Billy Read Somebody Watching Me – Photo Credit Graeme Braidwood

Introduction to Deaf Explorer

Deaf Explorer formed in 2012. Rinkoo Barpaga, Ruth Montgomery Rubbena Aurangzeb-Tariq and Rachael Veazey sat down in a cafe in Birmingham and signed up to Deaf explorer because we wanted to help other Deaf artists to gain better access to the arts. We all agreed that barriers and inequality existed.  We also wanted to support Deaf artists from diverse backgrounds, recognising that they area are a significant creative force in the Deaf arts community.

Rinkoo, Rubbena and Ruth came together because they had won Travel grants through a grant scheme supported by Arts Council England.
Rachael Veazey, and Alison Smith administrated the project.  We all felt the support and mutual respect we had shown each other should continue, so  Deaf Explorer is also a peer based support group.  Between 2012 and 2016 Deaf explorer have supported Deaf artists to apply for grants from Arts Council England. This activity is made possible through the commitment of Arts Council England to remove barriers for Deaf artists applying to their grant schemes.

Deaf Explorer have also successfully applied to Awards for All. Our latest awards for all is called Breaking Barriers. It is mentoring Deaf diverse people wanting to work freelance in the Creative Industries. The mentoring will move them to a position where they can apply for funding and set up social enterprise. Rinkoo Barbaga is currently leading a pilot phase focusing on Deaf people in Birmingham.

The principal barrier all the work Deaf explorer does is about communication. This barrier is about Deaf as a linguistic minority and not a disability.   Deaf explorer tackles the assumptions about communication for Deaf people by the hearing world.  It is on every level you can imagine, this is why some Deaf people think it is systematic or result of an oppressive hearing world, on the one hand wanting to illustrate access with logos and icons and on the other  keeping doors  shut to employment and opportunities. In the arts this only because of the absence of access and systems of communication for Deaf people.   The biggest challenge Deaf explorer has and it’s Deaf artists is networking and developing relationships to enable professional development, be this with other artists or arts organisations. Its about building trust and Deaf creative people gaining confidence in the hearing world. As Rinkoo Barpaga says “Confidence about what to say and when” and as Disability activists and artist Robin Surgeoner says “Permission to speak”. Its about removing barriers so that Deaf artist have a communication channel with busy staff in arts organisations, and find organisations that could be a match or home for their creative work and development of their creative practice so change happens.

We are really pleased to announce that in 2017 we have evidence of that change.
Two factors cause this change the quality and potential of the Deaf artists Rinkoo Barpaga and Billy Read, and Unlimited. Evidence of change is with the arts organisations mac Birmingham and Rep Theatre.

Rinkoo Barpaga  has been commissioned by Unlimited and the Rep theatre are supporting his development from a writer of comedy  to a writer for the stage with of his  script for as cinematic theatre experience called Bubble and Butch.

Deaf Explorer now have a  proven model that we want to role out, that will support Deaf artists and enable arts organisations to build successful collaborations, leading to the development and production of new work by Deaf artists for all audiences.

We want to hold on to our values that recognise each Deaf artist is different and through this we can deliver our USP that is highly tailored access for Deaf artists, brokering relationships with arts organisations and funders.

We want Deaf explorer to grow and are recruiting a management board, so watch this space …

Deaf Explorer team in 2017:

Rinkoo Barpaga

Rinkoo is an emerging artist born and raised in Birmingham. In 2002 he began performing as a BSL story teller achieving success in London and Scotland. His friends encouraged him for nearly a decade to become a stand up comedian.

His comedy style is influenced by Black American stand up comedians such as Eddie Murphy, Richard Pryor, Dave Chappelle, Kevin Hart and Katt Williams.

Ruth Montgomery

Profoundly deaf from birth, Ruth is a musician, teacher, workshop facilitator and visual artist who has graduated with a music degree, majoring in flute performance at the Royal Welsh College of Music.  As a flautist and artist she works with both music and image, creating pictures and using visual film media. The Deaf Explorers project enabled her to travel to New York to meet Christine Sun Kim to learn how she uses technology to access music, and ways of interpreting music. Music can easily be seen as inaccessible to deaf people and Ruth wants to change that perception.

Rubbena Aurangzeb-Tariq

Rubbena is a Deaf British Muslim artist based in London who has been exhibiting her paintings and mixed-media installation pieces since 1992. Her work is abstract and encourages the viewer to feel a sense of freedom to explore and find meaning.  Rubbena’s recent work has been inspired by her involvement in Deaf Explorer which has enabled her to research Bollywood and Indian culture and take a fresh direction in the development of her art.


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