At the end of this experience we’d like to make some general reflection and point out some crucial element in the structure of the project for future developments and applications.
It seems to us that we four partners have used different strategies facing racism that can be important to empathise:
“DISCOVER YOUR RACISM”: Pa’tothom strategy was based on the function that the “subtle racism” is the most important “daily life racism”, so the idea has been to create a performance that shows it to audience not of activists but more heterogeneous, trying to affect ordinary people as much as possible because they could become aware about their own subtle racist behaviour.
“BREAKING DOWN STEREOTYPES – empowering the oppressed”: Entr’act strategy was based on a group of youngsters in situation of exclusion (socially, in family, scholar, and/or professional or at risk). The attempt was to empower them and transform this labelled group in a resource, like “prevention actors”. For example they came to schools to show their experience of marginalisation to a broader audience, breaking down the stereotype that they were good for nothing. Parallely the group developed personal and social skills and got the chance to transform its violent behaviour in constructive communication.
“EMPOWERING ACTIVISTS”: Miteinander chose to work with a group of activists, creating a Forum-Theatre play about racism and trying to sensitize a large audience about the threat of Neo-nazi groups. Doing that the idea is that combating racism and Neo-nazim means to create a safer public space where citizens can become more active and break down the “culture of silence and indifference” by entering in dialogue about transformation.
“TRANSFORMING UNSAFETIES”: Giolli focused on the several unsafeties people live, trying to take them seriously and investigating the roots. The idea was to create awareness and find solutions for these unsafeties to prevent the search of a scapegoat in foreigners.
Of course other strategies could be applied or invented, for instance to work with a mixed group of people with mutual stereotypes, in order to create more understanding, but the set experimented shows how different can be the approach to fight racism through theatre. It doesn’t mean in our experience that one is always better then others, but mainly that when we plan a project we should take in account carefully this decision, analysing the local context, the resources, the main realistic objective we can have.
THEATRE OF THE OPPRESSED AND RACISM CONNECTION
In some synthetic points we try now to describe why we chose to use Theatre of the Oppressed as a main tool to face racism.
Racism for us is not simply the “fear of the Other” but also is related to power and social structures of domination. T.O. is essentially a research about power structure(s) and how they dominate concretely relationship in society. So using T.O. means just to enter in the core of racism with powerful tools.
In other words T.O. puts in question social structure that seem to be normal (educational system, justice system, etc.). Finally, through Legislative-Theatre people can intervene against power structures at law level, by proposing new more favourable laws.
T.O. is a good way to activate civil responsibility, because is not a “classic theatre with a message to be sent”, but on the contrary, you return the problem to the audience, in order to have a dialogue about it. “Society” doesn’t stay passive against/about the problem, but stands and takes a position. The main question curried on by the Joker is <what can you do personally to transform a specific situation?>.
Therefore T.O. opens a dialogue, maybe a confrontation, and this helps to proceed in the investigation about racist realities.
T.O. works also as a mirror where people can recognise their behaviour or increasing the awareness about themselves; but a mirror where you don’t feel attacked. T.O. creates a safe space thanks to the dialogue facilitated by the Joker's role and the metaphorical character/form of theatre.
T.O. (especially Forum-Theatre) is democratic and creates a space where every person, not only activists, can debate freely and where it is possible to interact with also “racist opinions”. In this way you can try to develop these opinions, to problematize them, to generate an exchange within the audience.
Forum-Theatre asks questions that you can't do directly to a person or sometimes are difficult to debate in public.
With people concerned by racism T.O can give strength to them and to activists, not only inform people about racism.
The process of T.O. with a marginalised group can help to increase skills, to transform violent behaviour in other types of communication, to increase the self-esteem, etc.
T.O. has to do with body expression and action, not mainly with talking, so people not used to talk a lot can however take advantage of this process, both in workshop and in performance and become active.
Groups that experience racism, by using T.O., can gain visibility and communicate their problems through theatre, sensitizing a larger audience.
WHAT T.O. NEEDS TO BE MORE EFFECTIVE?
Finally some other points to be taken in account in planning:
Alliances with other organisations that are doing anti-racist campaign is useful to enlarge our impact, to create a strong dynamics and mutual exchange, to enrich opportunity to get people, to strength communication about the project and so on.
We discussed and reflected a lot on how to communicate contents like racism when we invite people or make dissemination/publicity: to declare explicitly anti-racist objectives or to talk about unsafeties, or about discrimination. We think there is not a rule but case by case you should choose the way more effective for your objectives and appropriate to the social context.
Collaborating with other artistic or social methods can strength the project. We think theatre and T.O. especially is a powerful tool under many aspects listed above, but sometimes people are scared with theatre or other activities touch more part of the population, so it’s important to reflect about it. In Italy we used a famous music group to attract people to debate about unsafeties and law. In Germany follow up project was based on video, exhibition or other activities.
Networking is important: to create links with other organizations and Institutions allow the project to enter in different social segments that are important to give visibility but also to expand the project avoiding the risk to be encapsulated as a special event far from daily life. We created (or tried to) pilot group with different organisms in Italy, Germany, Spain, France to sustain the project in different ways (publicity, space, reflection...).
Mass-media: to be present on radio, TV and newspaper is important but is difficult, more with this subject. Despite of this we are happy because some mass-media gave us space for Fratt, mainly but not only local media. So in a project is important to think about a strategy and resources for this. The International Meeting in Barcelona helped the visibility of Fratt.
Continuity: Fratt generated some interesting effects. In Spain other organisations are asking to re-play the Forum “Mustafà”, also after the end of Fratt. In Italy we created connections with small groups of migrants, local associations and individuals that are interested to continue. In one case the idea of Legislative-Theatre was accepted but the possible time is after the end of the project, so Giolli will continue with other resources. Moreover a stable mixed group of volunteers was created and they want to continue to work around migration and racism. In Germany we conducted several follow up activities, continuing the work with young people that attended the Forum-Theatre performances and produced a DVD that will be shown in different places. In France certain partners continue to work with the same youngsters with theatre of other tools and the film made still is presented to different groups and Entr'act is asked to make the same activity with other groups of youngsters.
EUROPEAN ADDED VALUE
How important was for our work to collaborate with other countries?
We underline four aspects:
1) we have got impulses from other’s work both as strategies facing racism and methodologically. We exchange idea and learnt from each other. We now realize how rich can be an anti-racist work through theatre, thanks to the common reflections and practices.
2) We have got a larger overview about the racism struggle thanks to other partners, because we were questioned by the partners and our practice was deepen a lot.
3) We learnt a lot from the process itself about racism: how to face it, the problems we found, etc.; we started with a knowledge and then we increase our awareness of the issue.
4) Partner oblige to make an international overview of the same issue, so make you to enlarge your vision and to understand differences and similarities in countries.
We hope other organisations would take these reflections and our experiences as an impulse to create their own project on strong methodological and theoretical basis in order to face racism in an effective way. Europe needs to have lot of anti-racist projects to combat this increasing phenomenon.