A project to preserve historic film footage of the early use and development of New Zealand Sign Language (NZSL) and NZ Deaf culture has been supported by a grant of $16,000 from InternetNZ.
The SignDNA project was established in 2012 with the aim of creating an online national archive of film and video material relating to the New Zealand Deaf Community. It also aims to provide and maintain the archive for public access to these linguistic and cultural artefacts, for research, public interest including media use.
Managed by Sonia Pivac and Daniel Hanks from the Deaf innovation hub, Deafradio, the project has a number of aims, including increasing the awareness of the general population regarding the history, development and value of New Zealand’s third official language.
“Culture is always contained in language,” says Pivac, herself Deaf. “NZSL is a visual language so, for the first time, this archive of films and videos presents Deaf culture and history in the first language of Deaf people, stretching back to at least the 1950s.
“We hope the SignDNA archive will provide a rich source of cultural history, not just for Deaf children and adults, but also for the wider population, who may use the archive to demystify and better understand the NZ Deaf community.”
The project is developing under the umbrella of Diversityworks Trust. Executive Director Philip Patston says the project had been a great fit with the Trust’s objectives and values. “We concentrate on supporting our own and others’ innovations to promote diversity, creativity and social change. SignDNA ticks all those boxes.
“NZSL is creative in itself and a heightened awareness of the language can only generate more accessibility. Imagine if all children were taught NZSL at school — communication barriers for Deaf people could all but disappear within generations.”
InternetNZ funds community projects to further its objects and goals as a charitable, non-profit common interest society established to maintain and extend the availability of the Internet and its associated technologies and applications in New Zealand.
InternetNZ Acting Chief Executive Jordan Carter says InternetNZ is delighted to be helping fund the SignDNA project. “In making collections of Deaf-related material more freely available online, the project fits snugly with one of InternetNZ's guiding policy principles - that the Internet should be accessible by and inclusive of everyone.”
The SignDNA archive is on track to be launched later this year. The project has also received support from the Lotteries Commission, the JR McKenzie Trust’s Deaf Development Fund and a crowd-funding campaign on PledgeMe.
The archive will house videos of presentations, social outings, politics and sports, as well as Deaf cultural art forms such as storytelling and sign-signing. The processing of footage will uncover the origins of signs and other aspects of Deaf culture, making it a useful tool for research.
For further comment please contact:
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