Here is the program for the Berlin training as PDF-download.
Report for the 6th of May
Having the privilege to report on one of the most interesting days of our training I decided to stress upon our field experience throughout the day.
Therefore, I interviewed two of the participants about their point of view of this experience and what impact it had on them.
Key activities on the day: Meeting with refugee and hearing his story and his staying in Germany, legal and life struggle of a migrant.
Having lunch at the bakery run by refugees.
1. How do you rate your overall experience of the day? What did you found interesting and what not?
Elena: My overall experience of the day was mostly good. The refugee’s story was quite intriguing and it really made me think about the mess going on in developing countries. My only gripe is that the meeting went for two long without facilitation and at some point he was repeating the same things again and again.
Stefan: Definitely the most interesting experience of the training. It was my initial desire to meet migrants and get to know their perspective. I was interested in the act of occupation as a way to raise awareness and the response of the German society represented by the authority, the church and the activist groups and individuals. I am afraid to even to think what would have happened if that occurred in my country.
2. What is your impression of the meeting with the refugees in Berlin and getting to know their stories?
Elena: I really liked meeting the refugees in Berlin and hearing from them personally about their struggles.
Stefan: I am really disappointed not to meet a single refugee that was ok with his current situation. I am really happy that the guys we met are safe but I did not see them included or let alone integrated with the society.
3. Did it somehow change your perspective on what difficulties they meet or what their daily life is?
Elena: It definitely changed my perspective and I believe I gained some more insight into the migrant issue.
Stefan: I did not expect that the administrative procedures are so complicated and diverse.
4. What are your impressions of the refugee-run bakery? Do you consider it as a successful tool for integration of migrants and why?
Elena: The refuges-run bakery is quite successful. I have to say, I was really impressed with the owner’s willingness to offer the resources she had to help those people.
Stefan: Nice place and it confirmed my believe that the help is most productive at a grass root level. Giving someone job and skills definitely address his basic necessities but it is just the first of many steps toward integration. The bakery, on the other hand, serves as a venue where for informal communication between people of different background and that should really help in fighting segregation.
5. How your experience from this day affected your work?
Elena: I am definitely more mindful and have a better understanding of the issues related to migration and inclusion.
Stefan: In no way.
After the previous day that was extremely interesting for some of us, we started the day with some refreshing dancing energizers and sharing our stories from the previous action research trips around the city. The action research focused on different individuals, groups and initiatives that are related to migration: theatre initiatives, gardening initiatives, a bakery where homeless migrants can find a place to work etc.
Later on, each of us received a world passport which placed us in the shoes of people all over the world. I was a heterosexual German man, in his 40’s. My colleagues were from Mali, Palestine, Nigeria, UK, etc. – people of colour, transsexuals, migrants, dreamers, artists…one or all of these identities at the same time. The exercise was very intriguing for many of us because either we did not like the character that we were designated, or we did not know much about it. We had to imagine the life of this character, to give it a name, to describe his/her relationship with friends and family, to design a lifeline, to justify its decisions, to pretend we knew it and that this character could have been us.
We walked around with these papers trying to switch with others, in search of a character that we might have an idea about. In the end, everyone was stuck with their own character which didn’t only force our imagination but also made us research a bit. Groups of people in the garden were reading about Bosnia, Mali, Nigeria, Palestine and so on…about countries and people they didn’t know before. The rest was just an exercise of the imagination, but trying not to use stereotypes, not to make people too small or too privileged. In the end, the lifelines of our characters mixed and became some examples of strength, amusement, drama and so on.
As the weather was nice outside we moved to the garden where each of us presented their characters. We laughed a lot but also we learned about these very different people from all over the world. It was a pity that we were under constant time pressure and did not get the chance to develop our characters more, to make them more lively, to reply to questions and to receive comments and critiques.
The second exercise consisted in a game of privileges and de-privileges. At the beginning we were all aligned but after replying to a set of questions (yes – 1 step forward, no – one step behind), we realized that a huge gap was created between some of us. As some people were more or less in the same position, others got way ahead or way behind. If given enough time, this exercise could be extremely powerful. I took part in it years before, with a very different group of participants from all over the world. We were given some hints that it might be emotionally strong and distressing, so that not everyone might want to take part in it. Back then, the process took a few hours and took out some very powerful emotions, dramas and a lot of self-reflection as the characters were the people themselves and the questions were about their life and their position in this world. The debriefing took hours and ended with some very deep discussions and very visible manifestation of emotions. In Berlin it was rather short and many people did not get its meaning because there was very little discussion about it, but still, I consider it to be a very useful and powerful tool of analyzing and questioning our privileges. I was very happy to be reminded about it and I will definitely use it in the near future.
The 4th day of the training ended with some karaoke where in the dining room you could hear some of the most spectacular voices singing Romanian, Spanish, Italian and English songs. The world mixed….
… the poetics of the oppressed focuses on the action itself: the spectator delegates no power to the character (or actor) either to act or to think in his place; on the contrary, he himself assumes the protagonic role, changes the dramatic action, tries out solutions, discusses plans for change – in short, trains himself for real action.
Augusto Boal «Theatre of the oppressed»
Wednesday 04/05 was a day to try out theatre methods in social work.
The main activity method was forum-theater created by Brazilian director and Workers’ Party (PT) activist Augusto Boal in the early 1970s. We used the characters developed a day before to participate as oppressed in a scene of casting call process.
Forum-theater is one of the techniques of the Theater of Oppressed (among others are Image theater, Invisible theater, Legislative theater). New communication strategies here become the tools to resist oppression, as ordinary language is often a power machine while the traditional theatre language is always priveleged. It’s also called rehearsal or participatory theatre because it provides the idea of huge responsibility of spect-actors (spectators that start acting), it suggests cooperation, solidarity and horizontal interactions instead of indifference and contemplator position. This theatre practice is just a rehearsal but you have a great chance to play it on the scene of your real life in a daily and unfortunately very common situations. «Forum» which means here a discussion is happening during the play, acting as thinking, experiencing, expressing yourself.
Does it imply that it is played by victims/oppressed/miserable people? Of course not. Because each of us is somehow dispriveleged in his life, every day we experience our limits being treated in inequality and any of our personal stories may be played.
Below you’ll find the reflections on the method by one of the workshop participants – Valeria (Italy).
Say please a few words about your previous Forum Theatre experience (before our training).
I had experienced it in another training before. We had been divided into small groups and we were supposed to find a daily situation we faced every day when we were victims of oppression or we felt oppressed. After that we chose one and we had to perform this situation with one oppressed person and one oppressor and other characters (about 5-6) were just minor characters. In my group we decided to perform a quest for the housing: one migrant was trying to rent a house in Europe. Moreover we compared him with a European person (say, with a EU resident) who was also trying to rent the house. So we organized this rental agency and we received these two people. So we found that people behaved in various manners. In the end there were the employee and the head of the agency. We decided that the employee wanted to help these people but actually the head of this agency put some fixed rules to eliminate the possibility. We could not rent any houses for migrants. It made no matter if they had work or whatever. That actually happens in Italy. For example, many agencies provide very limited contract which is not very useful. It’s common practice for migrants to face many difficulties to find the house. So after that the situation was performed. We should have performed it for a second time but the people from the audience could actually stop the scene, freeze the scene and change one of the minor characters. They couldn’t change either the oppressed and the oppressor. For example in this case the empoyees. The new participants tried to find the right arguments to convince them to change these rules.
The group was mixed, some people were social workers. Everyone worked in the field of antidiscrimination, antiracism, but not necessarily linked to migration, but to minorities in general. Some people were social workers, some working with religious dialog, people working in sexism field, racism, something like that.
What’s the objective/intention of this practice from your point of view? And what was the theoretical background if you are familiar with it?
You can focus on your situation of oppression that you face every day in your life. And then by performing it you can make it a bit more exagerrated and more simple than in real life and then by intervention of the audience you can think of some strategies how you can act in your daily life. Because actually we are indeed these minor characters, we are not the oppressor, we cannot change the rule of our country. And may be sometimes we are not the oppressed, we are these characters in the middle. In a way through this methodology we can find out a way to act even if we are not so important, even if are not so much in power.
How did you find the implemention of the method in the course of our training?
I found it a little bit confusing in a way but may be we just played different version. For example, there were many oppressed, let’s say, not just one. We could have changed everyone but the oppressor. So the only character you couldn’t change was the opressor. Instead in the version that I know you cannot change either the oppressor and the oppressed. This made the scene fuzzier. Because the people were trying to change many characters at once and they tried to intervene all at the same time which made the scene a little bit puzzling. I also think that it’s better try to start with the situation you normally face because this could be more realistic and more effective in order to reach the aim – to be aware of the right strategy to use in order to avoid oppression in your everyday life.
Another thing, may be the oppression was not so clear at first. It was difficult for audience to be actually spect-actors because they couldn’t really find out the way to intervene because in the scene there were just the opressed and the oppressors, there were no other, like middle characters.
Do you find the method useful? How would you define a target group?
I found this method very useful, actually also to reflect on myself, the role I play in the society. But I think that it doesn’t work with migrants. But with people who work with migrants, social workers, this kind of people who are actually not the oppressed, not the oppressors, but these people in the middle. Just to give them an input to change something, to tell them that actually they have a small power to do something, to intervene, when they witness the situation of oppression.
I am thinking of migrants I am working with, and I think that they will be not cooperative at all. Maybe some migrants of second generation who are already integrated into the society so they can openly communicate, but they still fell the oppression. They are minorities presented in the society but they are still in the society. But migrants I am working with actually are very excluded. They won’t like to open up, to tell about their experience, or even worse to act. Howeber probably there are others newcomers who could be available to do such kind of exercise.
Please, outline your view on the role of art methods (in general) in the work with migrants in comparison with direct legal and social support.
If we are talking about forum-theatre this is different from other kinds of support because legal and social support are directly addressed to migrants, to minorities in general. But this method is addressed mainly as I mentioned before to characters who are in the middle. But in general art methods I think may be very useful to work with migrants because sometimes you can deliminate language barrier by for example using body language, movements or gestures. As in theater you do not necessarily need to speak, but to use your body, your appearance. And also I think it’s important because they can give input for self-expression. Oherwise it would be very difficult for migrants who really don’t trust people, they don’t want to talk about themselves. So maybe with their body, with their actions, drawings, in general with arts, music they can express themselves without feeling uncomfortable.
Are you going to implement the method in your work?
We were thinking in my organization of a training to exchange best practices between people who work in the migration field. So if me make this training and I am the trainer I will use this method.
Some more authentic inspiration: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=I71sLJ-j5LE
“The “World Café” is a structured conversational process intended to facilitate open and intimate discussion, and link ideas within a larger group to access the “collective intelligence” or collective wisdom in the room. […] the focus is on exploring and innovating on themes rather than on problem-solving.The format is principally designed as a forum for creative or open thinking and is not suited to scenarios where there is a predetermined answer or solution.” (Wikipedia)
More detailed information about the facilitation method and its principles, see here.
Here is some video material Lawrence gave us as an addition to the critical whiteness workshop.
- Jane Elliott on the Oprah Winfrey Show (1992) about the „Blue Eyed Brown Eyes Exercise“, colorblindness and critical whiteness
Part 1, 09:00 min. | Part 2, 8:40 min.
- Tim Wise on White Privilege/White Club (09:30 min.) >>> on youtube
- BBC Documentary on Namibian Genocide (1h) >>> on vimeo
- Molefi Kete Asante: „Decolonising Universities“ >>> on youtube
- Dr. Frances Cress Welsing: “Survining Racism in the 21th Century”
Part 1, 15:00 min. | Part 2, 15:00 min.
Here is the Powerpoint of our first day of the training course.
>>> Download the PDF file.