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Sign Language Studies

American Annals of the Deaf

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My Life with Kangaroos: A Deaf Womanís Remarkable Story
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MG: Up to this point, weíve learned a lot about you, but there is one thing, which we have omitted Ė your artistic vein. You have completed an educational course in textile creation; you have drawn much and also painted, especially aquarelles. But you have also created small sculptures out of papier m‚chť or clay, pearls or twisted wire. I have been allowed to admire some of these, especially the drawings. In doing so, it has occurred to me that, along with a preference for landscapes and still life, you also have a strong tendency to caricature. I find this quite astonishing. Not even your favorite animal is spared your pointed pen! Where does this predisposition come from, I wonder?

DH: My talent for painting was noticed by others quite early on in life, and also promoted. My personal motivation, though once again comes from my strong links to nature.

MG: How come?

DH: I noticed even as a young person just how much is destroyed in nature by human hand. One couldnít overlook it. So I asked myself what I could do against it. What kind of contribution could I add to its preservation? I had just become a member of the Swiss organization of the National Society of the Protection of Nature. But was I then to take part in conferences and meetings or in demonstrations perhaps? No. My handicap was in the way. I was just not suited to that kind of thing.

But there were other possibilities open to me that were much more suitable, and one of these was my artistic talent. So I began there and then by portraying nature. In so doing, I earned myself a good deal of appreciation which, of course, did me a lot of good. At first, I painted sunsets. The flowers followed, all of them cheerful pictures full of color, and later I painted a special motif for a small carpet Ė the building of a stone wall. In this way, I wanted to protest against the ruination of the landscape. Then came ten woven pictures having the theme: The Creation of the Earth up to its Catastrophic End Ė in other words, the apocalypse.

When I visited Australia for the fourth time and took a look at a particular lake landscape, I was appalled to realize that money played a far more important part in the life of some than untouched nature, rich in flora and fauna. I decided at that point to couch my protest in artistic terms. I constructed a sculpture from metal plates, plaited jute and thick hemp under which I placed the title: ĎMoney Eats Landscapeí. It was publicly exhibited, and my hope was that people would come to their senses.

The next stage of my creative work was the presentation of pictures displaying beautiful, untouched countryside. They were primarily evening impressions of the Australian bush land in all its colorful variety. These were not always painting of things and places, but abstract representations. On the other hand, I have never tried to represent kangaroos in the abstract. I loved them too much to subject them to such experiments.

To return to the question of caricatures, I have to say that even as a child, I would immediately seize upon the weekly magazine, ĎNebelspalterí, which was full of caricatures. I was always greedy for this reading matter and would not hand it over until I had read every section. Later, I suddenly felt the need to draw caricatures myself. It was a wonderful way for me to relax, a time in which I could forget my current problems and worries, and not least, because the drawings even cheered me up! I could always make my father smile at them right up to his dying day.

MG: Apart from this, what does artistic activity mean for you?

DH: It simply creates pleasure and happiness to play with colors and experiment with various artistic techniques. And, of course, when itís possible to exhibit the works at some time, then thatís the best part. But artistic work has also belonged to my professional activities. I have also worked as an assistant for ergo-therapy in an old peopleís home and later on in the residential and office centers for people with physical handicaps, teaching them painting, weaving and pottery and so on.

MG: How did your own handicap feature in all this?

DH: Actually, it played no role at all. When I am artistically occupied, I completely forget my own deprivations, and never compare myself with other artists. Apart from this, in those cases of public recognition, my disability found no mention. It was simply of no significance.

MG: The encounter with an Aboriginal referred to as Eukala in your book was some time ago. How do you see this experience today? It was one, which was interesting for you and certainly for the reader.

DH: The meeting with Eukala is something I will never forget, thatís for sure. It really was a wonderful encounter, and I often think of it, and mainly of Eukala herself. It is seldom that I have come across such human warmth in the case of another person. My memories of her have not been displaced by time nor paled in any way. This encounter had effects on me that have not been researched completely.

MG: You mean that the effects of your talks with her are not yet fully mentally digested?

DH: Yes, thatís exactly how it is. On the evening of my birthday, I went for a meal with a few friends, and we came to talk about one or two matters, and I was asked whether things had changed about me since my last visit to Australia. Everybody said Ďyesí to this. They felt that I had gained in self-confidence. As far as I personally was concerned, I felt that there had been another change. At the moment of their asking, it suddenly occurred to me that since my last visit to that country and my return here, all the inhibited feelings I once had in connection with Aboriginals had disappeared. I am referring to all those weird stories that have to do with shamanism and sometimes with the strange practices leading to death. That kind of thing secretly weighed heavily upon me. Now, in one go, all of it is gone! Since then, I feel myself entirely free from such fears. Of course, I wonder now and again whether Eukala thinks of me. I canít be one hundred per cent sure of this. Despite that, I think that she, too, took something away with her after our conversation. After all, she solemnly called me a member of her society. I donít think one can simply forget such a thing. I am very curious to know whether itís possible to take up telepathic communication with her. It could be that Eukala has tried this out already from Australia, and Iíve just not noticed. It would be very interesting indeed if such thought transference really worked! However, my feelings tell me that no telepathic contact has yet taken place. Anyhow, I havenít dreamed anything of this nature. But itís also possible that such things happen without one being aware of their taking place. Fact is, Iíll concentrate more fully on the matter and anticipate possible Ďmessagesí. When I next visit Australia, Iíll certainly make a point of visiting Eukala. I felt that she was a very motherly kind of person, and Iím longing to see her.

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