Few months after closing DDD’s call for proposals for Street Theatre projects in the MENA region, the 7 organisations selected traveled to Jordan to attend a 5 days workshop in Jordan. During this period they were able to present their experience, methodologies used and strategies on using culture to promote a better understanding between minority and majority communities in the MENA region. The two mentors selected as part of the Swedish Postcode Lottery project, Linda Mutawi and Ibrahim El Ali, listened to those organisations and selected one to mentor. Linda selected the Arab Puppet Theatre Foundation in Lebanon and Ibrahim the National Center for Culture and Arts in Jordan. Building the mentorship relationship between the Swedish-based mentors and the organisations selected started during DDD’s workshop event, which allowed them to establish how they were to foster their communication in the coming periods and design a strategy that allowed them to keep in touch via skype and email.
After the workshops, Linda and Ibrahim stayed in touch with their mentorees for around 7 months through skype and email. By sharing their expertise on street theater techniques, engaging audience when performing in public areas, incorporating music in the performances, or visual approaches to performances, both of them helped the teams design their plays. Ibrahim and Linda conducted a site visit to their mentored organisations towards the end of May and the beginning of June. Each site visit lasted for around 2-3 weeks. While Ibrahim visited NCCA in Jordan, Linda visited APTF in Lebanon. The mentors site visits included attending team meetings, rehearsals, performances, meeting with other parties involved in the project – like customs and graphic designers-, and finally the general day to day activities by each group.
The site visits allowed both of the mentors to spend time with the groups and establish a better relationship with them. By fostering their relationships, each of Linda and Ibrahim had the opportunity to get involved creatively and collaboratively with the performances that the groups were working on. Observing the groups rehearse and perform in their respective countries gave them a chance to give feedback on the projects in terms of concept, implementation, progress and coordinating for the performance in Sweden. A huge aspect of the mentors site visits was identifying challenges that their projects were facing, and working with the teams to overcome them. This really helped as preparation for their performances at the Halmstad International Street Theatre Festival 2015.
The help provided by the mentors helped the projects’ staff reflect on their progress, develop their skills and apply the knowledge that they gained during the training event. They also managed to add an objective perspective, which was seen as a highly valued source of advice and support by the groups involved. Also, both mentors, Linda and Ibrahim, gained the firsthand experience of the challenges that the projects were facing. This hugely exciting part of the project gave both the grantees and mentors the opportunity to exchange ideas and re-contextualize possible beliefs held by the wider community to communicate a fresher and more accessible message. After their visit, the mentors supported NCCA and APTF to troubleshoot problems that develop during the project as well as use their experience to provide ongoing advice and support.
Between 23 July and 26 July 2015, each of APTF and NCCA got the opportunity to perform at the International Street Theater Festival in Halmstad 2015. Their attendance to the festival aimed to raise awareness of the value of acceptance and social cohesion, as the performances delivered its message of cultural diversity, tolerance and acceptance in different locations in Sweden. The performances mainly targeted immigrant communities, such as refugee camps. The performances at the refugee camps were particularly emotional, as the refugees in the audience identified themselves with the journey towards safety. The acts engaged with the audience when touching upon the hopes, pains and dreams in the life of a refugee, and the crowd responded with nostalgia, appreciation and cheer. The performances also had an impact within the local community. People attending the festival were engaged through an interactive and visual performance that allowed them to know more about the life of a refugee and have a better idea of the situation in the region.
Linda and Ibrahim have kept in touch with their mentorees and are looking forward to a further collaboration between them in the future. Linda for instance, meets with APTF whenever she is in Beirut. Linda and Ibrahim believe in the possibility of finding ways to bring APTF and NCCA’s work to Sweden again as another notion of collaboration.
This Project was funded by the Swedish Postcode Lottery