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Performing Peace in the Great Lakes Region
13 April 2015 @ 11:00 - 13:00
Issues, Stakes and Prospects from Recent Fieldwork in the Humanitarian Dramatic Stage of DR Congo and Burundi.
Maëline Le Lay and Alex Wanjala
This paper traces the origin of the humanitarian paradigm at work in performing arts in the African Great Lakes Region (RD Congo, Rwanda, and Burundi) and analyses the conditions of its achievement in the artistic stage.
Today, more and more NGOs and international institutions, even national governing bodies, resort to theatre for their awareness-campaigns in targeted communities, artists are increasingly requesting NGOs, sometimes even indirectly; for example, when they design plays and shows according to a humanitarian agenda. These orders give rise to performances that are, either part of « popular theatre » made for awareness-campaigns, or part of « participative theatre ». The paper shall contextualize on both local labels.
The Eastern region of DRC and Burundi have a central place in this theatre « genre » which the paper terms as « humanitarian theatre ». The theatrical field is dominated, in these areas, by a participative theatre that particularly deals with conflict called « reconciliation theatre » (also known as « theatre for peaceful cohabitation »), a field that is built on humanitarian discourse and that draws from a philanthropic and humanist philosophy which the presentation shall first trace the archaeology.
The purpose of this paper is not about attesting the efficiency of these theatrical practices but analysing the dramatic and aesthetic properties exploited for the implementation of this theatre and, secondly, to question their political dimension. The paper also seeks to acknowledge its capacity to display a liberating speech for actors as well as for the audience, by imposing a debate about sensitive issues; do they really facilitate empowerment of oppressed communities or do they contribute to smooth over or even to avoid conflict and thus, in fine, to maintain a situation characterized by oppression and injustice?