National Executive Director, Canadian Cultural Society of the Deaf & DEAF CULTURE CENTRE
Eight unique teas are helping to immerse more Canadians in Deaf culture and experience.
Artistic expression may be a language all its own, but it’s one we can all communicate through. Art has the unique ability to transcend culture, highlight shared experiences, and bring people together. From visual to performing, sculpture to canvas, for thousands of years art has been societal commentary. For the Deaf community, this rings especially true.
The Canadian Cultural Society of the Deaf (CCSD) is recognized as one of Canada’s leading national arts service organizations, with a goal of preserving, encouraging, and advancing the cultural and Sign language interests of Canada’s Deaf population. Established in 1973, the charity is guided by its core mandate: to feature and foster high quality Deaf visual and performing artists’ work. Over the years, CCSD has received numerous awards for its Sign Language and Deaf arts productions, publications, and digital Sign Language programming. Since its inception, CCSD has been committed to empowering the next generation of Deaf Canadians, offering job opportunities, celebrating young Deaf artist achievements, and promoting Deaf well-being overall. The organization has also worked tirelessly to find unique and creative ways to shine a light on Deaf experience and culture diversity, bridging connection between Deaf and hearing Canadians, reducing stigma, and broadening understanding. The goal is to encourage Canadians to think beyond societal stereotypes and forge a connection that can so often be initiated and inspired by art and culture.
Coined in 1989 during the International Deaf Way Conference, De’VIA is an expression of Deaf experience, created when an artist intentionally aims to depict and reflect Deaf culture in a visual capacity. While De’VIA artists are not always Deaf themselves, those who work in the genre all have the same intention and leverage distinctive formal elements. Contrasting and intense colours, conflicting textures and an exaggeration or emphasis on facial features — such as the eyes and mouth — are all elements that define the De’VIA art style. From the those who are Deaf to those who have a unique connection to the culture, De’VIA is just one way the Deaf community is embracing their distinctive story.
For many of us, Deaf experience may not be something we feel justified in having an innate connection to, however, there is no better way to immerse oneself in a new culture than to experience its art. Looking to introduce more Canadians to De’VIA and shine a light on the amazing work being done in the space, the DEAF CULTURE CENTRE has created a unique experience for Canadians interested in Deaf artistic expression and Sign language, merging the richness of Deaf culture with fine tea — appropriately named, DEF-T.
Working with Palgong Tea Company, which is renowned for rich tea flavour profiles, the DEF-T Café has been designed to enhance the experience of DEAF CULTURE CENTRE visitors within a signing environment. The DEF-T Café offers the chance to see Deaf culture in action, but also enables visitors — both Deaf and hearing — the opportunity to experience Deaf culture and community.
The DEF-T Café’s flagship location at the DEAF CULTURE CENTRE is still in the process of being set-up, however the Centre is currently offering visitors the chance to experience one of the eight uniquely flavoured DEF-T teas by purchasing DEF-T loose leaf tea cans. Palgong Tea is also offering visitors the opportunity to purchase and try one of the hot teas.
Specially designed with the Deaf community and De’VIA in mind, these high-quality teas represent the breaking down of social barriers between hearing and Deaf people. Inspired by words that form the Centre’s mandate; community, diverse, culture, resonate, alive, preserve, fresh and inspire, the logos for each blend are visual representations of these terms; a true embodiment of Deaf artwork in action. When designed, sensors were placed on the hands of someone signing each word. The motion-capture technology then followed the signing movement, transferring information through to a computer which enabled the organization to create eight distinctive pieces of 3D art; the tea’s individual logos. For those who can’t wait to try the teas, testers are currently available to visitors at the Centre, and those wishing to get a taste of the DEF-T experience early can already purchase a hot tea before either taking their beverage to go or enjoying it while browsing the gallery.
The Toronto-based DEF-T Café is just the start of what the CCSD hopes will grow to become a recognizable staple and symbol of the Deaf community across Canada. In the same way that Deaf art transcends experience, CCSD hopes that DEF-T and the DEF-T Café will soon expand to more locations across the country, offering more Canadians nationwide the chance to develop a better understanding of Deaf culture and experience a signing environment firsthand.
Art continues to be one of society’s greatest gifts, opening our eyes and broadening our understanding of new cultures. When it comes to Deaf culture, the DEAF CULTURE CENTRE and new DEF-T offers Canadians the chance to do just that — a tea that is truly bringing people together.