daniel kotowski

Death in Everyday Life

video, duration 2 min 38 sec

Death is part of our daily life. Everyone has their own experience of the death of a loved one. Talking about death can be difficult. In the case of the relationship between a Deaf child and hearing parents, what does such a conversation look like? I have my own experience. I am deaf since birth. I was brought up in a hearing family. We have our own way of communication, i.e., home sign language, which has nothing to do with the Polish sign language (PJM). We communicate in this “language”. We use other signs than in PJM, they are also those that mean death, die, not live.
Research shows that 90% or more of deaf children are born into hearing families1. Very often, hearing parents do not know any sign language. They feel the communication barrier when they usually communicate with their child. This contributes to preventing deaf children of hearing parents from accessing natural sign language. They encounter great difficulties in learning any language. Children have a social and communicative need to satisfy. They often try to find their different linguistic predispositions2. “They independently create a spontaneous home sign system, consisting of two categories: pointing (deictic gestures) and terms (iconic gestures of a pantomimic character), which denote people, objects, and activities.” 3 Home sign language is based on the principles of the Polish phonic language. It is often combined with elements of phonic language, i.e., showing a sign is accompanied by the articulation of a word in Polish by means of speech4.
The video “Death in Everyday” was inspired by my own life, language and communication experience. Before the film was made, I conducted short interviews with 22 Deaf people with hearing parents who shared their experiences and signs. The film shows domestic signs related to notions such as death, die, not live. The Deaf I interviewed communicate with each other in this “language”, using mentioned signs even today. We see that death should be taken seriously, but in the work some signs look somehow very funny while reflecting fear.

1 Mitchell Ross E., Karchmer Michael A., “Chasing the mythical ten percent: Parental hearing status of deaf and hard of hearing students in the United States. Sign Language Studies”. 2004; 4(2), pp. 138–163.
2 Tomaszewski, Język dzieci głuchych – wskazówki dla edukacji szkolnej, “Szkoła Specjalna” 2005, 3, pp. 171–174.
3 Ibid.
4 Ibid.

Realised as part of the “Mikrozamówienia” programme implemented by Jasna 10: Warszawska Świetlica Krytyki Politycznej.

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