In today’s globalized world, migration is the order of the day. Immigrants and migrants create a continuous stream of people who change countries to seek a better future elsewhere, to escape situations of danger and uncertainty, or simply to pursue their dreams.
Despite the normality and everyday nature of this phenomenon, however, problems of inclusion and integration of migrants in destination countries still persist. Stereotypes reinforced by political discourses, in fact, often end up giving rise to mechanisms of social exclusion.
In order to combat them, it is necessary to spread practices of inclusion that contemplate all aspects of life.
The question we ask in this article is: can the performing arts, and theater in particular, be a tool to promote actions that nurture mutuality among citizens, inhabitants, immigrants and newcomers, a space to fight against non-inclusive pronouncements that marginalize migrants?
To answer this, one only has to look at the origins of theater: on the one hand, inclusion has always been a dramaturgical theme; on the other hand, interculturality underlies the theatrical dynamic itself. The latter, in fact, is created precisely through the relationship between an actor and a spectator who are bearers of more or less different cultural heritages.
The role of art, especially performing art, is therefore in this area to:
comment on catastrophes or dramatic events and help migrants, whether through creative self-expression, the elimination of tensions and frustrations through storytelling, or the therapeutic processing of trauma;
participate directly in the process of change by raising awareness, becoming a forum for political discussion, conveying marginalized experiences, and amplifying the voices of the unheard.
Theater and performing arts thus try to influence the way society is structured and spread feelings of acceptance and mechanisms for social inclusion.
So many good practices have already spread in this area in the European Union.
The project, co-funded by the European Union, is a partnership between acta Community Theatre ltd (GB), Stichting Rotterdams Wijktheater (Netherlands), Centro Per Lo Sviluppo Creativo “Danilo Dolci” (Italy).
The purpose is to give refugees the opportunity to use their creativity, talents, ideas and opinions, and imagination to put on a play.
This gives refugees a chance to communicate with their host communities. At the same time, it provides them with new skills and competencies, from language to local knowledge.
The project, also co-funded by the European Union, is the result of the union of four partners: the Center for Contemporary Scene (Italy), La Briqueterie – Centre de développement chorégraphique du Val de Marne (France), HIPP The Croatian Institute for Dance and Movement (Croatia) and D.ID Dance Identity (Austria).
Migrants and refugees participate in classes in different performing arts (dance, events and performances), experiencing being part of a collective and living a communal experience with citizens in theaters and artistic settings.
In parallel with these activities, their stories are collected with audiovisual media and become part of an exhibition that aims to promote respect and understanding of diversity, giving EU citizens the opportunity to discover, learn and understand refugee/migrant values and cultures and to rediscover and enrich their own.
The IMPACT project (Inclusion Matters: using Performing Arts towards Cohesion and Tolerance, co-funded by the European Union) brings together partners from the European Union and the Western Balkans to promote social inclusion by developing artistic strategies, techniques and methodologies aimed at refugees and citizens.
To accomplish these goals, an innovative pedagogy was developed that uses art forms as a means of bringing together young refugees (16-35 years old) and local communities to create a bridge of understanding between them.
In this way, performing arts enable refugees and local citizens to learn about each other’s experiences, cultures and values.
These examples are just a few of the many initiatives that provide a positive answer to the question we posed at the beginning of the article: theater and the performing arts can actually help us support migrant inclusion and integration processes, in the hope that these projects will bring about real changes in public opinion and policy.
Author: Sara Coppolecchia
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