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Hearing activists, artists advocate deaf rights

A. Kurniawan Ulung
A. Kurniawan Ulung

The Jakarta Post

Jakarta | Wed, June 20, 2018 | 08:22 am
Hearing activists, artists advocate deaf rights

Storytelling: Ricendy Januard shares his story during the Ini Cerita Kita (This is Our Story) Festival on May 25 at the National Library in Jakarta. (JP/Kurniawan Ulung S)

When joining a group of applicants for a graphic designer position at an advertising agency in South Jakarta, Ricendy Januardo was asked to make a design sample that would be later assessed by a prospective boss in an interview session.

The work of the graduate of the Jakarta Arts Institute (IKJ) visual communication design student was so good that his competitors praised him. He, therefore, was so confident that he would get the position, even though he was the only deaf applicant. 

After all of his hearing competitors left the interview room, the 27-year-old was not immediately called back in. Not long after that, a member of the human resources department approached him, saying: “You will be interviewed some time [in the future]. Please go home now.” 

He later learned that they did not want him to meet the manager to avoid a misunderstanding between them as they did not understand sign language. 

“I felt deeply disappointed, as if my presence was not appreciated,” he said, expecting that the agency would at least check his design sample as proof that he was qualified for the job, despite his hearing impairment. 

Ricendy shared his painful story during the recently concluded Ini Cerita Kita(This is Our Story) Festival last month at the National Library in Jakarta, during which the deaf spoke up about discrimination they experienced.  

The festival, a collaboration between deaf organization Gerkatin Kepemudaan, production house Sedap Films and youth organization Pamflet, shows that deaf people do not fight alone, as hearing human rights activists, filmmakers and musicians join forces to make their views known.

Prior to the festival, Pamflet initiated a project bearing the same title. Running from August 2017 to April this year, Ini Cerita Kita was aimed at empowering the deaf with digital media. During the project, the deaf community took part in making a short film entitled Toko Musik (Music Store), making a website and learning to make video blogs. 

“Pamflet made the website for Gerkatin so that our deaf friends can share information about many things, including their vlogs,” Pamflet general coordinator Muhamad Hisbullah Amrie said. 

Produced by Sedap Films, Toko Musik tells the interaction between a music store’s deaf servant and a hearing musician who tries to make her feel the music. The short film wants people to be aware of disabled people’s right to the same employment opportunities as those without a disability. 

In the movie, the deaf servant is played by Gerkatin member Hasna Mufidah, who leads Teater Tujuh (Seven Theater), the country’s first deaf theater company, founded by veteran actor Ray Sahetapy. Pamflet has screened the movie in four schools and two communities, Sang Akar Institute in South Jakarta and TrotoArt in North Jakarta. 

Meanwhile, the vlogs created by the hearing-impaired people enable them to share things about their life in a light and funny way, such as useful tips for hearing people if they would like to communicate with them and efforts to erase the stigma that they cannot work properly.

Amrie recalled that when meeting Pamflet for the first time, Gerkatin just asked to be trained to make interesting Instagram content. He was grateful to see the request get a warm welcome and expanded into moviemaking and vlog training.

Music communities also try to bridge the communication between the hearing and the hearing impaired. Online platform Quran Indonesia Project (QuranIDproject), for example, just released an Idul Fitri-themed song, titled “Cahaya Dalam Sunyi” (Light in Silence), belted out by 33 famous musicians, from Dewi Sandra, Afgan, Andien, Dira Sugandi, Tompi, Tulus to Raisa. 

In its music video, the lyrics are signed, not only by the deaf, but also by the 33 hearing artists. The hope is that more hearing people will be interested in learning sign language after watching the video.  

QuranIDproject initiator Archie Wirija, who wrote the song’s lyrics, said the idea to make the song came when he noticed that deaf people usually looked lonely during takbiran (the recitation of Allah is great) because they did not understand what hearing people joyfully shouted. 

To make the Cahaya Dalam Sunyi music video, the QuranIDproject teamed up with deaf activist Surya Sahetapy and deaf motivator Galuh Sukmara, who founded Little Hijabi Homeschooling for deaf children. 

“I consulted Galuh and Surya, asking, ‘What makes the deaf able to enjoy music?’” said Ifa Fachir, the song’s producer.

“The keyword is vibration. When I arranged this song, my focus was the vibration so that it could be strongly felt by our deaf friends.”

Singer Andien thanked Galuh for patiently teaching her sign language. 

“I did not always understand all things she told me through sign language, but I could feel it. The way deaf people say thank you, for example, is more genuine than us. It touches me,” she said.  

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