Pastoureau – words of colours

The little book of interviews with Michel Pastoureau is quick dive into each color through which colors appear as ever evolving social constructs linked to how they are created. I have read it again to write this article and there are too many amasing anecdotes for me to pick one over the others! I will thus let you ead it.

A detour through an Eastern African language shows us very clearly where the colours come from. In Swahili, only 3 colours are adjectives (that have to agree with the rest of the sentence): red ekundu, black eusi and white eupe. Michel Pastoureau reminds us that the 3 structural colours during the Antiquity were white as colourless, black for everything dirty and red as colourful. Can we draw a link?

The rest of colours in Swahili are made out of elements of the environment:
– colour of turmeric, rangi ya manjano, that is to say yellow
– colour of trees or leaves, rangi ya manjani/kijani, that is to say green
– colour of a prune looking like fruit, rangi ya zambarau, that is to say purple
colour of the water of peas, rangi ya maji ya kunde, that is to say brown
colour of ashes, rangi ya majivu, that is to say grey
Some colours are close to English, for instance orange, rangi ya machungwa,or close to French like pink that is to say rose or rangi ya waridi.  

You can find this book in anoy of these book stores:

Bonus :

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