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October 24 2017

Honouring International Week of the Deaf (IWD) | Uganda

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Advocating for equal access to Uganda’s contemporary visual culture for the deaf

The academic community of the College of Engineering, Design, Art and Technology (CEDAT) and the Margaret Trowell School of Industrial and Fine Art at Makerere University, in partnership with other stakeholders, including the Uganda National Association of the Deaf and Sisi Foundation, worked on a joint project that aimed at highlighting the participation of the deaf in artistic activities. The project was championed by Dr. Amanda Tumusiime, a senior lecturer at CEDAT, who has been working with the community of deaf youths in Uganda for the past year.

The culmination of this community engagement was the group art exhibition that took place on the 4th of September 2017 at the Makerere University art gallery. This activity was linked to the International Week of the Deaf (IWD), the only week in a year that sees highly concerted global advocacy to raise awareness about the deaf community at individual, community and governmental level. It is about gathering together, becoming united, and showing that unity to the rest of the world. IWD strives to promote the rights of deaf people and highlight specific human rights topics that merit attention. IWD aims to spread the message as widely as possible by ensuring that the campaign(s) will be noticed and the message will also pass to the wider society through sufficient media coverage. IWD is commemorated through various activities (marches, debates, campaigns, exhibitions and meetings), and calls for the participation and involvement of various stakeholders (families, peers, governmental bodies, professional sign language interpreters, Disabled People’s Organisations).

As part of the initiative to make academic resources relevant to the community, CEDAT encourages collaborative interaction with the community through impartating crucial skills to people with the view to improve the quality of life of society. It is in this vein that Dr. Amanda and other stakeholders sought to work with the deaf youths by training them in practical art skills, as well as granting them a platform to exhibit their works. The one-day show opened at the Makerere Art Gallery to a full house consisting of members of the deaf community, students and staff of Makerere University, representatives from the partner organisations and the media. The artworks on show included a mixture of two and three-dimensional works, such as paintings, drawings, crafts and some small sculptures. Some of the sculptures were inspired by sign language, whereby different signs were crafted out of clay and fired. Hearing artists also took part in the exhibition as a show of solidarity with the deaf art community.

Author: Nathan Kiwere, Arterial Network Uganda

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