HEAR ME – MAKING ARTS ACCESSIBLE TO CHILDREN WITH DISABILITIES
The Ombetja Yehinga Organisation (OYO) is a Namibian NGO aiming at creating social awareness using the Arts. ‘We use the Arts because the Arts appeal to your emotions rather than to your intellect’. Says Dr Talavera, OYO director. ‘When you watch a piece or a movie, you can be moved. You can laugh, you can cry. You feel for the characters. We strongly believe that if you feel, you are more likely to integrate the message and remember it. Sadly, Arts education is not always a priority in Namibian schools, and might even be less of a priority for children living with disabilities.’
The idea behind ‘Hear Me’ is therefore to advocate for more Arts Education in schools and better access to Art projects for children living with disabilities, in particular Deaf children. With 15 Deaf children, OYO developed a comic book, a poster, a T-shirt, and a new short dance piece. ‘The comic book features a Deaf Heroin, Peace Girl’, Says Talavera. The Deaf children decided on the Heroin, her name (Peace Girl), the symbol representing her, the colours she should wear, and her superpowers (ability to analyse details, strong sense of balance, ability to fight). The cartoonist then prepared sketches and the children selected the sketch they liked the most.’
The comic book, poster, and T-shirts were launched on 01 June at the National Institute for Special Education by Mrs Edda Bohn, Deputy Executive Director of the Ministry of Education, Arts and Culture, who said ‘The basic idea behind the project is to give a hero to Deaf children, someone they could want to be like, but also anyone of us would like to be like. Comics in Namibia hardly ever focus on children with disability and yet representation matters. It further also promotes literacy in Namibia. People are still struggling to get learners to read. However, comics are a good medium to promote literacy.’
The project is funded by the Bulgarian Development Aid, managed from the Embassy of the Republic of Bulgaria in South Africa. In a statement sent to the organisers for the launch H.E Maria Pavlova Tzotzorkova said ‘I am very happy with your achievements. I have always believed that through Arts all children, including those with Hearing Impairment can express themselves freely and equally. Arts is a universal language and I must say Arts can bring all people together.
The comic book is currently only 8 pages long but it is the hope of OYO that it can be expanded ‘With the children we have developed six short stories in total’, said Talavera. ‘It could become a 28-pages, even longer, Namibian book. We therefore hope the project will grow from strength to strength.’
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