Bengkala, Deaf Village

Bengkala, Deaf Village

Desa Bengkala/Desa Kolok: The Deaf Village In Northern Bali

Written by Paskah Zolkowski

Sunday, 19 February 2012

Students at the elementary schoolStudents at the elementary schoolDesa Bengkala is a small village located in Northern Bali where, for at least a century now, 2% of all babies born here are deaf. It’s also known as the Kolok Village, literally “Deaf Village” in Balinese. Fifty of its 200 residents are deaf. The inhabitants of the village have created their own sign language known as Kata Kolok (Deaf Talk) and almost all people at the village know how to communicate with the deaf people using their own sign language.

The sign language created by the people of Desa Bengkala (Kata Kolok) is similar to the more common American Sign Language (ASL), but is also accompanied by gestures and facial expressions to better aid deaf people in communicating. Since both use Kata Kolok, they’re able to communicate easily with one another. The residents of Desa Bengkala are very united and work together. When the deaf are trying to purchase food or goods at the market for example, they can always count on those who can hear to help them out.Classroom in Kolok Village

My father, Greg Zolkowski, a reading specialist at the Jakarta International School Elementary who is very passionate about deaf cultures of the world, visited Desa Bengkala and interacted with the deaf people of the village. He also visited a school at the village attended by both the hearing and the deaf kids where Kata Kolok is used as their means of communication. Although the school uses Kata Kolok as their primary mode of communication, the kids are also taught Indonesian Sign Language. Greg enjoyed the chance to interact with the deaf kids using ASL and, to his surprise he waDesa Bengkala or Bengkala Village, Balis able to understand what they were signing to him, and vice versa. “You get a sense of accomplishment when your message is understood by deaf people because it was like speaking a foreign language with someone who had never been taught the language,” explains Greg.

Desa Bengkala’s way of life represents another unique aspect of Indonesia, at once different yet similar to ours. But the need to get one’s message across through communication is universal. It doesn’t matter what language you speak or where you come from, as long as you are able to interact and understand one another using different ways. And that’s all that matters.

Desa Bengkala or Bengkala Village, Bali

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