Deaf-Blind Theatre

   Na Laga’at    نا لاجاعات     נא לגעת

Imagine that you are an actress and a  director.  You are asked to teach a drama class for a social club in Jaffa (Joppa), a suburb of Tel Aviv.  Now imagine that the social club is for Deaf-blind people.  That is what happened to Adina Tal in 2002.  A commitment to teach a workshop for a few months turned into years.  She is now the president of Na Laga’at, the world’s first Deaf-blind theatre company.

There are some challenges with Deaf-blind actors.  Each actor has an interpreter.  The actors can neither see nor hear the other actors.

There are some benefits to working with Deaf-blind actors. Adina Tel says,

“Because they can’t see each other, they can’t imitate each other. So everything they do is completely unique. If you ask them to mime eating grapes, you get 11 entirely different ways of eating grapes. That wouldn’t happen with seeing actors. They can’t be like anyone else. None of them has ever seen Marlon Brando or Al Pacino act. They can’t copy. That’s why they are great.” –

In the play Not by Bread Alone the actors make bread during the show which the audience gets to enjoy at the end of the play.  The play is a mixture of real life scenes and the fantasies, hopes and dreams of the actors.  Bread is not enough, they need communication and contact with other people.

There are several varieties of communication used with the actors.  Itzik Hanuna was born blind and became deaf at age 11.  Interpreters and other actors communicate with him using glove language, in which the Hebrew alphabet is spelled out on knuckles.  However, with other actors finger spelling is done on the palm of the hand.

Nalaga'at News Article - Hebrew - Glove Signing2

Some communicate with Israeli SL and some with Russian SL.


For more information see


Singing and Dancing with Ebola – Part 2

On 25 August 2015 I wrote a post about a patient and medical staff celebrating the release of the last patient and starting the countdown to being Ebola free – Singing and Dancing with Ebola.  If there were no Ebola cases for 42 days the country would be declared Ebola free.  Now almost three months later I am writing again.  It wasn’t until 7 November that Sierra Leone had 42 days with no new cases.  Again they celebrated with singing and dancing.

I especially like the hearse driver at 1:40 in the video.

On the same day, 7 November, the BBC reported that the last Ebola case in Guinea had tested negative twice so the 42 day countdown had started.  She was a three week old baby whose mother was infected and died after giving birth.

Liberia had been declared Ebola free on 9 May 2015 but then there were more cases but on 3 September Liberia was again declared Ebola free.  Yesterday, 20 November, three new cases were reported in Liberia.

I hope and pray that soon all three countries will be rejoicing.

Gurrumul – Revisited

In my May 2015 post I wrote “My Favourite Australian Aboriginal Singer – Gurrumul”.  Here is some more information.

There is an interview on NPR (National Public Radio) in the US.

There is also an interview on  FBi radio 94.5 (Sydney, Australia) but I cannot get it to play.  Perhaps one of you will have more success.  It is number 177 on FBi Music Interviews  iTunes Podcasts –  It is also supposed to be available from

Shortly after I published this I discovered a link to a BBC interview on Skinny Fish Music.

Here is a recent music video.


Here is an earlier video when he performed with Sting.  Some of you may find this hard to believe but I know more about Geoffrey Gurrumul Yunupingu than I know about Sting.  I assume Sting is some famous musician.  Later on I will write a blog post about the importance of intertextuality in music.


Since Christmas is coming up soon I will post links to Silent Night sung with Delta Goodrem.

Here is a longer audio version.

Mandili Trio – Revisited

Mandili Trio since May 2015

Since I wrote about them in May the Trio Mandili have branched out.  Their first video has now been viewed on YouTube more than 2,800,000 times.  They have released an album

which is available on –

Google Play

They have performed in


Kiev –

Poor English Skills in Nigeria – Really?

“Letters from Africa: Nigeria’s Disappearing Storytellers”

The BBC this morning has a story which talks about the decline in the level of English used in Nigeria.  The article starts out talking about the fact that in 2015 the “Nigeria Prize for Literature announced that there would be no winner for 2015.”  The prize is only given for books written in English and it was reported that the entries had many errors.

(accessed on 25 October 2015 at 0600 GMT)

In this BBC article which derides the mistakes in English in Nigeria I found at least two mistakes.  I am not blaming the author for these mistakes.  I have had editors add mistakes to my writing.  I just found it fittingly ironic that the premier English language news service in an article talking about the English language mistakes made by Nigerians itself contains mistakes in English.

I have marked the first mistake in bold and underlined it.  I believe the word intended was supposed to be “at” and not “as”.

“In our series of letters from African journalists, Nigerian novelist and writer Adaobi Tricia Nwaubani considers if Nigerians are getting worse as writing good stories.”

Here is the second example.  There is a section which talks about the English language mistakes made by former first lady Patience Goodluck.  Please note that this is the “first lady” and not the “first lad”.  Again I have added bold and underlining.

“And when she paid a hospital visit to some victims of a Boko Haram attack in Abuja, the former first lad expressed satisfaction that “the doctors and nurses are responding well to treatment”.”

These are mistakes which I noticed on a quick first read through. I note that these are the sorts of mistakes a computer’s spell checker would not catch since each word is a correctly spelled word in English.

I read the article because I was hoping it would talk about the traditional oral storytellers in Nigeria.  I continued reading the article for the delicious irony.

Singing and Dancing with Ebola

On 24 August 2015 Adama Sankoh was released from an Ebola treatment centre in Makeni​, Sierra Leone.

(Alie Turay / Associated Press)

She was the last confirmed Ebola case.  Now the country waits during a 42 day period to make sure that there are no new cases.

(WHO / M. Harris)

Here is the video posted by International Medical Corps.

Published on Aug 25, 2015

On August 24, 2015, the last known patient with Ebola in the entire country of Sierra Leone stepped out of the treatment center after having recovered from the disease. If no new cases are diagnosed in the next 42 days, Sierra Leone can finally be declared Ebola free. In this video, International Medical Corps Ebola workers celebrate with Adama, the Ebola survivor, as she walks out of the Ebola Treatment Center for the last time.

As you can see from this graphic below from the WHO, only Guinea is still reporting new cases of Ebola.

World Health Organization – Ebola Situation Report – 26 August 2015

Hopefully, there also will be celebratory singing and dancing in Guinea very soon.

Improved Transcript of Harlan Lane’s Talk on John Brewster

As I mentioned in the post A Deaf Artist the automatic captioning of the Harlan Lane video on WGBH has some errors.  I made an attempt to correct those errors and have posted the revised transcript here.

Deaf Artist: The Worlds of John Brewster, Jr.
Harlan Lane

WGBH Forum at

0:00    Introducer (Michelle?): I’m very happy today to introduce our speaker to you, Harlan Lane.
0:04    Harlan is University Distinguished Professor in the Department of
0:09    Psychology at Northeastern University.
0:11    He’s received the International Social Merit Award
0:15    of the World Federation of the Deaf, among numerous other honors.
0:19    An internationally recognized advocate for the Deaf
0:22    the author and editor of nine books on Deaf history,
0:26    language and culture. Mr lane lives right here in Boston.
0:30    And he’s going to be speaking with us today about
0:33    the artist John Webster.  So, please help me welcome
0:37    Harlan Lane. Thank you.
0:45    Harlan Lane: Yes, the occasion of my being here today is that I have
0:48    just brought out a new book which is called A Deaf Artist in Early America:
0:53    The Worlds of John Brewster, Jr.
0:56    And I understand from Michelle there are books here and I’d be happy to sign
0:59    books if anyone would like that.  Now Brewster, I call it The Worlds of John
1:05    Brewster, Jr. because Brewster belonged to at least four worlds.
1:08    He was first of all from a Puritan family.
1:11    He was a seventh generation descendant of elder William Brewster
1:16    who of course brought the Mayflowers, the
1:19    Puritans over on the Mayflower.
1:23    He was also a member of the federalist elite, the
1:26    post-revolutionary merchant class that
1:30    also included clergy and professional people.
1:34    And they were those whose portraits he painted. They were his sitters, as they
1:39    say.
1:39    Thirdly, Brewster was a Deaf man so he belonged to the Deaf world and
1:44    at a very interesting and exciting time. The Deaf world was just coming together,
1:49    creating structures, developing a language of wider communication.
1:55    And finally he was, of course, above all, an artist.
2:01    An artist who gave us images of early America,
2:04     images of, I hope you’ll agree,
2:08    haunting beauty. Brewster was a limner,
2:14    an itinerant
2:17    portrait artist, who did not honor many of the prescriptions
2:21    of art in Europe, where contemporaries did study, for example,
2:26    John Singleton Copley and Gilbert Stewart. (American contemporaries of Brewster)
2:30    and so they adopted the Grand Manor style that
2:35    originated in France, in the (École des) Beaux-Arts,
2:38    and in England. And that was a very different style from the one that
2:44    indigenous American portraitists used.  Working in that peculiarly American
2:50    idiom
2:50    whose roots were in England, in fact, Brewster achieved a directness
2:55    and intensity of vision that has rarely been equal(ed).
2:59    Art historians have called his portrait of Sarah Prince, for example,
3:04    which is projected on the screen, quote,
3:08    “One of the masterpieces American painting.”
3:12    and, quote, “A landmark in American painting.”
3:15    It’s one of his most moving. The painting is also known as the Silver Moon
3:22    after the sheet music on the piano. Sarah Prince here is
3:27    Lovely. I hope you agree. She’s also very rich.
3:31    Very few families could afford a piano
3:34    in her time. The palate that Brewster has chosen is warm.
3:39    The girl is poised, still but the musical notes suggest gaiety.
3:45    It’s interesting to observe the Brewster painted two bars of the song
3:50    and then stopped. I wonder what it must have been like for a man who was born
3:55    deaf
3:55    to paint the portrait of a woman
4:00    and include sheet music and a piano in his
4:03    painting. Brewster’s portraits,
4:07    some valued at more than a million dollars, are to be found in
4:11    numerous American museums. So, don’t think that after this talk you’re going to slip out
4:16    and buy a Brewster quickly.
4:18    They’re to be found but they’re terribly expensive
4:22    The Museum of Fine Arts here in Boston, for example, has four
4:27    Brewster (painting)s. So the next time you’re at the MFA you might want to go to that room
4:31    in the American collection and
4:33    look at the real thing which is, of course, so much more powerful
4:36    than a projected projection on a screen.
4:40    Now, Brewster was not an artist who incidentally was Deaf.
4:45    Rather he was, I will argue, a Deaf artist,
4:48    one in a long tradition that owes many of its features
4:52    and achievements to the fact that Deaf people
4:55    are visual people.
5:08    This is a portrait by John Brewster Jr.,
5:11    when he was 33.
5:15    The subjects are Comfort Starr Mygatt, a wealthy merchant of
5:19    Danbury Connecticut and his daughter, Lucy.
5:22    What strikes me most about this painting are the eyes.
5:27    They’re superbly drawn. They
5:31    return the viewer’s gaze with the silent
5:35    penetrating look much as I imagine Brewster himself did.
5:40    And together with the other facial features
5:43    they project great clarity and directness
5:46    on the personalities of the sitters. The austere background,
5:52    the muted colors and the careful composition
5:57    are a backdrop for the complex humanity
6:00    of the subjects and seem to place them,
6:03    almost in relief.  Surely,
6:07    this direct vision of the artist and Brewster’s
6:11    focus on vision must be related to his deafness from birth.
6:15    Many of our contemporary Deaf leaders
6:19    have affirmed that Deaf people are, foremost, visual people.
6:22    And there is indeed, and it’s quite interesting, a growing body of
6:27    psychological research
6:28    to confirm that people who grow up Deaf have greater capacities
6:33    in visual perception than do hearing people.
6:46    Brewster painted Comfort Starr’s wife also Lucy Knapp
6:50    and son, George, at about the same time.
6:53    Here again we find the uncompromising clarity of the artist’s vision.
6:58    He talks honestly, using a brush,
7:01    to tell you what he saw. In Deaf culture, straight talk
7:06    is highly valued.  These are Deaf paintings
7:09    because of their visual impact and directness.
7:13    The painting documents the Mygatts most prized possession,
7:17    their land and home. I should also say their children.
7:21    All of these were a mark of
7:25    accomplishment in the Puritan world.
7:28    And you can see their positions, their possessions, some of them through the
7:33    window,
7:33    in an optical feat. This was
7:38    part of their achievement that they wanted recorded. The prosperity that
7:44    followed the American Revolution created a new kind of hero
7:48    and a new subject for immortalizing through painting,
7:51    the prosperous Yankee, landholder,
7:55    merchant, captain. Then too,
7:58    with death from the illness a commonplace, portraiture served to
8:03    reassure the living
8:04    and memorialize the recently deceased. Our contemporary eyes may blink
8:10    at the portrayal of the children as small adults
8:13    but that, apparently, didn’t offend clients at the time.
8:17    Perhaps the differing images of childhood then
8:22    and now are partly the result of the differing roles
8:25    of children then and now. To say it in one sense, children in those days
8:31    very early became part of the hard-working
8:34    family that grew
8:38    (uh)
8:39    crops and tended animals and
8:42    fought with the hard New England winters.  So they took on very early the role
8:47    of adults and, in my book, I make the case that
8:49    in some sense childhood didn’t exist in their time.
8:54    The stiffness of the poses and the simplified drawing of the arms and hands
9:01    are commonplace in this period and they derive, I think, from the
9:05    flat decorative manner, characteristic of Elizabethan
9:09    painting. Now John Brewster, Jr. began his career only a few years before painting
9:16    the Mygatts.
9:17    He was born in Hampton, Connecticut in 1766
9:22    and when he was 25 he took lessons in portraiture
9:25    from a self trained artist and minister in the nearby town of Scotland,
9:30    Connecticut, Reverend Joseph Steward.  Around the time that Brewster painted
9:36    the Mygatts, his teacher, Steward,
9:38    painted their distinguished pastor in Scotland parish,
9:42    Reverend James Cogswell.  Here’s a
9:46    painting of Cogswell by Steward.
9:56    You will have noticed, perhaps, some other similarities between the pupil’s work and
9:59    his teacher’s,
10:00    such as the landscape view through the open window.
10:03    Rev. Cogswell kept an extensive diary.
10:08    An entry in 1790 provides one of the few scraps
10:12    of direct information about John Brewster, Jr.
10:16    Cogswell wrote, “Dr. Brewster’s son,
10:20    a deaf and dumb young man, came in the evening and he’s very ingenious.
10:24    He has a genius for painting and can write well
10:28    and converse by signs so that he may be understood in many things.
10:33    He lodged here.” And then
10:36    in February of 1791 the diary tells us more,
10:40    “Brewster, the deaf young man, was at my house when I came home.
10:44    He tarried and dined here. He appears to have a good disposition
10:50    and an ingenious mind. I could converse but little with him
10:55    being not acquainted with the signs. I pity him
11:00    and thank God for the exercise of my senses.
11:03    Now it seems likely that it was Rev. Cogswell who introduced Rev. Steward
11:10    to the ingenious Deaf young artist, John Brewster, Jr.
11:14    Brewster was no doubt looking for a career
11:17    in a new nation that had made no provision whatever
11:21    for its Deaf citizens. There was no way,
11:25    except private tutors, to educate a deaf child.
11:28    In 1796
11:31    Steward and his family moved to Hartford where he opened a museum in the
11:35    Connecticut State House.
11:36    In the following year his only son became gravely ill
11:41    and Rev. Cogswell’s son, Mason Fitch Cogswell,
11:46    a doctor, a widely admired physician,
11:49    treated him until, alas, he died.
11:52    Steward continued to direct the Hartford museum and paint local dignitaries
11:58    until he died at age 68.  Now the Steward style of painting, which he taught to
12:05    John John Brewster, Jr.
12:07    was highly derivative of another and greater contemporary Hartford
12:11    portraitist,
12:12    Ralph Earl.  Steward, not only studied Earl’s portraits,
12:17    and painted in the manner of Earl but he also copied several Earls.
12:22    Since Brewster’s master was Steward
12:25    and Steward copied Earl, let’s look at a Hartford portrait by Earl,
12:31    a likeness of Rev. Cogswell’s son, Mason Fitch Cogswell.
12:45    We find here the precursors on the palate,
12:49    pose and compositional elements adopted by Steward.  Earl was clearly fond of his
12:55    subject who
12:56    has a sweet smile and a dog at his side.
12:59    The painting combines the elements of the grand manner which Earl had
13:04    studied in
13:05    Benjamin West’s studio, along with Gilbert Stuart and John Copley,
13:09    so it has some the elements of the high
13:12    or grand manner art.
13:16    But it also has features of American provincial art, such as the candid
13:21    likeness and the regional details of furnishing.
13:24    Earl had found the artist’s dream benefactor in Mason Cogswell.
13:30    Mason was the son of a prominent minister.
13:33    He was a nephew of governor Huntington. He was an intimate of those famous
13:39    or rich or both. Moreover he officiated
13:43    at three of the moments in life
13:46    when the need for portrait was felt most sharply – birth,
13:51    illness and death. Most to Earl’s Connecticut patrons for the next decades
13:57    were Cogswell’s patients or acquaintances. It was just at this time as Earl
14:02    established himself in Hartford
14:04    under Mason Cogwell’s patronage that Stewart began giving lessons
14:09    in art to John Brewster, Jr. and the Reverend Cogswell
14:12    praised Brewster in his diary.
14:16    In 1800
14:21    John Brewster, Jr. painted a picture of his father and mother,
14:24    his stepmother, Ruth Avery.
14:37    Note the convention of the drapery and landscape, the characteristic pose
14:42    and the delicate handling of facial expression. There are also several
14:47    conventional symbols of wealth
14:49    the shiny metal buckles on his father’s shoes,
14:52    the lawn, the leather-bound volume. Brewster was 25.
14:57    He’d grown up in a cultured eighteenth century home
15:00    with seven brothers and sisters. In 1795, John Brewster, Jr.’s
15:06    older brother Royal, a physician like his father,
15:11    moved to Buxton, Maine, little more than a wilderness encampment at the time.
15:16    There Royal married the pastor’s daughter
15:19    and had a house built across the road from the church.
15:23    John Brewster, Jr. soon moved in with his brother and sister-in-law
15:28    and spent parts of 1796 and 1797
15:32    painting in nearby Portland. An advertisement
15:37    in the Scotland Connecticut Phoenix for September 28th
15:40    1797 states, quote, “John Brewster, Jr. portrait and miniature painter
15:47    informs that he is at Scotland parish ready to serve those in his art
15:52    who may furnish him with business. NB,
15:56    for seventeen months past he has been improving his art at Portland.”
16:00    In 1798
16:05    Brewster advertises availability in the Norwich, Connecticut Courier
16:09    The same year finds him in Danbury, Connecticut
16:12    running up a bill in a dry goods store for painter’s supplies.
16:16    And Comfort Starr Mygatt owned the store.
16:20    So, no doubt, that was a(n) exchange in which
16:23    Brewster did the portraits in return got materials and, perhaps,
16:27    contacts for for the portraits. In 1799 Brewster’s advertisements appear in the
16:34    Poughkeepsie Journal.
16:35    At the turn of the century stayed for an extended period in the home of a wealthy
16:40    Saco, Maine
16:42    landholder, Colonel Thomas Cutts, and painted many of the members of the
16:47    family.
16:47    Here’s the colonel and his wife
17:01    I’ve said that the 19th century recast the hero
17:04    as the bourgeois head of household. The Colonel comes through in this likeness
17:10    as a powerful and self-assured person
17:13    and a severe descendant of Pilgrim stock.
17:16    These are the only full-length portraits as I recall
17:21    of Brewster’s work. And you notice that, for example, the
17:25    colonel is all verticality
17:28    except for a baton that slashes diagonally.
17:32    And his wife is very much posed by cutting off the
17:36    dress which by implication goes outside the painting.
17:40    it gives her a kind of groundedness and stolidness which was their Puritan lot.
17:45    In December 1801 and again in January 1802,
17:50    advertisements placed in the Newburyport Herald announce that John Brewster, Jr.
17:55    was lodging at the home with Mr James Prince,
17:59    a wealthy merchant and customs collector.
18:02    And he was available to take a likeness.
18:05    Meet Mr Prince and his son, William Henry,
18:20    Prince had recently purchased his large brick house
18:22    with extensive gardens and orchards, where George Washington had once stayed and
18:28    where General Lafayette was to be Prince’s
18:30    guest. Brewster lived in this richly furnished home
18:35    for three months, while he painted James Prince
18:38    with son William Henry and the portraits of four
18:41    of his other children. These paintings have been praised as, quote,
18:46    “Veritable icons in the history of American folk art.”
18:50    we’ve already admired the painting of Sarah Prince,
18:53    at the start of this lecture. Brewster had a particular gift for painting
19:00    children and I think a particular fondness for children.
19:03    Here’s a charming two-year-old,
19:07    Francis Watts of Kennebunkport, Maine, who went on to become president at the
19:11    YMCA.
19:24    His delicate lacy clothes, a Brewster hallmark,
19:27    the delicate bird in his hand and the lighting
19:31    make him stand in relief. And they all
19:35    contribute to a feeling of gentleness.
19:38    The painting has a surreal quality for me
19:42    in part because the rules a perspective have not been followed
19:45    in part because of the stylized pine trees,
19:48    which appear in other Brewster canvases. The bird on a string is symbolic of
19:54    human mortality
19:56    for like the child’s soul it is free to fly
20:00    only after the child’s death. Because children commonly died so young
20:06    the image was often employed. One of the things that makes Brewster so attractive
20:12    to the modern eye, I think,
20:14    is the affinity of some of his portraits with modern art
20:17    In the absence of perspective and the simplification of contours.
20:22    With this painting Brewster commenced signing his canvases in pencil
20:27    on the stretchers. The charming child portrait known as “one shoe off”
20:35    is signed and dated 1807.
20:48    Disorderly attire, even as simple as a child with one shoe of and one shoe on
20:53    implied a rebellious nature. And I see a little touch of the devil in her.
20:58    In the year Brewster painted Francis Watts, 1805,
21:04    Mason Cogswell and his wife celebrated the birth of their third child,
21:09    Alice. After Helen Keller
21:12    Alice Cogswell is probably the best-known deaf woman
21:16    in history. Before Alice turned two
21:20    she contracted spotted fever as it was then called
21:23    and lost her hearing and speech. For several years her family tried fruitless
21:29    remedies
21:29    and watch painfully as her older sisters grew up
21:33    as cultivated and educated young women and developed and learned
21:38    while Alice did not. Mason Cogswell at once saw the larger human problem.
21:43    He approached some of the many people of wealth and influence in Hartford
21:48    created an organizing committee to found the for school for the Deaf
21:53    and persuaded his neighbor, Thomas Gallaudet,
21:56    to go overseas to learn methods of Deaf education.
22:00    The Connecticut Asylum for the Education of the Deaf and Dumb
22:06    opens its doors in Hartford in April 1817
22:10    with seven pupils. The first listed was twelve-year-old
22:16    Alice Cogswell. There were five more pupils,
22:19    all in their teens, and then there was one John Brewster, Jr., age 51.
22:25    Yes, John Brewster, Jr. enrolled in school at the height of his successful
22:31    career
22:32    and suspended his art.  I imagine Brewster
22:37    and Gallaudet meeting, though, there’s no record of it, but it must of course happened.
22:41    Gallaudet was the principal of the school.
22:43    And he would have said to Brewster you can’t be a student here the desks that
22:48    we made are too small.  You’d
22:49    There’s no way.  And then there’s the age difference. And then Brewster would have
22:54    said, I think, “Ah, but I can pay.”
22:56    And that made all the difference at that delicate moment in the history of Deaf
23:01    education.
23:02    In any event he stayed three years and
23:06    then he returned to Maine and to painting.
23:09    Now how very different Brewster’s style was
23:15    from the academic painting practiced in Europe at this time.
23:19    I’ve chosen as an illustration the work of a French
23:23    Deaf painter whose name was Frédéric Peysson,
23:26    a student from the renowned artist, Jean-
23:30    Auguste-Dominique Ingres I N G R E S.
23:35    At the Paris Art Salon of 1839
23:39    Peysson presented his interpretation of a legendary event
23:44    in Deaf history, the last moments of the founder of worldwide Deaf education,
23:49    the Abbé de l’Épée.
23:53    In the painting Épée is shown blessing his Deaf pupils from his deathbed.
23:58    He is attended by a delegation come to tell him that the revolutionary government
24:03    has adopted his School as a national institution
24:07    and, therefore, the education of the Deaf will go forward.
24:11    Here’s Peysson’s painting of that historic moment.
24:25    Not only is there a delegation close to his bed but there are
24:28    parents and pupils there to pay homage to the man long known as
24:33    the father of the Deaf.  Their distress is portrayed
24:37    in exaggerated and conventional symbols –
24:41    eyes rolled to heaven,
24:46    that was French academic painting and it was said to be mute poetry
24:52    and who better to write such poetry mutely with a brush than a mute,
24:58    one who communicates with signs.  The Abbé de l’Épée actually
25:03    made the point explicitly, and I quote him, “Like painting,
25:07    the art of signs is a silent language which speaks only to the eyes.
25:13    The entire scene is presented as a frozen instant.
25:17    The painter effects the illusion that he’s caught people in mid-gesture.
25:24    Significantly, Peysson signed the painting, Frédéric Peysson,
25:29    sourd-muet., deaf-mute.  By using the official style of the Académie,
25:35    the Grand Manor, and by signing their paintings, deaf-mute,
25:39    Deaf painters, like Peysson, were making a point
25:43    and striking a blow for their minority.  They were asserting the normalcy
25:48    of Deaf people and their capacity for abstractions, such as beauty and homage,
25:54    capacity which many people doubted since they knew no educated Deaf people.
26:01    In 1823, the year Brewster’s father died, our artist was painting in Maine
26:07    and New Hampshire.  The number of his paintings, that have been uncovered
26:12    at any rate, begins to diminish in these years an his last painting was apparently completed
26:18    in 1834, when he was 68 years old.
26:23    In these later years his portraits show a more nuanced and sombre
26:29    appreciation of personality.  His signed painting of Rev. Daniel Marrett
26:34    of Standish, Maine is representative.  Let’s take a look.
26:52    You see the face is heavily mottled with rose and grey shadowing
26:58    to bring out the features.  There is a certain sobriety and determination
27:03    in this man of the cloth.  The folded sermon in his hands starts with the words
27:09    “To Meet Thy God is a Solemn”
27:13    and the pastor appears solemn indeed.
27:17    No trace of our artist again for the next 17 years, but in 1852 he witnessed his niece’s will
27:25    Two years later, in 1854, John Brewster, Jr., died
27:30    and was buried in Tory Hill Cemetery at the age of 88.
27:37    John Brewster, Jr. left behind a great corpus of moving portraiture.
27:41    My book includes an inventory of some 250 portraits.
27:46    And some are still being found, if not every month, every few months
27:51    to the great joy of the unsuspecting owners.
27:56    Brewster left behind a vision, a frank and honest way of seeing people
28:03    He left behind a testimony to the perceptiveness, artistic gifts and ingenuity
28:10    of Deaf people.  Brewster did not understand with his ears.
28:15    Brewster understood with his eyes, his hands and his mind.
28:22    And to quote Victor Hugo, “What matters deafness of the ears, when the mind hears.”
28:29    Thank you very much.
28:31    Applause
28:38    Introducer: I ask everybody to use the microphone just because we are on film today
28:42    so I am going to pass that around.
28:43    Audience: Professor Lane, in reviewing his work for your book
28:46    what were the principle sources of
28:52    the troves, where was the stuff that you looked at?
28:55    Are they at private collections and other museums, where is it?
28:58    Lane: The table in my book actually gives the locations of the works, where known.
29:04    A great many of them are in museums like the MFA, the
29:07    Abby Aldrich Rockefeller Collection, of course, in Williamsburg,
29:10    the American Museum of Folk Art in Manhattan.
29:15    They are quite scattered. There will be a
29:18    Brewster traveling exhibit based on my book
29:21    starting in 2005 but mostly in 2006 and 7.
29:28    The nearest it is going to get to Boston, I am sorry to say,
29:31    is Portland or Old Lyme, Connecticut.
29:36    I’m not sure which is closer but it will be in Maine
29:39    in a couple of venues and also in Connecticut and
29:43    all of the way on down the coast to Orlando, FL.
29:47    But, many we don’t know where they are. They’re in private collections
29:49    and the owners prefer not to be identified.
29:55    Audience: I think I may have seen some at Old Sturbridge Village.
29:57    Is that possible?
29:58    Lane: Yes, it is.  Brewster’s parents,
30:04    the painting of his parents that we saw is to be found in Old Sturbridge Village.
30:08    And they also have a nice collection of other work from that period.
30:13    And there’s the Shelburne Museum in Vermont.  They have a Brewster so
30:18    that they are scattered.  There is a wonderful one in Houston,
30:21    one in the University, not University, Pennsylvania State University.
30:26    Yes, sir.
30:27    Audience: Where did you say that they Sarah Prince portrait is?
30:30    Lane: That’s in a private collection.
30:33    Audience: Oh.  By the Prince family?
30:35    Lane: No, a woman who inherited it from her mother who had the judgement
30:41    to buy it a long time ago.
30:42    Audience: Oh.
30:46    Audience: Professor Lane, with this book and other books you’ve written
30:50    where did your interest in the Deaf community come from in the beginning?
30:55    And to make this book, how long have you been,
30:58    to make this book how long did you research to make this book?
31:02    Lane: Well it’s a little misleading because I did it in spare time so to say
31:07    while I was teaching and doing research on other things.
31:12    But it was scattered over a period of about a decade.
31:16    My friend, David Feltner, here in the orchestra was a huge help to me and
31:20    intruding on the lovely people who live in Brewster’s house in Maine and
31:24    unearthing documents there in Buxton and in other locales.
31:30    So, it was a long and almost like a hobby in a way
31:36    Let’s see, now, you had another question, too. Yeah,
31:38    where did my interest come?
30:41    My background is in psychology and linguistics
31:44    and I was introduced to sign language and the Deaf in 1973.
31:50    And I thought it was just a fascinating opportunity to understand language and our
31:57    It made me feel that my sense of my humanity was expanded.
32:01    There was more richness.  There was more to my humanity than I knew
32:04    before,  And then I became politicized also by my Deaf friends.  And here I am.
32:19    Applause