late 19th century (with only Ethiopia and Liberia maintaining their independence). The current lack of prosperity can partly be pinned on the constant state of war and the many independence and decolonization struggles being dealt with in post colonial Africa.
One of the many side effects that the era of colonization has had on Africans is that changes to how most countries are run were/are made effectively without the consultation or participation of the majority of the population. Many countries have legal and economic systems that use a language which is foreign to the natives of the country.
To highlight the impact that this switch in languages has had we would like to reference an extract from the book Theory and Historyopen in new window by the Austrian economist Ludwig von Mises. In the section Undoing Historyopen in new window Mises highlights how those only fluent in the native languages are relagated to subordinate positions of society when new rulers come to power and enforce a new language as the medium of instruction for both economic and political activities. The longer such a society continues to conduct day to day affairs without using their native dialects then those native dialects die out because they become insufficient tools for those looking to part take in activities of value. He delivers this point as follows
A language is not simply a collection of phonetic signs. It is an instrument of thinking and acting. Its vocabulary and grammar are adjusted to the mentality of the individuals whom it serves. A living language-spoken, written, and read by living men—changes continually in conformity with changes occurring in the minds of those who use it. A language fallen into desuetude is dead because it no longer changes. It mirrors the mentality of people long since passed away. It is useless to the people of another age no matter whether these people are biologically the scions of those who once used it or merely believe themselves to be their descendants. - Ludwig von Misesopen in new window
The chapter uses Ireland as example state where an natives language got replaced by the language spoken by the new rulers. Ludwig von Mises then spends a good portion of the chapter discussing the difficulties in undoing the damage caused by the replacement/killing of the old native language(s).
Those who want to revive a dead language must in fact create out of its phonetic elements a new language whose vocabulary and syntax are adjusted to the conditions of the present age, entirely different from those of the old age. The tongue of their ancestors is of no use to the modern Irish. The laws of present-day Ireland could not be written in the old vocabulary; Shaw,Joyce, and Yeats could not have employed it in their plays, novels, and poems. One cannot wipe out history and return to the past.
The Exonumia project understands the difficulties faced by native speakers of languages which have been excluded from the economic and political activities in the African continent. To avoid the native African being excluded from the activities and developments which are possible through using Bitcoin as a medium for economic activity we wish to translate as much content as we can and get it to the people who would benefit the most from it.
Why the name Exonumia?
The wikipedia entry for Exonumia states that
Exonumia are numismatic items (such as tokens, medals, or scrip) other than coins and paper money. This includes "Good For" tokens, badges, counterstamped coins, elongated coins, encased coins, souvenir medallions, tags, wooden nickels and other similar items. It is related to numismatics (concerned with coins which have been legal tender), and many coin collectors are also exonumists.
And the definition of Numismatics is the study or collection of coins, tokens, and paper money and sometimes related objects (such as medals).
Since the purpose for this platform is to translate content that explains how Bitcoin works into native African language we thought it fitting to use the word Exonumia as the name of the project.