Saudi-Based Initiative, We Sign Together, Proves That Art Has the Power to Change Lives Forever
Art is one of the most celebrated blessings humanity is lucky to have. For centuries, we have witnessed an immense amount of art that will live on forever. Art added color to our lives, told history, shaped cultures, and most importantly, changed the world in many different ways.
“I feel like if you want to get your message out better, why not be graphical about it? Art can help in many ways, especially in social issues,” told us Yemeni-Canadian Graphic Designer Eiman Al-Fkeih. We sat down with Saudi-based Al-Fkeih as she turned out to be the mastermind behind a great initiative that recently made its way to social media. Eiman’s initiative, We Sign Together, is a campaign that calls for Sign Language to be the next taught language in schools in Saudi Arabia.
Eiman recalls having a deaf colleague, back in first grade, who was constantly accompanied by an interpreter in all his classes. She told us that she and her friends have always wanted to go play with him but were clueless about how they could communicate. Eventually, they reached out to his interpreter who taught them a few songs, poems, and basic phrases in the sign language. “I’ve been interested ever since,” Eiman said. One summer, the graphic designer stumbled upon a sign language magazine that focused on graphic illustrations and hand gestures, and that’s when it first hit her. It all started when Eiman was in first grade, now she’s 21 and what took off as a notion turned into her graduation project and it’s now much bigger than that. We Sign Together is now proudly an individual working campaign.
As she grew up fonder of sign language every day, Eiman did an intense research around the topic. She found out that it’s scientifically proving that learning sign language at a young age has endless benefits. It actually helps improve the child’s reading ability, spelling proficiency, stimulate brain development, and increases memory retention. In addition to increasing kids’ interest in reading, and hence, improving their literacy skills. Not to mention, boosting self-esteem as well as confidence.
Al-Fkeih aims to introduce sign language to children, both signers and non-signers, in a colorful and interactive manner. That’s not just to make communication easier for them, but also to increase their learning benefits mentioned above. So, she dedicated a bunch of her digital sketches and vector drawings for that sole purpose, kickstarting We Sign Together with its iconic purple and teal blue illustrations. We asked the artist about her choice for the color palette. She told us that purple, a color that made it to lots of sign language campaigns, happens to trigger creativity and calmness. As for the teal blue, it also emits peaceful vibes, promotes clear thinking, emotional control, and repression of emotions. But why neon, Eiman? Her answer was quite simple, “to attract the eye and interest school children mainly.”
We Sign Together did not limit itself to social media though, according to its creator, a website is currently under construction. She’s also speaking to local Saudi schools and potential volunteers planning to spread awareness among school children.
Eiman didn’t stop there either; the multi-talented artist wrote and illustrated a signed children’s book under the title “Sign With Me”. The book tells the story of a deaf girl who has trouble communicating with other kids at the park who meets another girl who happens to know sign language to communicate with her hearing-impaired brother. The process is still in the process of getting published. It’s expected to be sold in libraries and bookstores in Riyadh soon, and once the website goes live, Eiman will even start shipping internationally. Until then, an online e-book version will also be available soon. In addition to the book, Al-Fkeih also created super flashy flashcards that make learning sign language extra fun!
Even though We Sign Together started in Saudi Arabia, however, Eiman is aiming for what’s beyond. Saudi Arabia is just where the project took off and someday, Al-Fkeih will work on taking her campaign to other countries and maybe turn it into a global campaign one day. For the time being, the deaf community in the Kingdom needs a lot of support and attention and that’s what she’s focusing on at the moment.