Deaf culture, by its very nature is very visual. From our attuned senses, to our communication methods, we offer a very unique perspective. So when you take a profoundly Deaf person, and place him in an industry where its premise is visually based, like 3D Animation, magic starts to happen. Magic literally happens, like in the story of the boy who by littering creates a larger-than-life Rubbish Monster that wreaks havoc on the world.
The Rubbish Monster is one magical creation of South Africa’s Braam Jordaan, a 3D animated short that has won countless world-renowned awards and has been made into a best selling children’s book published by the Cambridge University Press. Braam was born Deaf to Deaf parents, and while he says he comes from a disadvantaged background, he never avoided the challenge. “I grew up in a colorful environment. Animation is very visual-driven and colors are my music,” explained Braam as to why he got into animation. “My father is a wonderful storyteller and my mom a perfectionist. I was naturally gravitated towards the world of visual arts and entertainment.”
Braam went the extra mile in his studies, becoming a top student in his animation studies and picking up two major national awards for commercial filmmakers. He walked straight into a job with one of the most reputable post-production companies after graduation, and began working for clients such as BMW, World Wildlife Fund, Coronation, Mitsubishi, Yardley, and American Eagle.
The very quality of his work places in him the top echelon of 3D animation artists, and he has used his talents to further benefit the Deaf community. He created the first-ever online animated Sign Language Dictionary for the Deaf Culture Center in Canada, and created an animated Lion that could sign to help win a vote to bring the World Federation of the Deaf conference to Africa for the first time.
Braam’s work has won prizes such as the Best Commissioned Film at the 7th Seoul International Cartoon and Animation Festival, and his work was featured in The Filmmakers’ Guide to South Africa: 10th Anniversary Edition. But Braam is far from content in simply winning awards for the visual magic he creates. He aims to change how stories are told. While many animated films feature diverse characters across a diverse range of genres, there is a need for the type of story where “the protagonist’s background does not inform the plot,” explained Braam. “Films should feature diverse characters that are not simply about their diversity.” Many of his creations draw from sources of happiness and tragedies, “or even ordinary people who consistently persevere in their lives.”
While Braam consistently inspires others through his involvement in the Deaf community and the high standards he sets in his work, he draws inspiration from the very community he is a part of. “Uplifting the communities through my visual work, portraying strong messages of hope and happiness is a true reflection of the cultural pride I inherited as a Deaf person.”
Braam Jordaan is the winner of the DeafNation Inspiration Award for Visual Arts in 2012.
By Anthony Mowl