Last month I was honoured to be a speaker at the HerStory Women’s Global Empowerment Conference. The conference and the HerStory platform are the brainchild of Zimbabwean-born Getrude Matshe, who has been building the concept for the past few years, first as in-person conferences and currently as online summits.
My 15-minute presentation was on the topic of independence and it’s meaning for me as a blind person, touching on the need for greater inclusion of persons with disabilities into society and the workplace.
You can watch the video at https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=uqLQvX5vnMs
It was such an honour for me to be asked to participate in last month’s Shift Online art festival hosted by the Unmute Dance Co from Artscape Theatre. I’ve been impressed by the online performances shown on the YouTube channel throughout November. They have featured some talented artists from across Africa and the world and, of course, from here in South Africa. So it was really special for me to be asked to contribute to the festival.
There were two segments focusing on my work. The first was a mini-documentary that was premiered on Sunday, 29 November, which featured videos of me talking about my work as a singer/songwriter, author and motivational speaker.
Themba Mbuli, Creative Director of Unmute Dance Co, was responsible for putting the content together into a mini-documentary, and he did a really great job.
Here’s the link to the mini-documentary: https://youtu.be/l50KD6d8f5o
A second segment was released on the penultimate day of the festival, Wednesday, 2 December and featured me talking about how I wrote one of my songs – Here Be Dragons – and a little about how I play keyboard. Also featured in that segment was a solo performance from Lone Loh.
Here’s the link: https://youtu.be/f0CUpXmC0J0
I can’t even begin to think of how challenging it must have been to produce a month-long art festival online during the COVID-19 pandemic. Full respect to Themba Mbuli and his team at Unmute Dance Co for such an amazing show! And congratulations to all the artists for their creativity in adapting their art to an online space.
PS: Don’t think that the festival is aimed solely at persons with disabilities – we are artists first, sharing our art with you. Our disabilities are just a minor part of who we are.
PPS You can also hear the first paragraph of my audio book on the mini-documentary.
Some people are completely comfortable in front of a camera. I’ve always believed that I‘m just not one of them – especially not when it’s a video camera!
So, when I agreed to record a short video for the Toastmasters club leader training for the training sessions that’ll take place across Southern Africa over the next two months I was slightly…. Umm… shall we say anxious?
Here’s the thing: I knew my topic and was happy with the specific information I’d chosen to share. So that’s not what was making me nervous. And one would have thought that I couldn’t be camera shy since I couldn’t see the camera. So, to all intents and purposes, speaking in front of a camera should have been no more nerve-wracking than my usual presentations. And yet it was.
Of course there was the pressure of trying to ensure I kept looking at the video – remember I don’t have a physical point of reference to look at so “straying” was a real possibility. And that certainly added to my stress. Ultimately though, I think my anxiety was due to the uncertainty of it all – how was it all going to work out, was I going to remember everything I wanted to say, and would it be “good enough” to satisfy everyone involved… well, realistically I know that we’re all usually out own worst critics, so I guess that should be ‘would it be ‘good enough’to satisfy me?
Thankfully, Bruce Wade, of EMS, where we were recording the video was great at helping me think through many of my concerns – we chatted before shooting the video so we were both clear on what was going to happen and what our preferred outcome was. Then we went into the studio and Bruce oriented me to the position of the camera so I knew where I should be looking.
And then we did a take…
And then a second take…
And then we were done. In just two takes. And I was happy with it… well, sort of, mostly, kind of happy (dratted self-critic!)
Admittedly the fact that my guide dog Fiji was perfectly content to snooze in the corner also helped ease my anxiety- can you imagine if she had felt compelled to make her on-screen debut – or if she had started snoring – but by far the factor that most helped me relax and just concentrate on the message I wanted to get across was the level of professionalism shown by Bruce in talking through the process and resolving the concerns I had.
So, next time I need to get a video done, guess who I’ll be calling on?
Here are Bruce’s contacts, in case you have need of his video production services:
Chief Entrepreneur Officer
Northern Block, Upper Eastside
31 Brickfield Road, Woodstock, Cape Town
Tel: 021 839 2281 | www.em-solutions.co.za
Over the past few weeks I’ve posted links to a few videos showing how I accomplish simple, everyday tasks without sight, often with the help of my beautiful guide dog, Fiji.
I’m curious to know what other videos you’d like to see – anything that would help you learn more about how a visually impaired person does things. Or, at least, how I do things as a visually impaired person – I’d never presume to believe that my way is the only way… or even the best way… to do something.
I’ve already had a few suggestions for more videos: how I apply make-up, shopping, cooking, pouring coffee (or wine, for that matter), how I use my computer and mobile phone, and how Fiji and I cross roads and how we catch Ubers.
If you have additional ideas of what you’d like to know about, please just let me know.
To give you an idea of what the videos may be like, here’s a few links to previous videos I’ve done:
Using an escalator
Walking in Tokai Forest
People are often nervous about using an escalator when they’re with me in case something happens. I thought it might be useful to create a video showing how Fiji and I navigate an escalator so you can see how easy it actually is.
Here’s what you’re seeing: Fiji and I approach the escalator and Fiji stops with her head facing the pole that prevents people taking trolleys onto the escalator. I reach forward and touch the left-hand handrail of the escalator. Incidentally, usually I would find the pole by feeling where Fiji’s head was – I just happened to find the handrail first so I chose to navigate from there instead… after all, they say a change is as good as a holiday!
From there it’s simply a case of finding the right-hand arm rail, checking that Fiji’s leash is clear of the pole and stepping onto the top step, simultaneously giving Fiji the instruction to go forward. As the steps drop away I check we are positioned safely and then simply ride down the escalator. Fiji stands and waits patiently for me to give her the instruction to jump off. My first guide dog, Leila, used to sit down with her rear end on one step and her front paws on the step below and sit like that the whole way down, which caused much amusement amongst people who saw her!
Maybe you’re wondering how I know when we’re getting near to the end of the escalator? It’s quite simple – both the steps and the handrails begin to flatten out and it’s simply a case of putting one foot forward and waiting to feel the ridge where the floor starts. As soon as I feel that I tell Fiji to move forward and step off myself… and off we go.
And that’s what you’re seeing on the video…
PS Did you see how Fiji wagged her tail the whole way down the escalator? My dog truly loves to work!