Art speaks to deaf through sign language

17:00, May 15 2014

Members of the deaf community enjoyed discussing local artworks yesterday thanks to a visiting sign language interpreter.

The Govett-Brewster Art Gallery and Deaf Aotearoa teamed up to provide a day of art appreciation for deaf people in Taranaki, as part of New Zealand Sign Language Week.

The small group gathered at the Wind Wand then moved to Pukekura Park to picnic under Reuben Patterson's gold-glittered tree The Golden Bearing and to learn about the artwork.

Community relations officer for Deaf Aotearoa Niki Jenkinson said the theme for this year's awareness week was "Connect, Celebrate and Communicate".

"And today's activities have allowed the deaf community to do all three."

Taranaki has no sign-language interpreter, so Bernadette Cutelli travelled from Whanganui to assist.


Jenkinson said the lack of a local interpreter was a problem, and when Cutelli visited Taranaki the health board and other organisations which might require the specialist service were notified.

Deaf Aotearoa's main objectives were to promote sign language and deaf people's access to interpreters.

She said Cutelli's presence meant the deaf participants were able to ask questions and get the most out of the experience.

Another feature of the week's activities was a bus tour around the mountain, stopping at the Historic Cape and Light Museum, Opunake Beach, Yarrows Bread Factory and the Eltham Cheese Factory where they went away with plenty of supplies for yesterday's picnic.

Tania Stuart, of Deaf Aotearoa, said there were about 30 people in Taranaki's deaf community.

Sign language, like any language, required regular use to maintain proficiency, she said.

"I'm still learning after 20 years, it takes time."

Stuart said it was important the deaf had access to community events.

Kristen Wilkes has been a teacher of the deaf for eight years and said it was a rewarding job.

The best part was seeing the kids' language and their ability to ask questions develop.

She had brought students Riley Wood, 9, and Tom Wilkinson, 4, along to the event in an effort to expose them to deaf culture and sign language.

Taranaki Daily News