Participants of "Theatre of the Oppressed". Photo credit: International IDEA
International IDEA in Haiti joins hands with local associations to stage theatre performances all over the country with an objective to promote the values of democracy among youth in Haiti.
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As part of its activities to promote democratic values among the Haitian youth, International IDEA in Haiti organized the staging of a series of theatrical performances based on a methodology called "Theatre of the Oppressed", developed by Brazilian theatre visionary and Nobel Peace Prize nominee Augusto Boal. The methodology which has been broadly tested in Brazil and implemented in various parts of the world, is a form of popular community-based education that uses theatre as a tool for social change. The initiative in Haiti was coordinated with the local association Petit Lectorat and Nouveau Répertoire, whose members received a training to master the technique from a theatre group in Port–au-Prince. Between June and August 2017, the group performed the play all over the country, including in major cities like Gonaives and Cayes, the capitals of the Artibonite and South departments, respectively.
The play used one of the most popular methods used in this kind of theatre, called the problem-solving technique, which is based on interaction between performers and audience. In this technique, both the audience and the performers are called to build the story upon an open narrative canvas, which usually deals with social and political themes. Whenever the characters in the story are faced with unresolved scenes, volunteers from the audience enact, discuss and collectively choose how to change the story, thereby disentangling everyday life dilemmas and analysing social behaviours. This kind of approach, which can be used to explore the situations of the past and the present, is very popular among young people. By promoting empathy for all the characters, each one with its beliefs and potential courses of action, Theatre of the Oppressed sparks reflection on the futility of violence and conflict.
International IDEA in Haiti places a special emphasis on the arts as a vehicle for dialogue to encourage participation of young people in democratic life. This theatre activity is a continuation of an art competition "Art and Democracy", organized last year at the Centre d’Art in Port-au-Prince, which brought together national media, the artist community and the citizens to investigate the concept of democracy and its various alternative forms of expression.