Posts Tagged ‘ramesh meyyappan’

The Art of War“This is my first trip to South Africa…indeed my first time on this mighty African continent!  There were many questions, some nervous excitement, wondering what the culture in South Africa is like and what the Deaf culture is like. Being Asian and now being based in Scotland (Europe) I am fairly familiar with most things Asian and European – but in terms of South Africa, I know/knew nothing!!

Communication was going to be a key issue. I’m becoming fluent in Swedish, British, American and International Sign but before arriving, I wondered how communication might work here: what styles of communication, what language the students I’m working with would be using.  I do work visually – looking at working with the children on developing visual narratives – so was imagining that common/shared language would work for us all. Then I began to consider the age of the group…they are young!

photo3So, meeting the three different groups from Dominican School, I realised there was little to worry about! The children appear to use a mix of Sign (British, American and International) and they have great imagination, and quickly began to think visually so all was good. This is now the 2nd week of my three week residency in Cape Town, working with three different groups at Dominican Deaf School, in Cape Town. Our time together is fairly tight and it is most rewarding to see the groups of children so focussed and engaged for the short time that we have.

At the moment we have begun to look at some skills, exploring how we can communicate visually (without the use of sign language). Following this short period of exploration we will work on presenting a short scratch performance – more like a presentation of ideas explored through improvisation, that the children might like to develop in the future. 

I have been impressed with the eagerness of the children to explore – they have no inhibitions and are confident to share thoughts and ideas. And of course, having some fun.photo1

We did have a bit of a giggle today – communication! I was signing to the children how I thought they were very funny, using American sign. The children found this comment very amusing, more amusing than I thought it was. I was then told that the sign I used for “funny” was the sign that was used here for “ugly”! I’m pleased that the children understood that I didn’t mean to call them ugly…and we all had a giggle at our miscommunication.

It is early days…but I look forward to more of these…

There is something fascinating about working with this age group: young people are so open to exploring and their minds work quite differently from that of adults. I’ve been surprised by the group’s self-assuredness in their own physicality – they were so confident that they could fully explore all ideas in their imagination.  

The groups seem keen and like me are excited about our next workshop together – they ask “When??”.

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CWB learnersWe have told you about the new partnerships that FTH:K has launched, right, and one of the projects on which we are collaborating is our National Deaf Education Tour (NDET). We ran our first tour in 2006 and since then, have run one every year, reaching more than 25 000 youths, of which 70% have been Deaf or hard of hearing. Together with Clowns Without Borders SA, Dominican School for Deaf Children in Wittebome, Cape Town, and international Deaf artist, Ramesh Meyyappan, FTH:K is running its National Tour again sharing with Deaf learners across the country the magic of live performance and the fun of theatre skills.

CWB groupNow, you obviously know who FTH:K is, and we’re sure you’re familiar with our work at Dominican School through our Tell-Tale Signs Programme, but what about Clowns Without Borders? Well, they are a group of…clowns…obviously…but not just any old buncha clowns. They are a group that has reached over 200,000 children and adults in communities affected by violence, disease, natural disasters, and poverty, and by presenting free performances throughout Southern Africa, they use physical comedy, music, storytelling, and dance, to provide momentary relief to people in these affected environments. Yeah. They’re awesome.

The Art of WarAnd this Ramesh guy? Ramesh Meyyappan is a Deaf theatre practitioner, based in Scotland, who creates performances using an eclectic mix of visual and physical theatre styles. Despite using little to no language in his work, he creates strong narrative performances and recently even added circus techniques to his theatrical visual vocabulary. His works have been toured to Austria, Australia, Cambodia, Croatia, Czech Republic, France, Hong Kong, Italy, India, Iceland, New Zealand, Norway, Sweden, Switzerland, Singapore, Poland, United Kingdom and the United States to name just a few…and now, South Africa! And we met him through our American partners, Quest Visual Theatre.

The Tour itself

The first leg of the 2013 NDET runs until 24 May at the Dominican School for Deaf Children where Ramesh will be running a 3-week residency programme in visual theatre with the Deaf learners. He’s teaming up with long-standing FTH:K friend and collaborator Sjaka Septembir to create a work-in-progress which will culminate in a series of showcases at the school’s annual Arts and Culture Day on 1 November.

The second phase brings together new and old collaborators. The new? The fabulous Clowns Without Borders SA. The old? Previous FTH:K Artistic Director, Jayne Batzofin, and a number of schools in KZN and the Free State with whom we have both long-standing relationships and new, burgeoning ones. The clowns have devised a new production that they are taking around KZN and the Free State from 06 to 24 May.

But it’s important to note that the NDET is not just about performing a show and then leaving again. As our awesome CEO Ana Lemmer says, “One of our objectives is to give the Deaf access not only to theatre and theatre skills, but also to develop skills in areas related to drama, literacy, self-confidence and team work, as well as developing future audiences. We are particularly inspired about our new partnerships as these will enable us to reach new heights in line with those objectives.”

And as if that wasn’t enough, an additional coolness is that Deaf FTH:K graduates Marlon Snyders, Christopher Beukes and Sinethemba Mgebisa will also be working with Ramesh while he is in the country, benefitting from the exchange not only creatively but also in personal growth as Ramesh himself is testimony of what is possible in Deaf performance. You guys will remember Marlon, Christopher and Sinethemba as being Trainees on our Tell-Tale Signs training programme’s Integrated Professional Development Programme, dazzling audiences with their performances in OfficeBLOCK, before graduating from the programme in 2012.

So, there you go, okes. We’ll keep you posted on how the project is going so, as always watch this space!

Listen Eyes buttons white backgroundYes, everyone! South Africa’s premier Deaf and hearing theatre company is back on tour with new and exciting partnerships and programmes. As you know, from 2005 – 2012 we operated as the only full-time theatre company of its kind in the country. Well, in 2013 we decided to shake things up again and started a process of restructuring ourselves in recognition of the internal changes in the company as well as the changing environment of Arts and Culture both nationally and internationally. Huh?! In short, it means that we have ditched the bricks-and-mortar elements of the company in favour of broader, more exciting programming, and are focussing strongly on national and international collaboration. While there might not be groups out there doing exactly what we do, there are people who share the same artistic and educational goals. And with money in the industry getting tighter than a lug nut, it becomes almost irresponsible not to partner with like-minded organisations to share resources and maximise achievements. So, with satellite offices in Cape Town, Grahamstown, and Washington, DC, FTH:K has adopted the idea of a global village and truly gone mobile!

We had a good long think about what we do, what we stand for, and what inspires us to come to work every morning, and we realised three things: 1) that we want to make visual theatre, 2) that we believe we have a meaningful role to play in education, specifically within the Deaf communities, and 3) that 1 and 2 are not mutually exclusive ideas. In many ways it is a mirroring of how FTH:K started in the first place, just without the jugs of Bavarian Lager. So once more, we have adapted and are back on tour to bring the magic of FTH:K to the world and (with apologies to SAA) to bring the world to FTH:K!

We have some awesome new partners who have joined us this year including Deaf performer and educator Ramesh Meyyappan and Clowns Without Borders South Africa, while our international relationship with Quest Visual Theatre has strengthened significantly. Dominican School for Deaf Children – where we started our very first programme years ago – remains with us in a newly revised approach to our Tell-Tale Signs Programme, and Sjaka Septembir is heading up the teaching on that. Of course, SLED are still our go-to guys in so many language-based areas. And let’s not forget all the Deaf and hearing schools, organisations and institutions around the country that we work with every year.

So, has FTH:K changed? In some ways. Is it still innovating? Is it still inspiring? Is it still finding exciting ways to COMMUNICATE * EDUCATE * and FASCINATE? You better believe it! So here we go, guys. It’s time for a new and exciting FTH:K adventure!