It makes me very happy to remember that during all of our activities and rehearsals as well as during the final performances, our games and exercises always consisted of a sense of community and groupness, division of roles and responsibilities, and audience participation. Our goal was for our group to become bigger and bigger everytime we visited the schools and more and more children would learn the songs and rhythms we had prepared for them. During our 3-day projects, we aimed at letting the children's voices to be heard, while making sure that every individual had the responsibility to send the message that the refugee crisis and primarily child-refugee rights and needs must be taken seriously into consideration by governments and should be a subject of discussion among all family members of a household.
A constant reminder, though, during this programme was the sad fact that theatre and dance are forbidden arts in some countries, some of which today's refugees stem from. By using these specific art forms to address current sociopolitical issues made our mission much more moving and emotional. In this context, theatre itself becomes the methodology through which one can approach sensitive social matters. Using interactive artistic education in order to make an analogy with present reality is a huge need for all elementary schools in Greece.
Our presence as a multicultural team was very strong and vibrant and was almost never addressed questions of color, origin, racism, or other criticism. My personal belief is that the lived experience of people who do not necessarily have a Greek nationality but do have Greek as their first language, surprises and immediately answers numerous questions and comments that could occur if the group was not multicultural or if its members were not fully integrated in Greek society. This multiculturality presents in action the need to have more humanitarian practices from the so-called Second Generation Immigrants as well as the transformative power this population can have. In this sense, the multicultural troupe is simultaneously of intercultural character and manages to overcome national borders and (in)human categorization.
LESVOS: 'TU TU KE BUM KE BUM KE BUM KE
The coordination of the students was closely related to the magical ability of rhythm to reunite people, but also with the kinaesthetic element we added through the art of Body Music/Body Percussion. For me, the most beautiful result and the most vivid sound-image was the children's' voices from the 1st Elementary School of Mytilene (Lesvos), particularly during the breaks, where all of them filled up the hallways with the West African rhythm, called Sinte
CHIOS: MORE VOICES ARE STRONGER THAN ONE
It was the first time that we taught an entire school, from 1st till 6th Grade. The students of the Kardamila School Center expressed their excitement for our activities, not only through their performances, but also through their commitment to our indications throughout our 3-day stay. Of important presence for me were Eleni and Stratis from Ghana, and Christos from N. America: two examples that no place has ever been homogeneous. If there would be one thing that has pre-existed on this planet, it would be diversity.
KOS: 'CALL THE CHILDREN, THE RAIN IS COMING...'
There was a need for collaboration, for solidarity, for a welcoming center for refugees. The so called Hotspot was under consideration at the island, but not at the Elementary School of Zipari. From the very first hour of our educational programme, the students showed clear humanitarian stance through their theatrical improvisations: within a few minutes kitchens, examination rooms, and emergency pantries emerged. That moment, I did not think that adults should return to their childhood thinking, but that the children were exemplifying how adults should behave.
The performances at the end of each 3-day stay took the shape of a performance-statement which presented students with a clear view about war, about refuge, and about children's' rights. The performances awakened memories for the past generations and raised awareness for the newest. Each time the children went trough a process of catharsis as the emotional layers of this lived experience were plenty, such as joy of playing games, enthusiasm and affection during the primary performance of the troupe, sadness while discussing the journey of a refugee, uprootment, anxiety during final rehearsals. While it is definite that one single performance can never reflect the holistic creative work and the synthetic procedure of such a dense programme, the shows were for all of us a redemption and an expression of our hope for the harsh reality to better. I felt that the programme came to substitute the 'bad drama' played by the local and global media, while in the background one finds panic, fear, needs, and humanitarian fight.
Children do realise that apart from the conversation, theatre, music, dance, art, and writing are mediators that communicate to the wider public, and that they seem to be the most explicit and interactive medium for people to understand complicated socio-political matters. Meanwhile, students apply the right to play through the processes of awareness around other human rights.
Hand in hand with the humanitarian direction of the activities, students of all ages were offered fundamental understandings of the virtues needed for an activist artist, as well as the endless creativity that emerges from the technique of improvisation. It is so important for children of this age group to be able to relate a story to reality and vice versa. There is an ongoing need for this kind of techniques to be transmitted to elementary school teachers, not to mention the regularisation of similar activities in every public school of Greece.
Disclaimer: The views and opinions expressed in all posts are those of the authors and do not necessarily reflect the views of the association or the MA program.