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Gordon's D-Zone Arcive (2006-2014)

Monday, September 29, 2008

Tribute to Wenzu Dalli - disability activist (and more) Part 3

On the other hand, it would be wrong to assume that Wenzu had only a scholar’s personality (whatever that means…)

In fact, he was also a great joker and storyteller. When he related a joke, you could hear perfect silence followed by an outburst of laughter. When he related an anecdote, we were mesmerised by the detail and the way he drew you into the scene. Once he even visited the desert and chose to travel with the Bedouins for a few days. He described how he and his friend had met this group of nomadic Bedouins.

Once the Bedouins learned that Wenzu was blind, they offered him a trip with them. Apparently, they believed that blind people are endowed with supernatural gifts and thus treated him like royalty throughout the trip across the desert.

Yet, they say if a man has only learning and no kindness, then he is not a full human being. In this too, Wenzu showed compassion and had a deep sense of justice. He loved all animals, and tried to befriend everyone. On the other hand, he knew that he had to put his foot down sometimes or – in Wenzu’s case, shake his head to and fro in disagreement.

Back in 2003, when I met him, Wenzu was also discovering the social model. The idea that it wasn’t the fact he was blind that had limited him in his youth and adulthood. Rather, it was a society that decided that disabled people should not work or develop themselves as it deemed us ‘worthless’ or of ‘little value’. It was then that I was fortunate enough to witness a man who was – like myself – becoming more involved in what I would later know as ‘disability activism’. It was a time when I was also reclaiming part of myself that I had long denied.

In his journey to understand what disability meant to him, he concluded that disability wasn’t an issue of ‘blind people’ or of ‘physically disabled people’, ‘Deaf people’, ‘people with an intellectual impairment’ and so on. Indeed, it wasn’t an issue that only concerned us as disabled people. When he spoke he tried to include every disabled person, whatever the impairment. In his later years, he continued to grow in many ways. OK, at times, he used to mock himself as many of us do to ease non-disabled people when faced by our ‘extraordinary’ bodies (tongue-in-cheek).

It wasn’t the first time he used his large size at the butt of his own jokes with close friends.