Bringing Together Melbourne’s Deaf Arts & Slam Poetry Communities @ the Australian Premiere of DEAF JAM

The stage is set for this month’s Social Action Film Night! Come along this Thursday 28th June, for the premiere of DEAF JAM, an extraordinary story of courage, collaboration and celebration of sign language poetry that speaks to both the hearing and Deaf!

Amongst an array of exciting guests for the night, is the return to the stage of our bright and spirited MC Tina Jensen, who is keen to welcome and warm the hearts of all who venture out for the night. She is well known for her ability to engage an audience as well as ask some pretty juicy and thought provoking questions. She has license to do so as facilitator of the post film Q&A.

Coming together for the first time in a post screening discussion, is a group of extremely accomplished and passionate artists from both the Slam Poetry and Deaf Arts communities. Who knows where the dialogue will lead, and what connections may emerge? Could we possibly see a Deaf person inspired to enter a local slam poetry competition? Could we possibly see the slam poetry community welcoming a Deaf poet into the scene? From the moment I heard about the story of Deaf Jam, it became a mission of mine to bring these two communities together by creating a space and gathering together respected leaders from each to share their perspectives, views and resources.  Deaf Jam has inspired the merging of these two wonderful and rich cultures throughout the US, I wonder if Melbourne is up for a bit of the same? Now there would be some exciting Social Action!

I am positively thrilled to welcome and introduce the following panellists to the stage to see what inspiration and creative collaboration may unfold. I am sure that you will share my excitement as you read their amazing profiles.

Deaf Arts Network Speakers

Ross Onley Zerkel

As a Deaf person who is fluent in Auslan, Ross’ artistic process is very much about engaging with the deaf community through the arts. Ross is the Arts Development Officer of the program Deaf Arts Network (DAN), at Arts Access Victoria, where he has worked since 2002. Ross has initiated and coordinated various DAN projects in collaboration with the Deaf community including Deaf Can Dance, Street Art & Stencilling, Digital Storytelling, a Deaf visual arts exhibition, Think Tanks for the deaf community and conducted an extensive survey with deaf artists. He is also a co-founder of the Deaf Can Dance company and was a recipient of the Vodafone Australia’s World of Difference program in 2009. His acting experience includes: I Love U, an award winning film which has been shown in various festivals both in Australia and worldwide (2002), a Toyota television commercial for Japan (2003), and Andrew Merlino’s Imitating Charlie (2008).

Medina Sumovic

Medina Sumovic is an actress, dramaturge, teacher and consultant/Sign Coaching. As a deaf person, she is a respected leader within the deaf community known nationally for her contribution to the Deaf arts. From 1996- 2005 Medina worked as a full time professional actress for the long- standing company, Australia Theatre of the Deaf (ATOD) and toured Australia/and New Zealand several times performing in Theatre in Education shows and leading visual theatre workshops in hundreds of schools nationwide. In 2007 Medina worked on Deaf Can Dance project run by Deaf Arts Network and Arts Access Victoria and has worked with this project since its inception in 2007. She informally set up workshops for deaf people in Melbourne to learn hip-hop, and, then with further support from Deaf Arts Network, she continued to contribute as dramaturge working with Phunktional and the ensemble of deaf dancers leading up to the award winning performance, ‘Sound of Silence’ (Melbourne Fringe 2008). After this, she then worked with Deaf Can Dance next performance (Ausdance Awards 2009). She also directed small skits for Deaf community events ‘Him, Her & I’ 2008 and ‘Theatre Sports’ 2009 and recently a very successful short performance for Australian Deaf Games Closing – January 2012 ‘ I’ll Remember’

Walter Kadiki

Walter Kadiki is a leading UK deaf poet who runs Deaf Poetry Workshops in conjunction with the Australian Theatre of the Deaf, Deaf Arts Network and Arts Access Victoria.

From Walter:  “I grew up in Romford Essex and started composing deaf poetry at a very young age with the influence of family members who were also into poetry.   Poetry was a special channel for expressing my innermost feelings without the strain of being misunderstood.  My earliest poems were mostly about the frustrations of living in the hearing world, of being misunderstood, underestimated and frown upon.  The poem tones changed with each phase of my upbringing. That is, poems of sorrow, and then self condemning, and then of dreams that were far beyond my reach, and then love and then so and so.

Past works and Achievements:

  • 2001- London Deaf Expo poetry presentation
  • 2003- 4  Deaflympic 3 Week Celebration of a Possibility Poetry Showcase
  • 2011 Deaf Poetry Workshop in Conjunction with DAN
  • 2012 Sign Butterfly Hands Symphony Poetry Leader

Slam Poetry Speakers

Michelle Dabrowski

Michelle Dabrowski is the vivacious host and founder of Slamalamadingdong – a competition based poetry slam night, based on audience voting which provides a safe space where all poets are truly welcomed and supported.

Michelle is multi slam champion spoken word poet, arts educator, community builder, events co-ordinator and full time rib cage rattler. From the acclaimed Blue Metropolis Festival in Montreal (2007) to Melbourne’s Forum Theatre (Arts Festival, 2009) Michelle has been a featured guest on stages across England, New Zealand, Canada and Australia. Hailing from Montreal Canada, Michelle is the founding Co-ordinator of the Throw Poetry Collective and represented Montreal on the 2007 slam team at the Canadian Festival of Spoken Word. With her light-hearted word play and rhythmic melodic style, Michelle has been earning her stripes as a verbal connoisseur in the craft of spoken word poetry for the past seven years. Helping students find their voice through the medium of poetry and performance Michelle works as a Super Poet for Australian Poetry and was a recipient of the Arts Victoria, Artists in Schools Grant (2010.) Passionate about inter-arts collaboration and grounded in the word, performance is the means by which she builds understanding with diverse audiences on a vulnerable and human level.

Luka Lesson

Luka Lesson is the current Australian Poetry Slam Champion, conscious hip-hop artist and Co-director of The Centre for Poetics and Justice based in Melbourne.

Luka has been active in community development work utilising hip-hop and poetry as a form of self-determination and raising awareness for marginalised young people for many years. He has taught Indigenous Studies at Monash University for the past two years and holds a first class honours degree in the same field.

Luka has toured Australia, China, the United States and New Zealand over the past year both performing his work and conducting workshops with young people in every country. Luka has also been invited to perform at the Beijing Bookworm Writers’ Festival, Auckland Readers and Writers’ Festival, Sydney Writers’ Festival, the Ubud Writers’ Festival in Bali and the Hong Kong Writers’ festival in 2012 alone.


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