[Art_beyond_sight_educators] taxi signals for the blind

Lisa Yayla fnugg at online.no
Mon Jul 25 07:20:00 UTC 2011

Susan Woolf Artist Intent


  Big Apple to see SA's taxi signals for the blind

      South Africa's unique taxi hand signals have gone to New York. A
      collection of work by artist Susan Woolf, inspired by the
      gestures, is on exhibition at the prestigious Museum of Modern Art.

  Artist Susan Woolf with the stamp collection of tactile shapes 
inspired by hand signals used by taxi commuters in Gauteng Picture: 

Woolf, credited with creating the first artwork based on the pervasive 
taxi signals, is exhibiting a collection of tactile shapes which have 
been turned into a braille version of her work.

The Sandton mother of three, who left for the US last Sunday, said she 
was "completely surprised" and honoured by the museum's invitation.

"It's not something somebody expects," she said.

Long fascinated by the intricate hand signs between taxi drivers and 
their passengers to signal their intended destination, Woolf was 
inspired to develop a new language for blind commuters.

Her first work on the taxi signals appeared in a 2007 taxi-sign 
handbook, which has been translated into seven African languages.

Woolf said a short video explaining the culture of taxi signs and her 
development of these into a language suitable for blind commuters was 
shown at the exhibition.

"It's a working travel language that's completely multicultural. There 
about 50 or 60 hand signs in Gauteng alone," she said.

Last year, the South African Post Office launched a series of colourful 
stamps of Woolf's taxi signal art. These have since been voted the 
fifth-most important series of stamps in the world. The stamps also have 
raised shapes of the signs for the blind.

The idea to translate the signs into a language for blind commuters was 
born out of Woolf's natural curiosity.

She presented her idea to Blind SA and, for the first few years, worked 
closely with the organisation to develop the language.

"So many blind people have to take taxis, and this is just a way of 
including people. I didn't expect anything to come of it. I just did it 
because it was right and it worked, and it was fun."

The response, said Woolf, was remarkable. The shapes were also 
translated into a Braille handbook.

"Blind people have said to me that they felt wonderful to be included. 
It's giving people a chance to look up a sign if they want to go 
somewhere. It's empowering people with an option," she said.

Woolf, a graduate of the Johannesburg School of Arts, is working on her 
PhD. Her thesis on the hand signs is based on the art and anthropology 
of her research.

During her 19-year career as an artist, she has held exhibitions in 
South Africa, the UK, Germany and the US.

The Taxi Hand Sign Shape Lingo for Blind People opens to the public at 
the Museum of Modern Art today and runs until November 7.


link at Moma Talk to Me with video

      What is /Talk to Me/?

/Talk to Me/ is an exhibition on the communication between people and 
objects that will open at The Museum of Modern Art on July 24th 2011. It 
will feature a wide range of objects from all over the world, from 
interfaces and products to diagrams, visualizations, perhaps even 
vehicles and furniture, by bona-fide designers, students, scientists, 
all designed in the past few years or currently under development.

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