We collect data in Desa Bengkala (aka Desa Kolok) and five additional villages in the Buleleng region of Bali: Mengenin, Bebetin, Bulian, Tajun and Suwug.

Desa Bengkala

Desa Bengkala is a village in the North of Bali that has had high incidences of hereditary deafness for at least six subsequent generations. The number of deaf people in the community has fluctuated between 35-45 in recent decades, including all age ranges. The local sign language is known as Kata Kolok and is used in all aspects of social life, including religious, medical and political contexts. Many hearing villagers have learnt to use the local sign language, which means that deaf children growing up in the community are able to converse freely to their village nurse. Four of the ELISA project’s local assistants are originally from Bengkala:  Ni Made Dadiastini, Ni Made Sumarni, I Gede Primantara, and I Ketut Kanta.

Connie de Vos collecting data in Desa Bengkala (2007)
Connie de Vos and Ni Made Sumarni collecting data in Desa Bengkala (Photo: I Ketut Kanta, 2008)


 The community of Mengening, part of Kubutambahan district, is located high up in the hills and access to the village is difficult. People in the area live off clove-picking, wood work and subsistence farming. In Mengening, we identified one family that includes five deaf members between 4 and 47 years of age. There are three deaf siblings, one of whom is married to a deaf spouse. We regard this group of signers as communal homesigners. The deaf couple has a four-year-old deaf son, who is the first intergenerational user of the signing system in Mengening. Furthermore, there are two deaf individuals in Mengening who are born into exclusively hearing families. One deaf woman, who is in her late sixties, has had sporadic interactions with the larger deaf family during clove-picking activities. Furthermore, we were able to record a 21-year old deaf man. Due to their age difference, this young man does not regularly interact with the other deaf homesigners in Mengening.

Tall trees and motorbikes in Mengening (Photo: Satyawati, 2021)
Tall trees and motorbikes in Mengening (Photo: Satyawati, 2021)


 Bebetin is a small town in Sawan district, where we encountered two deaf homesigners. One deaf woman in her fifties interacts relatively little outside of her home, apart from running errands on the market and participating in ceremonies and family events. Signed communication with her family members is rather limited. The other deaf man, who is in his thirties, communicates smoothly with his hearing family using his homesign system, and due to jobs in woodwork, clove-picking and farming, his social interactions go beyond his immediate family and home town. The two deaf individuals are not in regular contact with each other.

Lexical elicitation session by Ni Made Sumarni and one of our participants in Bebetin
Lexical elicitation session by Ni Made Sumarni and one of our participants in Bebetin (Photo: Satyawati, 2021)


 Bulian is another small village of Kubutambahan district, nestled high up in the hills. It is home to two deaf homesigners: a 29-year-old deaf woman, as well a 41-year-old deaf man. The two of them are in-laws, but due to gender taboos regarding interactions between male and female in-laws, they only rarely have contact. Both of them interact mainly with their hearing family members and infrequently travel outside of Bulian area.

Ni Made Sumarni showing cartoons to participant in Bulian
Ni Made Sumarni showing cartoons to participant in Bulian (Photo: Satyawati, 2021)


 In the community of Tajun, which belongs to Kubutambahan district, we identified two deaf homesigners. One deaf young man, 35 years of age, has a younger deaf brother, who went to deaf boarding school in Singaraja, but his older sibling never attended school. He mostly stays at home and helps out his mother at the family’s grocery store. The other deaf man is 58 years old and his family members are all hearing. He lives alone, works as a builder and does not frequently socialise with other deaf or hearing people. Even though their houses are located very close to each other, the two homesigners in Tajun rarely interact, due to their age difference and because of their incompatible daily routines.

Data collection in Tajun with Ni Made Dadiastini
Data collection in Tajun with Ni Made Dadiastini (Photo: Satyawati, 2021)


The village of Suwug, located in Sawan district, is the home of one deaf homesigner, a man of 40 years of age. He lives with his hearing family and rarely travels outside his own village. We also met a deaf man, 52 years old, who lives in a neighbouring village just across the river, and attended the deaf boarding school in Singaraja. Because it is hard to cross the river at this point these two men rarely interact.

A homesigner and one of their regular hearing interaction partners in Suwug (Photo: Satyawati, 2021)
A deaf homesigner in Suwug (on the right) having a conversation with a deaf man from a neighbouring village (on the left) (Photo: Satyawati, 2021)