Deaf Nigerian dancers mesmerize the public and challenge expectations

Amateur dancer Omowunmi Otunuyi, who is deaf, captivated an audience in the Nigerian city of Ibadan with her performance alongside her dance troupe at a show aimed to challenge preconceived notions about deafness.

“I am so glad we were able to show the audience what we could do, I’m excited because we made it happen,” said the 20-year-old in sign language.

In Nigeria, public showcases featuring deaf artists are infrequent due to the limited opportunities for individuals with disabilities to engage in cultural and artistic pursuits.

Otunuyi’s entry into the dance realm was facilitated by professional coach Samuel James, who established the Seams Deaf-Pro Foundation with the aim of providing deaf performers with chances to excel and confronting bias against them.

“When we go to a place to dance [people] say ‘how is this possible, how are they able to work with songs, the sounds’… that has been our target and that is what we always push,” James said.

Otunuyi and her fellow group members attribute their ability to convey rhythm and fluidity to James, who has guided them through demanding training sessions.

“Some may think it is just a waste of energy, a waste of time,” Otunuyi signed. “I’m a born dancer. I believe there is success in this.”

James and his students have a clear purpose.

“We are trying to break the biases, the prejudices against deaf people,” he said.

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