Shining a light

Artist Rubbena Aurangzeb-Tariq reveals all about her latest film project, in which deaf Waltham Forest residents highlight their community

Rubbena signing with British Sign Language (Credit: Ollie Harrop)

Deaf residents from Waltham Forest have helped to create a new short film and artwork about the East London deaf community. 

Members of the Waltham Forest Deaf community got together with deaf people from other East London boroughs in a series of online Zoom meetings to talk about their lives, deaf culture, British Sign Language (BSL) and the history of deaf people in the area. 

The conversations were filmed and excerpts were then edited together alongside ‘live action’ paintings to create a film called Lightwave. The film is in BSL with subtitles. 

Lightwave is a collaboration between Professor Bencie Woll of University College London’s Deaf Language and Cognition (DCAL) department, artist Rubbena Aurangzeb-Tariq and the East London deaf community. 

Poster for Lightwave, Rubbena’s new film

It’s being shown as part of Trellis Festival, a public art festival and knowledge exchange programme between researchers and artists in the East End. The festival is part of the wider vision for UCL Public Art and Community Engagement, to create opportunities for collaboration between artists, researchers and communities based around the future UCL East Campus. 

Former Waltham Forest resident Rubbena Aurangzeb-Tariq is the project’s lead artist and is herself a deaf BSL user. 

She told the Echo: “Lockdown has been hard for everyone, but especially so for the deaf community who have traditionally been close knit and relied on face-to-face contact to support each other. 

“Often local people in Waltham Forest and other parts of East London aren’t aware of the long-established deaf community in the area. 

“Creating Lightwave was a great opportunity for deaf people to meet up, talk celebrate and take pride in their history language and culture. It offers everyone a fascinating glimpse into the community’s life and shows its great diversity. 

“The film contains a lot of humour but also deals with serious issues facing the community including the inequalities and barriers deaf people face in their everyday lives and the recent struggle to get access to get information about the Covid-19 pandemic. 

“The project also gives linguistic researchers at DCAL a treasure trove of BSL for further research and analysis.” 

To watch Lightwave and learn more about the Trellis Festival, visit UCL’s website