What is Visual Vernacular? And what does it have to with Poetry?

Visual vernacular (or VV) is a physical form of performance that draws on sign language, mime, and techniques from the theatre.

It has its roots in Deaf culture and is particularly popular in America, but is growing in popularity in the UK. Deaf artists have used VV in lots of different ways, including storytelling, theatre and poetry.

VV was developed by the America, Bernard Bragg (1928-2018)

A child of deaf parents who were involved in the theatre.  Bernard studied with the mime artist Marcel Marceau in France and was inspired to combine mine and sign language in theatre performances. VV is a sensory spectacle that everyone can enjoy, whether they know sign language or not.

As part of the BSL Cultural Heritage Event, we are joined at Manchester Poetry Library by  VV artist Ishtiaq Hussain.   He uses his entire body, iconic gestures and facial expressions to capture different ideas and themes. You can see his work here, with VV films about ‘Sport’ and the ‘Queen’ created for the Birmingham Commonwealth Games, 2022.

Visual Vernacular is different to BSL (British Sign Language) poetry, which has always been an important part of Deaf culture in the UK.   

For a good description of what VV is, why not watch this short video. (with sign language and captions) by Ace Mahbz, actor, performer and writer.

If you want to learn more about the difference between BSL Poetry and Visual Vernacular, come to the event ‘BSL Cultural Heritage’ at Manchester Poetry Library on April 24th as part of Manchester BSL Fest. Book HERE. We are lucky enough to have Kabir Kapoor, the BSL Poet Laureate, performing alongside Ishtiaq Hussain. 

A man leans on a shed looking fed up wearing a flat cap

These workshops are being funded by;