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Updated: Sep 23, 2019

Workshops inspired by a blind shape language

and a contemporary art initiative.

Inspired by the art exhibition Taxi hand signs, and a tactile shape language for people who are blind, a project called HANDSCAPES was initiated. This practical art workshop at SAJM was run by Sandra Eastwood (MAP Coordinator) . Blind people created their own gestures after experiencing the shape language on the 8 meters of wall (through touch, explanations and drama). This correlates richly with Woolf’s own research, a part of her doctoral thesis and work 2004 - 2013, to bring the taxi hand sign language to schools for blind children.

· One of the reasons for the daily successful walkabouts and participation of scholars was that the Taxi hand signs artworks on the S A National Commemorative Stamps for 2010 were in the curriculum for South African schools for Grade 11, English. Consequently, busloads of scholars have been visiting the exhibition daily as part of the educational program run by the museum. Sighted people learn the blind shape language on the wall and in the Darkroom that has been built in the exhibition space at the Museum.

A series of contemporary artworks complete the notions of Language and Codes as art outreach and meaning in the intangible. Short Hands, the subtle white lazer prints are new, all white or black/white in relief. These include the invention of a second coded language which describes gestures overall.

Handmade artworks, consisting of paper pulp with embedded numbered beads, are abstractions making use of the essential simple forms (triangles, rectangles and lines) from the blind shape language that make it so simple for anyone to read.

· A 3 dimensional, suspended ArtBook opening out in concertina form, has 50 pages with tactile blind taxi hand sign shapes on them. It opens out to 30 meters in length.

Two films show aspects of research that took place on the streets and in Bree Street taxi rank. The blind shape language and taxi signs reflect on screen in a series of merging image reflections.

· First exhibited in the group exhibition at the MoMa in New York 2011, the Blind language further evolved to be part of a multimedia art exhibition at WAM and was on Dialogue in the Dark which came from New York to SCI BONO in Johannesburg.

As the title of the exhibition implies, the South African Taxi hand signs with their untold narratives are exhibited in the beautiful SAJM space. This contemporary art exhibition is utterly different in its diversity, thought and medium.


People who are blind teaching others also blind, how to read the shape language on the wall

The walkabouts in a multi-media contemporary art exhibition that also lends itself towards meaningful educational outreach for sighted and blind people.

An introduction to the tactile shape language in the TAXI HAND SIGNS exhibition by Susan Woolf

Dear Natacha and Susan

Our workshop at the SAJM last Wednesday went well

The theme of the exhibition was expanded to include conscious use of hands to explore an appreciation of form, to express ideas and emotions and to create individual tactile responses in the HANDSCAPES practical art workshop

Cora, the lady with the blue jersey, after a thoughtfully thorough examination, created the wooden bowl out of brailed paper, with a coiled paper tube base and placed it in a hand. The photograph is not very clear, hence my explanation

Experiences in both the art and the expressive movement workshops laid good foundations for visiting the actual exhibition.

I spoke to the group before we went across to the museum, discussed the artist and her intent, as well as something of the content. Each person placed Susan’s symbols for palm, wrist, first finger and thumb on their own hands, to reinforce the concept embedded in the display of the tactile symbols and to facilitate recognition of the tactile hand positions

These works will be exhibited in the Iziko Annexe, along with other MAP contributions, in the exhibition ENGAGING WITH ART from 5 - 28 October.

This will be in collaboration with ISANG Education and will acknowledge the ART BEYOND SIGHT global awareness initiative which originated in New York some 13 years ago. ABS was begun by Art Education for the Blind and the Metropolitan Museum of Art. MAP has been involved since its inception

Some images of the morning’s activities follow. Thank you for generous SAJM hospitality again Natacha, which was greatly appreciated. And thank you Susan for providing the inspiration

with kind regards


Sandra Eastwood

MAP Coordinator

Meaningful Access Project


MAP Team: Sandra Eastwood, Helen Binckes, Mariechen Schimmel and invited Ballet/Drama facilitator for the taxi hand sign exhibitor, Hannah Loewenthal.

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