Ms Sana Ebrahim.

Fascination with a nature-themed performance by deaf pavement poets was the motivation behind the choice of research for a master’s degree by the co-founder of the Green Heart Movement and one of UKZN’s Top 40 Most Inspiring Students, Ms Sana Ebrahim.

Ebrahim graduated with a Master’s degree in Social Sciences from UKZN after being fuelled with enthusiasm following a performance by deaf poets using South African Sign Language.

The group of poets, known as the Deaf Pavement Poets, are an ad hoc ensemble sponsored by the Green Heart Movement to create awareness around SASL and eco-arts.

Said Ebrahim: ‘Sign language practice is gaining prominence as inclusive eco-art interventions assist with integrating the deaf into wider society in the City of Durban. Urban-nature adventures that attract both deaf and hearing participants include deaf theatre, silent cinema, skywriting poetry and board gaming at pavement cafés and deaf-friendly spaces in Durban.’

She says the term “skywriting” was first used by the Green Heart Movement to illustrate the ‘mirroring of sign language to writing in the sky or air’. The idea introduces imaginative and accessible terminology to describe the term ‘sign language’ and encourages everyone to become familiar with deaf culture and its visual language.

‘Eco-arts offer entry points into social solidarity and inclusiveness. The activations hone poetry skills and encourage interaction through sensitised socialisation,’ said Ebrahim.

‘The self-generative poetry sessions assist multi-cultural groups from across the age spectrum to form a dynamic community of practice. Active citizenship showcases participants performing poetry in eco-cultural spaces across the City.’

Through collegiality and gaining their confidence Ebrahim was accepted into the Durban deaf community and presented alongside their productions at the Deaf Theatre Festival 2012.

According to Ebrahim, there is minimal literature associated with the South African experience of mixed media practice and its potential for value-added engagements that combine deaf and hearing cultures.

She hopes the study contributes to the literature by providing a lived ethnographic account of ways that deaf culture and eco-arts act as progressive enablers in advancing mutually beneficial social programmes for deaf and hearing communities.

Ebrahim is grateful to her family, friends, organisations and personalities for their guidance and support along the research journey.

Asked about her plans for the future, she said: ‘I am working on a research project linked to city identity and what makes a great city. I will also present Writing Weekenders in the Midlands hosted by the Book & Design Fair Durban.’

Ebrahim plans to continue with writing projects that include graphic novels and comic books linked to the Down BunnyKat Lane series and co-ordinating a Board Game Championship and Conference on the ‘unplugged’ entertainment world – Durban, 2022.

Words by: Melissa Mungroo

Photograph: Supplied