Writing Place 2021

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An Audist Education

By Chelle Destefano

Slap slap!

A nun slaps my hand as I sign

Speak! She spits in my face

I want to cry

I shake

I try to speak

I am not clear

I am six years old

This world is silent to me

I look around me

Lips are moving

They are talking

I have no idea what about

My head is pulled back and twisted around

She makes me watch the teacher talking

I watch on bewildered

Without any idea

I feel sick

I endure this for another five years

One day I stand in the schoolyard

I look around me

I look at my hands

I am fourteen years old

My hands move effortlessly

I smile and laugh

I see moving hands everywhere

I see my Deaf people around

This is my language

I feel mixed but happy

I have finally my language in my hands

A gap in between my life

Five missed years

Long gone is that nun

Audism still rampant

But I push against that

With my language in my hands

Oppression no place for the Deaf

Home is my Deaf community

I stand tall as I sign

I am forty two years old

Audism I reject

Listen to me!

I have a voice!

I have a language

My safe space is the Deaf community

I have no room for audism

I decide how I speak!

I decide my access

I have Deaf agency!


About Chelle Destefano

Chelle Destefano is a Deaf multi-disciplinary artist working with performance, sculpture, collage, textile, poetry and drawing to inform her Deaf history and experiences, combining some of these disciplines into one work. Chelle is currently working with Auslan poetry in her performance works. She adapts Auslan poetry to text that is then sewn on fabric to inform her Deaf experiences. The performance video is then projected onto the textile poem. She was a finalist in the Banyule Art Award 2019 and currently in 2021, Lyn McCrea Drawing Prize, Incinerator Art Award, Footscray Art Prize, and winner of the Lake Art Award. 


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