#4 in a series of photo stories about the lives of Bajan deaf people.
As told to The Calypso Project which is empowering the Barbados deaf community to advocate their needs and wants to their government, public services, businesses and general public.
‘Be a rainbow in someone’s cloud’. That’s a message of this radiantly beautiful sign language painting by Joy Hall.
Four fingers draw a graceful arc. “It’s how we communicate ‘rainbow’ in our Bajan signs,” explains Joy. In clever twist, the fingers also trail the rainbow’s colours.
It’s one of the first of a series of sign language paintings by Joy who runs an arts and crafts business, Joy’s Creations.
“I was born hard of hearing, yet it wasn’t until I was 10 before I was even given any hearing aids. I went to mainstream school. My mother made sure to ask the teachers to let me sit at the front of class so I could hear a little bit more. But life was a struggle, even with my hearing aids and using an FM radio aid. Often children at school were not very nice to me about it. I was the only child at school with a hearing aid, so no-one else could relate to how I felt about it.”
“I did work hard at school. I got several qualifications too. My parents were very supportive. I currently work part-time for their accountancy business, helping out with their administration tasks.
The rest of the week, I run my own crafts business, along with my husband Dario – who is deaf.
I first met Dario at 13, at our Jehovah’s Witness congregation. I always felt at home there. It’s one place in Barbados where hearing people truly accept deaf people as they are. It was there I first learnt sign language.
I love to sign because it enables me to ‘relax’ and communicate freely and easily in groups and noisy places without the strain of having to lipread every single word all the time.
I do know of some other hard of hearing people who are still in the mainstream society but they don’t have a ‘deaf’ identity, so they mostly struggle on their own. They may think ‘I’m not deaf’ and ‘I don’t need sign language’. But although I am hard of hearing too, I find it is much better to be a part of both the hearing world and deaf world too. If it was just me in the hearing world only I would find it much more isolating. Having deaf friends and a deaf identity gives me greater confidence when dealing with the hearing world too.
“I have a dream: I’ve started my own arts and crafts business called Joy’s Creations. I buy coloured wires and stones from local shops and then bend these into intricate shapes to make rings. I also do nature and animal paintings. Alongside my husband Dario, who runs his own business called Kokonutz, we go to local craft fairs and flea markets to sell our work. The great thing about this is that we get to meet people. Local people and tourists. From doing this, hearing people learn about deafness and sign language. Our dream is to expand this business and reach out to even more people.”
“If I was Prime Minister for one day and had the power to change things and improve deaf people’s lives: I would say teach all hearing children in schools how to use sign language. I mean schools teach French or Spanish, and then people hardly meet anyone who speaks it! Sign language would be far more useful as there are so many Deaf people who live among us! For example, doctors and nurses could use it with their patients. Families could use it to make sure deaf people feel more included. Barbados would be a better society if everyone could sign at least a bit.”
To see more of Joy’s work, visit her Instagram site at: www.instagram.com/joyscreations246/