Sometimes the Answer is Right in Front of You…

In reading Unwin’s chapter this week on information and communication, I was surprised by his discussion of theatre and dance. IDEV classes here at Tulane have stressed to me the importance of including local stakeholders and the importance of demand driven development. However, all development projects we have studied seemed so structured and for lack of a better word, rigid. Theatre and dance come from a completely different perspective. As part of the arts, they seem more personal, expressive, and overlooked as a serious form of communication. However, Unwin brings up a good, and even obvious point, that this type of communication can be very prevalent and important in other non-Western cultures. It can often be a main way in which information is communicated throughout generations. I decided to delve a little deeper and explore a project that was theater and dance based. What I found was surprising.

Wise-Up is an education program based in Botswana. It is is a national campaign being undertaken by the National AIDS Coordinating Agency in Botswana in partnership with UNICEF with a purpose to give young people accurate information about HIV/AIDS, and it does this through theatre.  Through singing and dance, participants express different situations and stories relating to the virus while also giving important, accurate information about how to protect yourself against it. It’s goal is to get young people to ‘wise up’ about the nature of the disease and to arm them with accurate and correct knowledge. To learn more, check out the video below.

In learning about this project, it’s pretty clear that it was designed with a culture in mind such as the one existing in Botswana.  Theatre (dance) and singing are already integral parts of their society, and have been for some time.  They are using this skillfully to combat the threat of HIV/AIDS within their communities. To me, it seems like a perfect match. Would a project like this (TfD) work in the US? What about another developing country struggling with similar issues? I think it would certainly depend on the nature of their already existing culture, which is another point that Unwin stresses in the chapter for this week. I wonder what other development projects are using Theater for Development (TfD) and what sort of communities they are in. TfD can definitely provide a lot of benefits, as it brings a familiar setting of dancing and singing to an important and uncomfortable topic. I hope to see it used in many more projects to come.

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3 responses to “Sometimes the Answer is Right in Front of You…

  • areed2014

    I am glad that you have brought up the concept of arts into the ICT4D development arena. As you noted, cultural productions of theater, dance, singing, and even visual arts are extremely important to the identity of a society (Western or non-Western). Therefore, it only makes sense that they can play a vital role in achieving development goals. What I find interesting is that as an American society we often forget our stake in cultural affairs like dance, art, and song and focus primarily on how we can improve economy and policy through logic and science. That being said, many of our own local, community initiatives are playing on the value of creativity in order to help people grow. For example, New Orleans has many youth-oriented music programs that strive to improve education and alleviate poverty while also nourishing the passions of young musicians. Personally, it seems like incorporating the performing/visual arts into development is a great way to maintain a country’s cultural identity(s).

  • jnicolo

    Taking a step back from our discussions about new technologies can give us great perspective on what makes for effective communication. These is certainly a place for these types of programs in the developing world, but I believe what they represent that is most valuable to the ICT4D discussion. How can we use new technologies to educate populations through a recognized medium?

    The next step is to combine traditional forms of communication (theatre, dance, etc.) with new and easily implementable technologies. Or similarly useful is using technologies already in use and applying these forms of communication to them.

  • cmahoney2014

    I think it is very important to take into account culture when beginning a development project. It is easy to throw new unfamiliar technologies to people and hope they are willing to embrace them.I agree with the other comments that a very effective way to communicate is through the arts, and more programs like this should be implemented.

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