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> > > News: Six Deaf Explorers embark on journeys to support arts development and cultural exchange
Deaf Cultural Centre logo

Deaf Cultural Centre logo

The Deaf Cultural Centre, based in Birmingham, West Midlands, are inviting arts organisations, promoters and venues to collaborate with Deaf practitioners

Deaf Explorers is an exciting arts opportunity designed to support Deaf arts development and cultural exchange. Deaf Cultural Centre (DCC), is supporting six Deaf artists in England to work professionally and create new work that can be presented at the DCC and other venues. DCC encourages and supports Deaf artists to work in the arts and promotes Deaf culture by demonstrating an artistic-led approach to diversity and access.

Deaf Explorers aims to open doors for Deaf audiences by creating spaces and events where Deaf people, hearing people and hard-of-hearing people can mix and socialise together, learning about and exploring Deaf culture.

Deaf artists, producers, project managers and development workers were invited to apply to do new work with artists and companies or venues, explore new arts practice, develop their own work further and improve opportunities for Deaf audiences with a venue, festival or arts organisation.

Each of the six explorers chosen to participate has the opportunity as an arts practitioner to develop a proposal idea, research it using national and international travel, and meet with other artists or organisations in another country.
A £3000 package will pay for each participant’s national and international travel, mentoring and communication support over 12 months.

Extremely high quality proposals were received and DCC hopes that networking, collaborations, commissions and grants will follow its six intrepid explorers’ international travel and research.

A DCC spokesperson said: “The Deaf Explorers project offers fantastic opportunities. If you are an arts organisation or promoter and wish to meet an explorer to show or develop their work, please contact us.”

For more information visit the Deaf Explorers website: and the Deaf Explorer newsletter.

Who’s involved?
Biographies of the six Deaf Explorer participants demonstrate the breadth of their skills, talents, interests and ambitions:

Rubbena Aurangzeb-Tariq
You, Me & Bollywood: I’m particularly interested to learn how Bollywood is experienced from an Indian Deaf perspective.

I’m Rubbena Aurangzeb-Tariq, a Deaf British Muslim artist based in London. I have a studio in London where I develop my work. Since 1992 I’ve exhibited in America, Sweden, Paris, Canada, and the UK. I create paintings and mixed-media installation pieces. Exploring culturally mediated separateness, difference, and points of shared understanding are key themes in my work. Traveling to India will offer me a unique opportunity to engage with the local and artistic community of Bollywood and experience it within it’s indigenous milieu.

I will also participate in cultural exchange activities with the local deaf community through teaching debate, discussion and exchanging perspectives. The trip will enable me to get behind the received iconography of Bollywood and to develop deeper understandings and insights. This experience will become the basis for new installation artwork which I will exhibit in India and the UK.

Ruth Montgomery
"Thrilled to be part of Deaf Explorers & will be unlearning sound etiquette with Christine Sun Kim"

Ruth Montgomery has a lifelong passion for music and the arts. Although profoundly Deaf from birth she graduated with a 2.1 B.Mus (hons) music degree majoring in Flute performance at the Royal Welsh College of Music. Her Deafness has not deterred from working as a musician, teacher, workshop facilitator and visual artist today.

Explorer will support her by giving her the resources she needs to develop ways of making music ‘visual’ by meeting New York based Artist Christine Sun Kim (TED2013 Fellowship). Ruth will be creating music that links to Deafhood, Deaf history, sign language and accompanying mixed media that will show the emotions and stories that reflect what music is being played. Music can be seen as inaccessible to the Deaf community and she hopes that her project will provide a new perspective to the ‘Deaf Arts’ and also to show others the potential of what music is really all about.

Mary-Jayne Russell de Clifford
"I am very excited about the project, and looking forward to visiting Sweden and Norway and finding out about moving from community theatre to professional theatre."

Mary-Jayne Russell de Clifford has been a freelance Drama Leader and Drama Facilitator since she graduated at University of Reading studying Theatre Arts, Education and Deaf Studies in 2005. She has been profoundly Deaf since birth and had a dream to achieve a theatre company, she wants to move forward and upward with her career to become an artistic director. Deaf Explorer is a great
opportunity to take her to Tyst Teater in Sweden and Teater Manu in Norway. She will meet the artistic director of each theatre company, who will teach and guide her how to develop a quality of work to a high professional standard. Mary-Jayne wants to break down the barriers to interaction between Deaf and hearing communities.

Rinkoo Barpaga
"My comedy style is mostly influenced by Black American stand-up. I will travel to the USA to meet and train with role models & iconic Deaf comedians."

Rinkoo Barpaga is an emerging artist, born and raised in Birmingham and brought up in a bilingual environment, living with two languages: Deaf and Hearing. In 2012, he began performing as a BSL Storyteller, achieving success in London and Scotland. For nearly a decade, Rinkoo’s friends encouraged him to become a stand-up comedian. He decided that this would take him to the next level and is excited that Deaf Explorer will support him to make his ambitions a reality. His comedy style is mostly influenced by Black American stand-up comedians Eddie Murphy, Richard Pryor, Dave Chappelle, Kevin Hart and Katt Williams. Rinkoo is looking forward to overcoming the barrier of performing to a hearing audience and a ground-breaking performance for his first gig.

Billy Read
“I have been in touch with Deaf dancers like ourselves across the world and we plan to meet dance companies based in Hong Kong, Singapore and the Philippines. We want to collaborate; they want to work together to create something amazing. Deaf Explorer will allow me to develop and grow as a dance choreographer for young aspiring performers.”

Ever seen an all-Deaf dance crew? Def Motion hopes to positively influence the lives of young people, who may never have total access to the performing arts. In our work, we create original materials and re-create classic Michael Jackson choreography to deliver live performances and dance workshops. Supporting my hopes of going global, the Deaf Explorer award will enable me to visit an international Deaf-led dance group and share this with Def Motion, I am joined on Deaf Explorer by Semhar Beyene. Together we will meet and work with Redeafination, a self-funded, independent hip-hop dance group for the Deaf, formed in 2008 and based in Singapore.

Semhar Beyene
"I will create new choreographic styles with a creative edge to excel in today’s interdisciplinary world of Deaf-led choreography and inspire new generations of Deaf people to embrace music and dance."

By meeting and working with dance companies like ourselves in other countries, we aim to focus on exploring different dance practices in a Deaf capacity; where all performers are Deaf or hard-of-hearing and understand how they learn with and without aural abilities, looking closely at their visual receptive and productive skills in music and dance. Everything we do in Def Motion is Deaf-led; we have no assistance from hearing people in any form, as we are all bilingual. We already are aspiring versatile teachers with flexibility to communicate with Deaf and hearing people without the need for interpreters, switching from BSL to oral speech and vice versa. We have successfully carried out dance workshops for hearing groups, who were enthusiastic to learn from us.

Donna Williams
"Ideally everyone is my audience. Explorers is exciting because meeting and being mentored by accomplished poets who has already achieved so much in the field of sign language poetry would be an amazing experience."

I’m a British Sign Language poet. I love poetry, and Sign Language poetry is beautiful and expressive. I still can’t believe I’m lucky enough to be a BSL poet and I’m developing my style and confidence in this art form. In March 2012, I was part of ‘Signing Hands Across the Water’, where I met, shared ideas and performed with American Sign Language poets. I was intrigued that the ASL poets both had a voiceover provided by interpreters with whom they had established working relationships, whilst none of the BSL poets did.

I would like to explore much more about spoken/BSL poetry, and wonder if a perfect balance could be achieved, whereby sign language poems are understood and enjoyed by all, irrespective of previous knowledge of sign language. I will go to the USA to meet Peter Cook and Kenny Lerner, who together make up the Flying Words Project, a highly experienced ASL poetry duo who have been performing internationally for many years. By exploring making good translations that do justice to the sign language poetry, I hope to make it accessible for everyone and reach out to hearing people. I would love create poetry that everyone, Deaf and hearing, can understand and enjoy; I want to create beautiful poetry that everyone can access.