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Lightwave Trellis 2020

Commissioned by UCL Trellis 2 Project

Film directed by

Rubbena Aurangzeb-Tariq  


This hand-shape can represent a number of things in sign language such as ‘connection’, ‘relationship’, ‘engaging’, ‘interaction’ and ‘collaboration’. It all depends on context, facial expression, body language and lip-pattern -one of the reasons widespread wearing of masks has created an additional communication barrier for deaf people

Light-Wave is a collaboration between Professor Bencie Woll (DCAL), Rubbena Aurangzeb-Tariq (Artist) and the east London deaf community.

Commissioned as part of Trellis: a UCL Culture and UCL East programme.

East London’s deaf Community is a long-established, constituent part of East London life. However, the community has invariably been underrepresented or wholly unrepresented in cultural discourses. Our project aspires to facilitate a creative collaboration between us and local deaf people which affords recognition to the east London Deaf community’s history, culture and language, thereby creating an artistic and academic legacy and tangible symbol of the community’s richness and resilience.

Our research has involved multiple facilitated group discussions with deaf community members where we have explored themes such as:

  • The historical development of the community and sites of deaf historical significance in the area.

  • Sign Language development and use in East London, and its relationship to the wider corpus of British Sign Language (BSL)

  • Community diversity, and faith-community influences on development and use of sign language, and technological influences

  • Ideas for co-creation of artwork.

Our discussion groups were drawn to the theme of cartographic representation, where  eastLondon locations that have deaf cultural and historical significance could be ‘mapped’ in a mosaic style using imagery of Sign Language specific to the area. 

Covid meant that all discussions have taken place remotely. By this happy ‘accident’ the myriad of creative possibilities of digital video platforms became increasingly apparent to us. Sign Languages are uniquely visuo-spatial and kinetic in nature, and digital platforms such as Zoom can enable co-creation where the sign language and the deaf people themselves can move to the heart of the creative process in a uniquely innovative way.

Importantly use of digital video technology enables recording of discussions and sign language in a format which can be incorporated into DCAL’s BSL Corpus to become an invaluable linguistic research resource.

Light Wave references Deaf culture, when Deaf people gather together they wave hands and flash lights to gain attention, and this project is endeavouring to bring wider attention and visibility to the east London deaf community's presence.

Lightwave Poster.jpg

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