Citizen’s Theatre Inter-School Festival – Interview with Nichola Lado Part II

CM: A lot of foreigners like me go on about reconciliation and this idea that South Sudan needs a ‘national dialogue’. I wonder what ‘national dialogue’ means to you, what it would look like and how theatre might play a role in that?

NL: This reconciliation we hear about here is reconciliation between the parties, the politicians and the policy makers, but it is not really a national dialogue. If you talk about national dialogue it is not just you there in high positions who need to have dialogue, about who needs to share this seat…whether we need to give that seat to that political party.. No. It is not about seats.

When we talk about dialogue we need to find the real roots of our problems. Like up to now the issue of South Sudanese identity hasn’t come up. What does it mean to be South Sudanese? And these things issues cannot be addressed up there. We need to start from the roots.

NL: The thing about national reconciliation is that during the six years implementation of the CPA from 2005 nobody talked about reconciliation. Reconciliation just came up as an issue for us – booom – after South Sudan gained independence and people started thinking we need to have this reconciliation.

Unfortunately there was some misunderstanding in the idea of reconciliation and in the run up to the 2013 December crisis, the reconciliation commission was probably part of the problem because it was headed at that time by the V-P, before he was released by the government.

This reconciliation we hear about here is reconciliation between the parties, the politicians and the policy makers, but it is not really a national dialogue. If you talk about national dialogue it is not just you there in high positions who need to have dialogue, about who needs to share this seat…whether we need to give that seat to that political party.. No. It is not about seats.

When we talk about dialogue we need to find the real roots of our problems. Like up to now the issue of South Sudanese identity hasn’t come up. What does it mean to be South Sudanese? And these things issues cannot be addressed up there. We need to start from the roots.

And this is where Citizen’s Theatre jumps in because we are using the forum theatre model as made by Augusto Boal in Brazil. Citizen’s Theatre can play a big role because, to give the example of the festival, after each performance there is a question offered by the joker character and feedback from the audience. When the audience comes it means they are discussing something.

Using Citizen’s Theatre at the grassroots in the community gives a voice to the people who have no voice. Out there, there are some people who don’t even know how does parliament look and how does the state house look? They don’t know these things, but they have some things inside themselves because they are South Sudanese.

They need to be heard and they need to put some input in the country. So when the performance is there in their places, they can do this and I believe there will be policy makers there – local or national – who will hear their voice.

At the same time, it is also a good thing now there is some media. There is media everywhere. Media takes from the performance, takes the voices and – booom – brings them to the news so wider society and policy makers can hear. So the voice of the idle man or woman has now been heard up here.

And if that voice has been heard there will be a discussion. Maybe that voice has a good point and the discussion will come to what he or she has said. Now the people can argue about what he or she said, so we have opened a dialogue.

So in Citizen’s Theatre, we are using some media technologies to reach as many people as possible. We collect emails and mobile numbers at every activity so we can send them emails and SMS letting them know our activities. For example, for the festival and carnival, I just sent SMS to all the lists that we have in our data, so that is why you have seen more than 2000 people and really Nyakuruon was really hot.

We have also made the first long documentary from South Sudan, about how culture can bring us together. And we are taking this around on mobile cinema and it will be shown on SSTV alongside a regular slot we are organizing. At the same time, in this project we have radio magazine show. And radio is really powerful because everyone in South Sudan listens to radio. This has interviews about culture and arts, and we have drama and vox pops and in each episode we have telephone numbers, which people can text or call back. We also do social media and work with the big and small newspapers (Al Muogif, Juba Monitor, Al Watan, Sout al Shaab, Telegraph), which all cover our project.

The other part of it is that the theatre has the power to go to the policy makers. The performances can go there and create the environment for those guys to discuss these issues. Different ideas can come to issues using even simple techniques.

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