Sign Language Education and Development

UNLOCKING THE INDIGENOUS HERITAGE IN SOUTH AFRICAN SIGN LANGUAGE


Recording Deaf Culture and History in SASL

South African Sign Language (SASL) has no written form, so transmission of culture, literature, stories and traditions has historically been face-to-face. With the accessibility of modern film and video recording technology, it is now possible to gather and preserve this rich cultural and literary heritage in electronic and visual formats to be appreciated and enjoyed by generations to come. This is especially urgent as the older generations of the Deaf community, who hold substantial repositories of Deaf cultural history, are ageing and have important contributions to make.

Since our inception in 2001, SLED has been developing cultural materials in SASL. In 2001, for instance, we undertook a literacy video project for DeafSA, with SASL drama and poetry workshops which culminated in the development of over 25 videos showcasing the storytelling and poetic skills of the Deaf community of South Africa. In October 2009, we held an eight-day ‘Storytelling Workshop’ in Franschoek, Western Cape. The Deaf participants who were part of the workshop developed their understanding of storytelling, ‘oral’ history and their own cultural heritage. Various genres of SASL literature were developed, crafted and filmed including fables, stories, poems, autobiographical stories and conversations, and recorded in DVD format.

In the course of 2011, this anthology is being translated into English so that it can be used by Deaf learners at different grade levels to attain English literacy.

 

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