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and the deaf
October 07, 2009
There is currently
a process of consultation going on in Zimbabwe concerning the 2010
Budget. One of the sectors that need to make their voice heard
is the Disability Sector. Money is needed for special educational
programmes on radio and television for the disabled.
CHIPAWO has for many
years been very much involved in arts and media with the deaf, culminating
in the first television series in Sign Language in Zimbabwe, 'Handspeak'
(2005). Since then CHIPAWO has longed to continue the work by producing
a sequel. After the Culture Fund of Zimbabwe came up with some funding,
work started in 2008 on 'Action Power'. However spiralling inflation
and the slow nature of the work combined to produce a situation
whereby the money ran out. Only about US$1 500 would suffice to
complete the production so that the deaf in Zimbabwe could at last
have another programme in a language they understand and a content
they can relate to.
NANGO is the
acronym of the National
Association of Non-Governmental Organisations. Its emblem is
an umbrella and that is what it attempts to be - an umbrella body
for civil society. Yet by a quirk of Zimbabwean precedent, it is
not that. In Zimbabwe a non-governmental organisation is literally
and legally defined by the expectation that it is a social welfare
organisation and is registered with the Ministry of Public Service,
Labour and Social Welfare.
This means that
lots of genuinely non-governmental organisations are excluded (CHIPAWO
for one) - and consequently do not belong to NANGO. It cannot therefore
claim to represent Civil Society.
NANGO was consulted recently
by the Ministry of Finance in the new, inclusive government, on
the issue of the forthcoming 2010 Budget. Though obviously far too
late, it was recognised as a step in the right direction and NANGO
held three days of consultations this week with organisations in
sectors such as Youth, Disability, Human Rights, Economics, Women,
Children and Land and the Environment. CHIPAWO received an invitation
to attend the discussions on the Children's Sector. I decided to
attend and represent CHIPAWO at the sessions on the Youth Sector
Although CHIPAWO works
in many of the sectors in which NANGO's membership is active, it
is not registered with the Ministry of Public Service, Labour and
Social Welfare. Instead as an arts organisation it is registered
with the National Arts Council of Zimbabwe. This is the case with
many other arts entities. Take an organisation like Patsimeredu
Trust, which is a professional drama company working in the field
of HIV/AIDS. These arts organisations do not belong to NANGO yet
it was obvious right through the three days that the problems and
the measures to be taken in almost all sectors mostly required the
involvement of arts, culture and media.
One example was the disability
sector. The format for the group discussions was to identify the
10 major socio-economic challenges facing the country, identify
sector specific challenges, come up with recommendations concerning
revenue and expenditure in the budget and discuss the weaknesses
of previous budgets.
One of the most pressing
challenges facing the disability sector was identified as being
education - education in two senses: one, education of the general
public on the challenges and needs of the disabled (or, as they
are alternatively known, the 'differently abled'), the other information
and education for the disabled themselves, formal and informal,
on issues of importance to their lives.
In budgetary terms, what
did this mean? It was decided that among other considerations it
meant special budgetary allocations to the print and electronic
media - newspapers, radio and television - for educational articles,
features and programmes for the disabled.
I immediately thought
to myself that an example of the impact of the lack of budgetary
allocations for expenditure essential for the disabled, is CHIPAWO's
work in deaf television.
contrary to the practice in developed countries of the world, does
not pay for programmes, except its own. From time to time it has
been able to commission productions but as a general rule for independent
producers to get a programme broadcast, the producers have to source
their own funding. If it is a programme of an obviously commercial
nature, the producers will have to buy the airtime to flight their
programme. If it is not, producers may enter into an agreement with
the national broadcaster to cover their own costs of production
and in return the broadcaster will flight the production free. In
addition, producers are offered 50% of the advertising time and
may pocket any income so derived.
In 2005 CHIPAWO entered
into an agreement with the Danish voluntary development organisation,
MS Zimbabwe, to fund a television series in Sign Language for the
Deaf. Such an ambition was made possible, not only by CHIPAWO Media's
capacity and experience but also by the work that CHIPAWO Programmes
had already done with the deaf, in particular at Emerald Hill School
for the Deaf in Harare.
The Programmes Unit of
CHIPAWO is responsible for three main programmes, Arts Education
for Development and Employment (AEDE), Performances and Youth. It
is the AEDE programme that is the original and core activity of
CHIPAWO. This is the programme in which CHIPAWO works with children
at centres in different parts of Harare and neighbouring towns with
a syllabus including music, dance, drama and a component dedicated
to information and education on issues of importance to children,
such as gender, rights and HIV/AIDS.
With the help
of a small grant from World University Service (Canada), CHIPAWO
established an AEDE centre at Emerald Hill School for the Deaf in
Harare a few years after its founding in 1989. On the expiry of
the contract with WUS (Canada) the centre received support from
UNESCO for a year and the Swedish International Development Co-operation
Agency (SIDA) for a number of years after that. When there was no
funding CHIPAWO subsidised the centre out of its own resources and
the school itself also contributed for a period.
In the almost 15 years
of its existence - the centre was closed in 2007 owing to lack of
funding and the inability of both the school and CHIPAWO to fund
it - the Emerald Hill School for the Deaf registered an astonishing
series of exceptional achievements, establishing itself in the process
as a pioneer in the arts by the deaf in Zimbabwe. The children developed
uncanny ability in both modern and traditional dance - where the
vibrations of the sound system and those of the drum beat out the
rhythm. Once the beat had been grasped, most of the children were
able to retain it impeccably for the duration of the dance. They
also came up with an excellent marimba ensemble, which played at
many CHIPAWO functions and public concerts.
The children had already
been doing drama at school so acting out issues or stories from
their lives was not a new experience for them. And it was drama
where the school registered its first major triumph, a play called
"Cry Thinking". The script was developed with the children
by a CHIPAWO team. The title derived from one of the testimonies
the children were all asked to write, in this case on the topic
of 'Growing up deaf', which was the theme of the play. One of the
children wrote that every night when she was little, before she
slept she would 'cry, thinking' that she was the only deaf child
in the world.
The play featured the
same story outline, told in two parallel idioms - mime and realism.
Basically the realist idiom tried to depict a child, rejoiced over
at birth, who is discovered later to be deaf. This introduces discord
between the father's family and the mother, as it is she who is
blamed. They take their child to various doctors, both Western and
African, and they are told that there is nothing that can be done.
Then she is sent away to a school to learn with other deaf children.
This version of the story ends with the child excitedly trying to
tell her family of how she discovered other children who are deaf
at the school and all the new things she is being taught. The story
ends with a family group in which roles are reversed and it is the
deaf child who teaches her family important words of family love
- in Sign Language.
The mime version of the
story is performed by a main actress and an ensemble. Together they
enact the feeling of entrapment (imaged by a large box) when the
deaf discover they inhabit a world of silence and they cannot communicate
and how they can explore and eventually find a way out. Now they
can see and interact with people but these people dismiss them angrily
because they cannot speak or hear. Eventually a woman calls them
and they begin lessons in Sign Language and then, graduates, they
approach the audience and introduce themselves one by one. They
enter the audience and start teaching them their names and some
The whole performance
comes to a climax with a dazzling dance performance where the cast
celebrate their achievement and demonstrate that they have mastered
other languages in addition to Sign Language - in this case, dance.
The deaf children performed
the play in Germany at the World Festival of Children's Theatre
in 2002 and since then it has been screened on Zimbabwe Television.
with the deaf led to the introduction of the Deaf Community Programme
and a graduate of Emerald School for the Deaf being appointed Deaf
Community Officer. Her name was Nyasha Nyamwanza. When she was asked
at her interview whether she thought she could do the job, she said
bluntly: 'No." Nevertheless she was appointed and she went
on to demonstrate in no uncertain terms how far off the mark her
estimation of her ability was. It was she who pioneered 'Handspeak',
as the television series came to be called, and went on to anchor
it until her tragic death cut her inspiring career short.
But before this,
another milestone in the development of the arts and disability
in Zimbabwe, also a product of the CHIPAWO-Emerald Hill powerhouse,
was 'Give Us A Chance'. Financed by the German Government, this
was a Handicap and the Girl Child Advocacy Arts Festival, which
took place at Emerald Hill School for the Deaf in 2004. Nyasha was
the main organiser. The festival featured children from five institutions
for the disabled - the deaf and the mentally and physically challenged
- as well as from CHIPAWO centres, performing plays related to handicap
and the girl child.
On Sunday, 5th
June, the first episode of 'Handspeak' went on air. This was the
Press Release, written by the CHIPAWO PPR Officer, Bridget Chimboza:
CHIPAWO will on Sunday
5 June 2005 score a first on national television when the first
episode of the first television series for and by the deaf will
be broadcast. This is a weekly magazine programme in Sign Language
There will be sub-titles
so hearing viewers will be able to follow what is being said. Each
episode will feature a short lesson on Sign Language, news about
and for the deaf, a drama on the topic of the week followed by a
discussion with guests on the programme and the Window of Hope -
a profile of deaf persons who have, despite the odds, made something
of their lives. The series features topics such as love and marriage,
careers for deaf people, HIV/AIDS, education, communication with
others in the community and entertainment as well as relaxation.
The producer of the programme
is Ms Nyasha Nyamwanza, the 'Challenged' Programme Officer in CHIPAWO,
herself deaf. Ms Nyamwanza is a graduate of Emerald Hill School
for the Deaf and the programme has grown out of the work that the
school and CHIPAWO have done together to develop arts education
in the deaf community. Nyasha is also the anchor in the show and
all the dramas were developed and acted by students at Emerald Hill.
Nyasha said the main aim of the programme was to change people's
attitudes towards the deaf: "The aim of the programme is to
change the way deaf people are perceived in the society by showing
that the deaf are just like hearing people" she said. She also
said that the programme also seeks to show the problems that the
deaf face in Zimbabwe and therefore try to call for action to help
the deaf and that there's need to teach Sign Language in order to
make communication between the hearing and deaf easier."
The Principal of Emerald
Hill School for the Deaf is Sister Tariro Chimanyiwa, is also the
Chairperson of the National Council for the Deaf. She has given
the project unwavering support and she felt that the programme would
go a long way in eradicating the stigma associated with the deaf.
The Council, in conjunction with CHIPAWO and ZBC, will be officially
launching the series on 15th June at a venue yet to be announced.
The television series
is the work of CHIPAWO Media funded by MS Zimbabwe, the Danish development
organisation. Though the first series was filmed by an all-hearing
crew, it is planned that in future a deaf crew will be trained.
are television programmes for the deaf in other countries, there
are not many in Africa that have such programmes. According to the
Broadcasting Authority of Zimbabwe (BAZ) report 10 percent of the
content on the national television broadcaster, ZTV, is expected
to cater for the hearing impaired. As there was virtually nothing
before, except for certain news programmes in Sign Language, Handspeak
will go a long way towards filling the gap.
The series was repeated
after its 13-week run. Unfortunately, Nyasha, the main motivator
for the series, lived only long enough to see the first few episodes.
She died of meningitis the morning after complaining of a splitting
headache while assisting in the editing of one of the show's episodes
at the CHIPAWO Media Centre.
So what about a sequel?
With CHIPAWO's assistance Emerald Hill School for the Deaf put forward
a proposal to the Culture Fund of Zimbabwe for funding to produce
another13-episode television series in Sign Language. When the application
was successful, consultations and planning took place with the deaf
community and at Emerald Hill as to what the sequel to 'Handspeak'
should be like. These produced 'Action Power', similar in concept
to 'Handspeak' but with some significant innovations, in particular
an arts segment in which deaf artists exhibit and speak about their
galloping inflation wiped the money out before much could be done.
An application for a top-up was granted but this money disappeared
even faster. However so determined is CHIPAWO to get this programme
done that shooting went on regardless and, when work came to an
end, only 2 days shooting and the editing remained.
CHIPAWO has not been
paid for any of its work so far. This does not really matter. The
main thing is to get the programme done and onto the screen. With
CHIPAWO continuing to offer its services free, it was calculated
that the programme could be completed for only US$1 500 more. Obviously
however CHIPAWO also needs to be paid.
to assist should please contact CHIPAWO on email@example.com)
television series (6 DVDs - total cost US$80. postage US$14)
2. 'Deaf Dialogues', compendium of drama segments from 'Handspeak'
(2 DVDs - total cost US$30 - postage $14)
3. "Trailblazers', documentary on Emerald Hill School for the
Deaf and its pioneering work in the arts and media (1 DVD - total
cost US$15, postage $14)
4. 'Cry Thinking', stage drama by deaf children (1 DVD - total cost
US$15, postage $14)
5. "Give Us A Chance', handicap and girl child advocacy arts
festival, included in 'Three CHIPAWO Documentaries' (1 DVD - total
cost US$15, postage $14)
6. "Vanamurambiwa" (The Forgotten Children), Christmas
feature on orphans and the disabled (2 DVD - total cost US$30, postage
Apologies for high cost
of postage in Zimbabwe.
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