'I talk with my hands' exhibit at City Arts

‘I talk with my hands’ is an art exhibition in Hockley which tells the story of a young artist’s experience living as a deaf woman.

Zoe Milner (21), is an art student at Nottingham Trent University. She was born profoundly deaf into a hearing family. Her exhibition is designed to teach people about British Sign Language and explores her experience living with an unseen disability.

“you get a much richer art sector if it’s made up of the different voices that make up society”
Suzannah Bedford, Creative Director of City Arts

Zoe said, “I wanted this exhibition create awareness about the reality of deaf culture, such as communication barriers, inaccessible support services, and special-needs education.

“That’s why I discuss topics like how I attended a deaf school for eleven years, and my relationship with my hearing family,

“I feel I need to express my honest perspective about my experience, including positive, difficult and negative situations,” she added.

Zoe with signs she has used to communicate with people.

Zoe spent two years of her life in primary school, before moving to a deaf school. Her artwork demonstrates the difficulty deaf people have reading and writing English.

For Zoe, British Sign Language is her first language, which she must then translate into English so that she can communicate with others.

“This exhibition was inspired by a BSL Rally I attended in London last March. I witnessed a lot of brightly coloured posters, containing bold visual text related to deaf culture; a small but very special community I have been a part of since I was really young,” said Zoe.

Zoe was selected to win a RESIDENCE bursary by a panel of d/Deaf, disabled and neurodivergent creatives. She won a £1200 bursary as well as access to support from the City Arts team.

The people of Nottingham are supportive of the RESIDENCE program.

People in Nottingham discuss RESIDENCE program

Suzannah Bedford is the director of City Arts and is passionate about increasing diversity in art.

“Historically, artistic quality has been viewed very much through one lens: a very white, Eurocentric, middle-class lens. This means you get a really limited view of things. I want to change that. I think you get a much richer art sector if it’s made up of the different voices that make up society,” Suzannah said.

“I hope this work will offer a richer artistic and cultural offer that is more relevant to the city of Nottingham, because it actually represents the people that live here,

“Decisions about the program and the projects are made by representatives of those we wish to reach. For instance, if we want to support a disable artist, the decision of which artist will be made by representatives of the disabled community,” she added.

An estimated 150,000 people use British Sign Language in the UK.
In April 2022 the British Sign Language Act was passed, recognising BSL as its own language.

The exhibition is being held at City Arts and will be running until 29 March.