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Week of sign language a huge success

May 11th, 2011 | By | Category: Front Page Layout, Latest News, News

NEW DAY: Karen Pointon signs good morning during a taster class at Wellington City Library. IMAGE: Gareth Wallace

SIGN language lyrics were music to the eyes of Deaf Aotearoa over the past week.

A hip-hop concert signed by deaf artist Signmark and a DVD teaching the national anthem in sign language were highlights of New Zealand Sign Language Week.

Deaf hip-hop artist Signmark’s concert in Christchurch on May 7 was similarly successful, with Signmark himself commenting on Facebook that he “had [a] really mind-blowing night”.

Signmark’s concerts are given in American sign language over strong beats involving hard, low frequencies and bass, which are easy to detect by feel as well as sound, with vocal interpretation given by fellow hip-hop artist Brandon.

Victoria University sign language tutor Mark Berry called the concert the highlight of the week, and said it was great to understand 100% of the music’s lyrics.

One of the major events was the launch of a DVD teaching New Zealand’s national anthem in sign language on May 5, attended by more than 160 people, including MPs and many from the deaf community.

“The DVD has been selling very well, we encourage people to own one and be proud to represent NZSL as NZ’s official language,” said Shanon Morris, community relations officer for Deaf Aotearoa.

The awareness week, which finished on May 8, brought a lot of attention to sign language through events such as taster classes and the fifth Deaf Short Film Festival.

Ms Morris, organiser of the week in Wellington, said it went successfully, with more than 80 private and public classes run, and they have received a lot of positive feedback.

Taster classes run during the week’s evenings were well received and enjoyed by all involved, with feedback calling them “fantastic”, “really enjoyable”, and “memorable”.

Participants were taught the alphabet, numbers, greetings, and useful words such as coffee, pub, and Facebook.

The classes were conducted entirely in sign language, with a deaf tutor, such as Karen Pointon.

Erika, a student at the Wellington City Library session, said she enjoyed the class, but wished more people had attended, especially given that sign language is one of our official languages.

A SIGN: Te Papa photography curator Athol McCredie, left, with interpreter Jennifer Gilbert. IMAGE: Gareth Wallace

Mr Berry, who taught some of the sessions, said it was great to see people start to use sign language after the classes.

Attendees of the Brian Brake: Lens on the World exhibit at Te Papa were given a floor talk on the exhibit by curator Athol McCredie, interpreted by Jennifer Gilbert.

Te Papa was happy to have the talk during the week, but it also regularly has interpreted talks as part of major exhibits, said Jude Turner, the museum’s events producer.

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