September is the International Month for Deaf People in commemoration of the first World Congress of the World Federation of the Deaf that happened in September 1951.
Amidst the doom and gloom of the Covid pandemic, Deaf advocacy groups have been rallying to end the spiral of silence around Deaf matters and celebrate Deaf Awareness Month in style.
The Deaf Federation of South Africa (DeafSA) presents a series of online webinars that recognise Deaf communities and sign languages that have existed for several centuries. Such initiatives cherish the proud histories of deaf people and their thriving communities, and the many people, deaf, children of Deaf adults (codas), and allies, who have worked together to enable the flourishing communities found around the world today.
DeafSA has free online classes which ends on September 30.
The KwaZulu-Natal Blind and Deaf Society (KZNBDS) educates the public about Deaf culture, hearing loss, deafness and sign language in KZN. As part of a fundraising drive, the public is encouraged to purchase exquisite aprons made by the Deaf. Contact 031 309 4991, firstname.lastname@example.org
On an embryonic level, as a South African Sign Language (SASL) lecturer at the Durban University of Technology (DUT), I recently founded ArtSigns Visual. The social club shares SASL and Deaf culture perspectives amongst Deaf and hearing participants. Deaf compassion and empathy training lie at the heart of the initiative. An inaugural Hand Chats Roundtable was presented at L’Art Arabe Gallery Musgrave on Sunday 19 September. The SASL engagement attracted seven eager participants who appreciated the networking opportunity to create value on humanistic and inventive frontiers. The benefits of learning a visual language and enriching one’s life through befriending Deaf people were highlighted. Learning and conversing in SASL may be considered ‘Ubuntu in Action’ towards enhancing inclusivity and social cohesion.
“L’Art Arabe Gallery and Country Bake are committed to celebrating and welcoming diverse communities. We look forward to further SASL engagements where Deaf people can be seen and engaged with,” says Shehnaz Desai, director of L’Art Arabe Gallery.
Audiologist at Fulton School for the Deaf, Faatima Nakhooda Vanker shared insights into her work at the SASL engagement. “National Month of the Deaf is here and this year’s theme is “Celebrating Thriving Deaf Communities”. Deaf communities within South Africa have been flourishing and ‘thriving’, and in September we should celebrate them by acknowledging that they have their own communities, cultures and language. Do your part by learning some sign language in order to communicate with a Deaf person,” she says.
ArtSigns Visual envisages a series of SASL workshops with Deaf and hearing facilitators. Participants can look forward to interacting with Deaf poet and SASL educator, Zohra Moosa. She writes:
‘When you are frustrated
You sometimes feel depressed!
When you struggle
Life seems imperfect
When you are unsuccessful
Your heart feels riddled
When prejudices ignite discrimination
You feel alone
I am a Deaf woman!
I feel the same too
Can we unite?
You a hearing person
Me a deaf person’
Moosa shares a poem highlighting the determination of Deaf women:
For years the Deaf woman has been crying
with her inner tears!
The Deaf woman endures years of deception and rejection
in every place!
Yet her will power of refusing to be silenced
or to be silent makes her over-look discrimination!
The Deaf woman harbours a lot of anguishes
that stings on her bruised soul!
Yet her divine love fights to keep her whole!
Her strength of faith allows her to stand strong
to carry her heavy burden all along!
In spite of all the hardship and pain she endures
her inner voice that calls out the Mightiest Almighty
to sustain her from grief!
The Deaf woman has the power to explain
the endurance of painful pain!
She hides inside
where injustice and prejudice reside!
Still the Deaf woman’s soul struggles to rise high!
She is a haggard true heroine of an unpleasant strife
where she is surrounded by people who hamper her silent life!
The Deaf woman’s faith continues to rise
that sparkles from her melancholic sorrowful eyes!
Deaf Poet of South Africa
For more information about Deaf Awareness Month and related activities, visit the following Facebook pages: DeafSA, KwaZulu-Natal Blind and Deaf Society, and ArtSigns Visual.