Pro Public has firmly renewed its cooperation agreement with CSSP – Berlin Center for Integrative Mediation, Berlin, Germany by extending the project ‘EnActing Dialogue: Supporting Reconciliation through Playback Theatre’ for the duration of one more year (January to December 2017)i.e. 3rd year. The project follows a bottom-up reconciliation strategy to complement that national transitional justice process in Nepal. Building upon the project results of 2015 and 2016, it strengthens local capacities for theatre-facilitated dialogue in the communities where high numbers of ex-combatants have settled after the comprehensive peace accord (CPA) in 2006. As recommended by the external evaluation of 2016, the project of 2017 will stay in the same communities of 6 districts i.e. Gulariya, Bardiya; Binauna, Banke; Bijauri, Dang; Sainamaina, Rupandehi; Bardibas, Mahottari and Triyuga, Udayapur and continue its focus on capacities enhancement and multiplication in communities.
The project follows a mixed approach of reaching more people and key people for different goals. It also tries to link achievements from 2015 and 2016, so that they can foster the future sustainability of the work. In the first place, the programme focuses on reaching a broad audience (more people) to aim for individual healing and community level reconciliation. On the other hand, it also reaches out to key people on a policy level (key actors 3 & 4) with the goal to influence the socio-political level and the shape of structures that favour reconciliation, healing and sustainable peace. The dialogue facilitators (key actors 2) are partly considered as key people in the communities. They don’t necessarily have positions of influence, but as they themselves are especially challenged from the armed conflict time, their reconciliation attempts do have a role model character for others in their communities.
In 2015 and 2016, the dialogue facilitators already demonstrated their capabilities to create extraordinary theatre spaces for sharing and overcoming pain from silenced experiences of theatre performances. The close support of theatre artists (key actors 1) coming from outside the communities as well as the meetings with key stakeholders from the communities (key actors 3) was crucial benefits to the programme. Monitoring results of 2016 have shown that 90% of the performances included stories from the armed conflict (combating/fighting, torture, killings and disappearance) and literally every performance included stories that were connected to the wider root causes of the conflict (such as poverty, domestic violence, gender and caste discrimination etc.). Audience members expressed their relief of being able to share as well as of seeing their own or similar experiences of others being transformed into movement, music or poetry.
Considering to work towards the sustainability of the initiated process, it is crucial to enhance and widen the achieved skills of the key actors 1 & 2. Working with Playback Theatre over time is a challenging process of individual growth and self-reflection. Hence, only if the key actors 1 & 2 are able to respond to the audiences’ needs, the dialogue work can develop its full potential. The major contribution of working with theatre art is that the experiences of the audiences go beyond their cognitive understanding. They recreate emotional connections and discover human commonalities across the dividing lines of the communities.
Advanced level training and regular backstopping during the multiplication strengthen the quality of the dialogue events. Experiences from 2016 have shown that working with a high number of traumatic stories, the dialogue facilitators urgently need spaces for continuous backstopping and for exchange to keep their own balance. Furthermore, it is important to stay in contact with key actors 3 in order to guarantee local ownership for the smooth implementation of the project and also to help the impact spread beyond the immediate community level.
In order to reach out to the national level, a selection of extraordinary stories shared during the theatre-facilitated dialogue events is being documented (photos and creative story writing). Out of this collection, a publication and a photo exhibition will be presented and launched to an audience of policy makers and peace workers in Kathmandu (key actors 4). The goal is to maintain the dialogue on reconciliation between grassroots experiences and the national level. This will set a clear sign against a political tendency of silencing people’s experiences and legitimating impunity. In addition, it will promote the people’s needs for truth, acknowledgement and healing as well as the integration of creative approaches into the process of reconciliation and peacebuilding.
To comprehend with the above-mentioned plan/activities, following activities are carried out so far:
A) Organisation of Advisory Committee Meetings:
The project coordinator (PC) and senior project officer (SPO), on behalf of the project team, conducted field visits from February 06 to 17, 2017 to organize (restructure) the advisory committee meetings in all six project districts along with organizing district project advisory committee (DPAC) meetings to fulfill the government obligations as per need. The visit was aimed to familiarise the members about the project and activities by holding a meeting with the concerned stakeholders including the government officials. Organisation of meeting was a good opportunity to understand the concerns, commitments and possible support of the members and motivate them for social contribution by engaging in the project activities.Practically, it is very crucial to coordinate and do regular follow up with the members of committees for an effective and output oriented program while performing in their locations. In this context, the field visit was much fruitful to re-structure and orient the previous and new members about the project activities in the respective districts.
B) Capacity Building for Theatre Artists (Advanced Level)
The Training of Trainers (ToT) Laboratory on Playback Theatre for Theatre Artists was conducted to further capacitate the theatre artists on playback skills. The training was facilitated by Dr Jonathan Fox – Co-founder of Playback Theatre from the United States of America and international playback theatre expert (IPE). This was a second time in Nepal where Dr Fox trained the theatre artists on Playback Theatre. The training was attended by 13 theatre artists including one from India and one self-paying artist from Austria. This advanced level of training was conducted in a resort located at Balthali – 4, Kavre where the natural bounty and authentic rural setting has attracted the participants with the pleasure-some environment. Five-day training organised from March 10 to 14, 2017. For which, the participants reached one day before (9th March) in training venue and left for Kathmandu on the morning 15th March after completing all the training. There were total 19 participants in the training including 12 theatre artists, international theatre trainer, and project staff and babysitter.
The ToT laboratory focused on advanced skill development (especially on the trainer’s role). The goal was to strengthen the core attitudes of Playback Theatre dialogue works within the community of Nepali theatre artists. This served as a contribution to the long-term sustainability of the approach of theatre-facilitated dialogue.
The Integrative Mediator (IM) from CSSP supported the IPE in developing a training concept that matched the target group. The Project Coordinator (PC) and Senior Project Officer (SPO) supported the training through management and coordination works. Selected theatre artists from the group then supported the inter-district exchange meetings and backstopping the dialogue facilitators as trainers later. The major objective of the ToT laboratory was to further advance/enhance the capacity of theatre artists on playback theatre skills and prepare them for the skill enhancement training for the dialogue facilitators to be trained in the project districts.
C) Skill Enhancement for Artists/DFs (Inter-district Exchange/Advanced Level Trainings):
The skills of six district level Playback Theatre ensembles composed of 48 DFs during the training were strengthened – seven new comers and 41 old artists/dialogue facilitators and two DFs (1 from Banke and 1 from Rupandehi) will be also in consideration, who did not take part in the training due to their personal problems and they will take part during the multiplication at their best. The team of DFs was divided into three training groups i.e. the DFs of two project districts in each team. Accordingly, based on the possible travel distance from district to district, availability of all DFs during the training, access to travel and accommodation facility for the training within the project plan and budget limitation, the project team divided all six team into three groups i.e. 1) Banke and Dang; 2) Udayapur and Mahotari and 3) Rupandehi and Bardiya.
The goal of the training programs was to further enhance capacities and additional skills of the DFs offering space for mutual learning (peer-group intervention) in a professional way. At the same time, the trainers get in-depth coaching for their didactic capacities development under the direct guidance and supervision of IPE. PC and SPO supported the training through management, coordination works and logistical support for the performances.
Three inter-district exchanges were organised as part of the skill enhancement together with joint 5 days of advanced training and performances. The first inter-district exchange was organised with close guidance and coaching of Dr Jonathan Fox in Tulsipur, Dang by participating the DFs of Dang and Banke during March 17 to 22, 2017. The second and third process was implemented by selected theatre artists and guided by the Integrative Mediator in Lalgadh, Dhanusha during April 2 to 6, 2017 and Gulariya, Bardiya, during April 9 to 13, 2017, respectively.
Following the above-mentioned activities, the team DFs have started to multiply the community level performances as per their convenience time despite getting delay due to the local election.