18th-century St. John’s Church in Kolkata hosts Heritage Walk for Hearing-impaired

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St John's Church, Wikimedia

Kolkata, March 27, 2017: Sunshine on their shoulders, 30 bright young minds, notwithstanding their hearing-impairment, ambled up to the late 18th-century St. John’s Church here on Monday, soaking in the history of the structure through sign-language in a unique heritage walk.

Rukhsana and her schoolmates from the city-based Ideal School For the Deaf, looked up in awe at the artwork around the church as their teachers explained its 230-year-old history through sign-language as part of the heritage walk for the hearing-impaired.

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“The idea is to showcase the inclusivity of heritage structures. Heritage is meant for all and should be inclusive. Disabilities shouldn’t be a barrier to access and experience heritage,” Tathagata, archaeologist and co-founder of Heritage Walk Calcutta, told IANS about the initiative.

The event was curated and executed by the company in collaboration with the school under the Go Unesco ‘Make Heritage Fun’ umbrella.

Armed with special kits and visual aids (pictures of old Calcutta and the church, dates), the students from Classes 6 to 9, were taken around the church grounds, located smack in the middle of the city at Dalhousie.

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As Tathagata elaborated about the “Black Hole of Calcutta” and Job Charnock’s mausoleum, teacher Swati communicated the data through sign-language.

Charnock, a British trader, was considered to be the founder of Kolkata but in 2003 the Calcutta High Court ruled against it, saying Kolkata’s existence is older than Charnock’s landing.

The young visitors were particularly drawn to the 10 ft x 12 ft painting “The Last Supper” by German neo-classical painter Johann Zoffany, housed inside the church. They eagerly fired a volley of questions for their teachers and responded with hand gestures as they registered the fresh information.

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“Our favourite thing about the church is the painting. We love the ambience. It is our first heritage walk and we want to do it again,” Rukhsana and her classmates told IANS through sign-language that was translated by Swati.

To follow up on the walk, the students will be asked to interpret the church in their own way through paintings.

“The challenge is to simplify things for them. We have to break down the history and filter it down to the essentials so it is easy for them to absorb. The heritage walk and the paintings that they will later draw will help them retain the memory and the information they processed,” added Swati. (IANS)

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