Zulema Cadenas, MRG’s Street Theatre Project Coordinator, is in Rwanda supporting our partner to launch a project that uses drama at a grass roots level to tackle prejudice and discrimination.
On Sunday mornings Gitarama main road looks like a colorful, thick river. People appearing from many paths feed the current that flows to the market square. Women, men, children, elderly people, their heads blossoming with different colours and objects: bananas, yucca, mandarins, carrots, potatoes…
I’m in Gitarama, Rwanda, to support the beginning of MRG’s Street Theatre Project run in Rwanda by YWCA. The aim of this project is to raise awareness of the situation of the Twa minority and to challenge discriminatory attitudes and prejudices held by the majority society against them.
A group of actors from the majority and minority communities will together create a script that will be acted out in the streets. The performances will be followed by a discussion with the ‘spectators’, who will also be invited to perform and try to change the end of the story. As part of the preparations the majority actors will also get to know and understand the lives of the minority actors by joining them in a community visit. They will spend a number of days living with them and sharing tasks.
We take one of those many paths I already mentioned to reach a Twa community we’re working with. After some miles the first family welcomes us.
They show us the clay they use to make pottery but explain that making money out of it is becoming increasingly difficult because people are no longer use traditional clay pots to cook with. They say that if they had some money they might also create a cooperative to try to make a better living.
Later we meet Deborah, one of the actors who will take part in the performances. She and her family explain the difficulties they face getting notebooks for their children, and how they try to write in small letters so they can stay at school as long as possible without being sent home due to the lack of materials.
Another man shows us his house, which collapsed after the last heavy rains and he’s now sleeping without a roof over his head. Sylvere, the Street Theatre Project Officer, thinks that maybe as part of the community visit the group of actors can help him to rebuild his house.
This community is definitely facing serious poverty but is also doing a lot to try to overcome it and is not scared of speaking out. They stress that our project will help them to be more recognized and less marginalized, but that they also need direct help to address their very basic living conditions. They are happy that as part of the community visit something practical will be done and the life of one of them will be improved.
‘Just a small contribution’, says Sylvere in Kinyarwanda. And we head off back to the ‘blossomed’ main road.