Theatre promoting dialogue, understanding and uplifting spirits of communities

“Finally, after 8 years, we were able to share our stories with each other”

CBT
A Community-based Theater Performance. Photo: UNDP Maldives 2011.

Kolhufushi Island in Meemu Atoll was among the most affected during the 2004 tsunami, with inhabitants living in temporary housing even today.

The unfortunate twist of fate and dire living conditions mean the islanders are faced with daily frustrations and struggles. Many of them remain aggravated by the lack of progress made in terms of reconstruction of the island and the inadequacies and humiliation of living in tiny, temporary homes. This is coupled with many migrating to the capital Male’ which has left the island community even more devoid of human capital and, particularly tragically, left with the perception of a lost generation. The people also are concerned over how they’ve become less friendly and self-absorbed; with the island community divided into two factions.

Both factions were represented at a workshop held to facilitate the community-based theatre (CBT) technique in Kolhufushi Island, an exercise which brought a little hope to this community.

CBT is designed to promote community-based, grassroots and people-led dialogues on sensitive community issues and conflicts. It brings people from all walks of life together to openly discuss problems, and promote the inclusion of and respect for multiple perspectives around the same issues. The concept builds upon the intellectual, emotional and creative resources of participants, increases self-confidence, self-awareness and self-worth, and validates individual stories and experiences.

Highlights

  • The people of Kolhufushi are concerned over how they’ve become less friendly and self-absorbed; with the island community divided into two factions.
  • CBT is designed to promote community-based, grassroots and people-led dialogues on sensitive community issues and conflicts.
  • Through this activity the community was presented with the opportunity to look at some of the current situations creating conflict on the island.

CBT was introduced in the Maldives with support from the United Nations Development Programme (UNDP), as part of a comprehensive pilot initiative in 2011. In total, two months of intense CBT trainings, workshops and performances were carried out in Male’ and islands, and a total of three outreach activities were organized on three different atolls: Thaa, Meemu and Haa Dhaalu Atoll. The main objective of the activities was to introduce CBT on the islands, test its usefulness and validity as a dialogue promoting tool and to explore some of the problems and conflicts present on the islands.

In Kolhufushi Island, the two-day CBT workshop was followed by a playback theatre performance held at the only school on the island. A total of 22 participants, ranging in ages 19 to 58 participated in the activities.

Through this activity the community was presented with the opportunity to look at some of the current situations creating conflict on the island. Not surprisingly, most of their comments were related to the aftermath of the tsunami. When asked to make theatrical images of how they would wish the future to look like on the island, the participants aspired to a return to a “normal life, as it was before the tsunami - a life where people smiled at each other, and a life where people can live in peace, with proper housing, education and employment.”

During the theatre exercises, some of the participants used their experiences to tell their personal stories of what happened to them and their families during the tsunami. Many of them had experienced death in the family or were forced to help others who had lost someone close. “After 8 years, I finally felt I could share what happened during those days. It hurts to tell these stories, but I also feel better finally doing so,” one of the male participants shared with the group. Another affirmed her belief that the people on the island will eventually overcome their difficulties and create a better future for themselves and their community.