Deaf Arts Festival defies odds

Xolisani Nyathi : Arts Reporter

Art lovers were in for a treat as different deaf students showed off their artistic skills and talent during the Deaf Arts Festival held recently at Emerald Hill School for the Deaf. The festival was hosted by Deaf Media Trust, supported by Culture Fund in partnership with Sida DANIDA under the Culture Impacts Rights and Freedoms programme.It saw different schools taking part with each school performing genres like poetry, drama, dance and educative presentations, all through sign language, whilst there was also an interpreter and a narrator to make it easy for people to understand.

Schools that performed include Emerald Hill School, Deaf Zimbabwe Trust School, Jairos Jiri School (Gweru), King George VI school (Bulawayo) amongst other schools.

It was an arts competition which saw school kids battling for prizes. The talented young boys and girls did their dramas which tackled different aspects based on what is currently happening in society. Their dramas ranged from issues of xenophobic attacks, racism to gender based violence and other issues that are of concern in modern society.

However, it was just not a competition, but an educative festival where people got to somehow learn the challenges faced by the deaf. One talented student from King George VI Sindile Mguni gave an amazing presentation in sign language.

Director of festival Trust Lovemore Chidemo said Deaf arts has been neglected for a long time and the festival is a way of a calling the society to reconsider their views.

“Deaf arts have been neglected for a long time. If you go to many festivals in Zimbabwe you won’t find deaf artists among those performing, therefore we have created a platform for them to showcase their talent

“Such festivals allow the audience to appreciate the beauty of sign language. It is a way of connecting with the hearing community, we hope this festival will grow as we reach out to Deaf children and youths in other towns,” Chidemo said.

Representing the Ministry of Primary and Secondary Education in the Psychological Service and Special Needs Services was Christina Sithole who, in an interview, said the ministry is making efforts to bring in to schools more learning materials for the benefit of the Deaf.

“We have sign language dictionaries, we have alphabet chats at these schools but that is not enough so as a ministry we are making more materials. We want to make learning aid for the deaf so that we facilitate understanding and knowledge of sign language at different schools.

“The Ministry is encouraging all teachers to learn sign language because everything that is being done in terms of learning is now inclusive,” Sithole said.

Also present at the festival were provincial arts manager for NACZ William Ndinde and Culture Fund programmes officer Overson Chiyaka.

The winners include Kholowethu Mhlanga from King George V1, Takudzwa Marimo from Deaf Zimbabwe Trust school, Kimberly Kausiwo from Emerald Hill School, Tafadzwa Madzorera from King George. Some won as a individuals and some as school groups.

The winners will represent Zimbabwe in South in October at the Zwakala Africa 2016, a festival which brings together deaf learners from about 13 Southern African countries. Last year Zimbabwe won two out of four categories and came second in the third category.

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