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.