Fiona Buffini mentored partner organization YWCA as part of MRG’s Street Theatre Project in Rwanda. The programme uses performance to challenge commonly held racist attitudes and negative stereotypes about minorities and indigenous peoples. These are some of the testimonies from the people who took part in the performances.
‘As historically marginalized communities, sometimes we feel loneliness and as if we are isolated somehow from the rest of the population, we feel there is no future, other community members do not even accept to interact with us.’
The Street Theatre project aimed to tackle these problems head on. In the aftermath of the performances, the indisputable impact of the project can be felt by both the actors from the majority communities and the Batwa communities. For the actors from the majority communities, it gave a deeper understanding of some of the issues faced by the Batwa, and for the Batwa actors themselves, the impact of the project is clear.
‘This project, when it came, we were quite reluctant, but we said, ‘OK, let’s just go there.’
This spontaneous decision has, in the end, left the actors feeling ‘lucky somehow, we see that people are reaching out to us. And myself, personally, I feel that I am valued somehow, and I feel also that I am ready to contribute to the social wellbeing of other people.’
With a diverse group of actors ranging from famous Rwandan actors to members of the Batwa community, working together was a real novelty.
‘We were also suspicious about the others [actors] in the beginning, but in time saw them – they were very open, really friendly.’
Following the project the actors “really feel free to interact with people” and feel the project has given them “a step forward” as well as useful skills for the future.
‘I have even gained enough self-confidence to feel I can be a good actor.’
The message from the performances is hoped ‘to bring about change in the way people think about our people. Our worries, our preoccupations have been heard and they are somehow given a room for expression.’ The projects are ‘channelling our voice,’ and ‘speaking on our behalf in such a way that even the authorities will come to handle some of the issues that we have. [We feel] that our problems have been pointed out this time.’