Culture Online



Creative collaboration with deaf people in East London

Light-Wave is a collaboration between Professor Bencie Woll (DCAL), Rubbena Aurangzeb-Tariq (Artist) and the east London deaf community.

East London’s deaf Community is a long-established, constituent part of East London life. However, the community has invariably been underrepresented or wholly unrepresented in cultural discourses. Our project aspires to facilitate a creative collaboration between us and local deaf people which affords recognition to the east London Deaf community’s history, culture and language, thereby creating an artistic and academic legacy and tangible symbol of the community’s richness and resilience.

Join the festival

Sat 17 April, 7-9 pm


Join the conversation

On Twitter

Use #UCLTrellis #Lightwave #WeAreBSL #BSLEnlightenment

@UCLEngage / @UCL_Culture

hands signing

Artist and researcher

Rubbena Aurangzeb-Tariq
Rubbena Aurangzeb-Tariq

Rubbena is a London-based artist and facilitator whose work concerns culture, deaf identity and, as a deaf woman of Pakistani heritage, the multi-faceted nature of being a ‘minority within a minority’. Through painting and installations, she creates visual representations of language and emotional expression through her use of colour and form. Rubbena has exhibited widely nationally and internationally and has featured several times on national TV. Recent commissions have included work for the ITV ‘Create’ series broadcast in 2019, and being Lead Artist for ‘Translating the Deaf Self’, a joint academic and artistic project exploring deaf peoples’ lived experience of being represented through translation. www.rubbena.com

Bencie Woll
Bencie Woll

I have been involved in sign language research for nearly 40 years, and have been at UCL since 2005, founding the Deafness Cognition and Language Research Centre in 2006. My research and teaching interests embrace a wide range of topics related to sign language, including the linguistics of British Sign Language (BSL), the history and sociolinguistics of BSL and the Deaf community, sign language and the brain, and automated translation of BSL. In 2012 I was elected as a Fellow of the British Academy, and in 2016 as a Fellow of the American Association for the Advancement of Science. 

About the reseach

Our research has involved multiple facilitated group discussions with deaf community members where we have explored themes such as:

  • The historical development of the community and sites of deaf historical significance in the area.
  • Sign Language development and use in East London, and its relationship to the wider corpus of British Sign Language (BSL)
  • Community diversity, and faith-community influences on development and use of sign language, and technological influences
  • Ideas for co-creation of artwork.

Our discussion groups were drawn to the theme of cartographic representation, where east London locations that have deaf cultural and historical significance could be ‘mapped’ in a mosaic style using imagery of Sign Language specific to the area. 

Covid meant that all discussions have taken place remotely. By this happy ‘accident’ the myriad of creative possibilities of digital video platforms became increasingly apparent to us. Sign Languages are uniquely visuo-spatial and kinetic in nature, and digital platforms such as Zoom can enable co-creation where the sign language and the deaf people themselves can move to the heart of the creative process in a uniquely innovative way.

Importantly use of digital video technology enables recording of discussions and sign language in a format which can be incorporated into DCAL’s BSL Corpus to become an invaluable linguistic research resource.

Light Wave references Deaf culture, when Deaf people gather together they wave hands and flash lights to gain attention, and this project is endeavouring to bring wider attention and visibility to the east London deaf community's presence.