Rinkoo Barpaga is a Brummie. He is also a deaf British Sign Language filmmaker, street photographer and stand-up comedian.
As we have been exploring inclusion and how as a church we can connect and serve everyone throughout our Diocese, we contacted Rinkoo to get a first-hand insight into the life of someone who’s been marginalised and who’s still fighting regular battles to be understood.
Rinkoo says, “As a sign language user I feel like people see me as someone who’s foreign even though I’m British-born and I’ve lived here my whole life.”
We got to spend a few days with Rinkoo finding out more of his life story and comedy journey. We’ve made a series of five short films in which Rinkoo speaks about his upbringing, his performance style, the challenges facing deaf people and some of his most memorable onstage moments.
Rinkoo explains: “I grew up here in Birmingham and I’ve experienced prejudice in lots of different forms. Take the fact that I’m deaf. One of the things that happened at school was I wasn’t allowed to use sign language. Of course, times have changed, but I’m still struggling to communicate. in everyday life people are so strongly adamant that we should use spoken languages which means my own language has a lower status.
I do have hope. When I do stand-up comedy, I use sign language and I make people laugh. Maybe I can also make them cry and maybe through that they can hear my side of the story and that’s what changes their attitude.
I have so many things that I want to say, and I’ve realized that comedy has become my passion and it all comes back to storytelling. People like coming to my performances because of the way I tell stories.”