“If we are to preserve culture we must continue to create it.” – Johan Huizinga
Art is the glue that holds a culture together. This is true in the deaf community too, where some deaf artists around the world share their stories through their art.
Here’s a look at some deaf artists around the world who don’t let their hearing loss stop them from following their creative passion.
Deaf Artists Around the World
Although Victor Sitali was born and raised in Zambia, he is currently based out of the UAE, Dubai. After losing his hearing at age three, Sitali found a way to express his voice through painting. He later got a degree in Graphic Design from the School of Audio Engineering Institute in Dubai. He spends his time painting, teaching art, and showcasing his art around the UAE.
“My voice is heard by the works of my hands,” is a motto Sitali lives by. His work speaks for itself. Using oil paints and acrylics, he depicts African people, birds, and landscapes. In 2019, his solo exhibition “Speak volumes without saying a word” was featured at the 2019 Noor Art Gallery in Dubai.
Hu Shiqun was born in Anhui Province. He lost his hearing at a year old due to medication complications. He started to learn Chinese calligraphy at 13 years old and became interested in art.
“Learning to paint without being able to hear is not different from the experience of other students, except that I communicated with my teacher in sign language and written words,” he told SHINE News.
Shiqun went from painting watercolors to studying advertising design in college. He had a job copying oil paintings, but only for a year. He dreamed of becoming a true artist and starting his own company. He moved to Shanghai to work as a graphic designer. In 2011, he developed an interest in painting murals. This led him to found a street art studio in 2014 where the other main artists are deaf or hard of hearing. He told China Global Television Network that their hearing problems mean they’re not as easily disturbed by external factors. He serves as art director and mentors the other artists. The goal is to expand the business and employ more people with disabilities with a background in art training.
Heather Nurse was born deaf and went to the Iowa School for the Deaf. She attributes her abilities to having no barriers when learning, and a strong sense of culture.
Nurse found her confidence in art while watching Bob Ross. She covers a wide range of art forms, including realistic portraits, acrylic paintings, and tattoo design.
“I thought I had to be hearing in order to be an artist, because I didn’t know any Deaf artists,” she told The Gateway. “However, at one point Bob Ross quoted on his show, ‘The secret to doing anything is believing that you can do it.’ That resonated with me, so I decided to become a deaf artist.”
“I thought I had to be hearing in order to be an artist, because I didn’t know any Deaf artists.”
Nurse wants to show the world more Deaf artists and help the deaf/hard of hearing community believe in themselves.
Gaukaran Patil is a painter who paints, not with his hands, but with his feet. This is because Patil was born without hands. He also has a speech and hearing impairment. He communicates by using sign language with his feet.
“My teachers saw I was a natural when it came to drawing,” he told the better India. “The appreciation made me feel welcome. Besides, I truly enjoyed it.”
After receiving a Masters in Fine Arts, he started painting for a living. So far he has sold over 500 via social media and word of mouth.
He also mentors students with hearing loss in computers and painting.
When she was two and a half years old, Chen’s parents found out she was profoundly deaf. Art became her escape, she told Asia One. Chen graduated from the Ringling College of Art and Design with a Bachelor’s of Fine Art, Honors in Illustration, and a minor in Visual Development. Now Singapore-based, she works as a freelance artist-illustrator, mostly for children’s books. Her wish is to work on a book that tells her story.
Yusuf Yahya was born in Washington D.C. to hearing parents. His parents are very musical, so it’s no surprise that he started dancing at age three. After graduating from the Model Secondary School for the Deaf (MSSD), Yahya became a professional dancer for the Sankofa Dance Theatre, where he joined them on their world tours from 1992-2006. After that, he joined the Baltimore Guardian, where he’s the only Deaf dancer.
In the meantime, Yahya is a self-taught visual artist. His work has strong colors and shows the Black and Deaf experience. He works largely with paints and collage.
Hello, my name is Catalleya Storm (they/them). I work to bring awareness to issues impacting the Black, Deaf, disabled and LGBTQ communities. I was born hearing but started losing my hearing in my late teens. I identify as Deaf/HOH, with the understanding that I am apart of both the hearing world and the Deaf world. I believe that we all can bring about positive change in the world, and that’s what I hope to do with the time I have here.
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