Interview with IREX Europe Theatre Expert Steve Grihault

IREX Europe trainer Steve Grihault worked with our Hargeisa based partner KOW Media Corporation as local theatre professionals continued a tour of Somaliland. 48 shows were put on in towns across Somaliland. Theatre expert Steve Grihault worked with the actors to transform their plays into “interactive” forum theatre style events, as well as applying Drama for Conflict Transformation methodology to encourage participation from the spectators. In the plays the actors stop at key intervals allowing members of the audience to come on stage and act out how they think the story should proceed. In this way communities across Somaliland are challenged to think and discuss about critical issues of conflict in their society such as clan violence, recruitment of youth by extremist groups, drug abuse and violence against women.

IREX Europe: What was your impression about Somali Art and Theatre when you first travelled to Hargeisa?

Steve: I knew very little about Somali Art and even less really about the theatre and performance that existed. I was really pleased to find performers from many disciplines still trying to use their craft in a positive way and with such joy and inclusiveness.

IREX Europe: Which experience stands out most for you of your time spent with the theatre troupes?

Steve: There were so many wonderful moments working with the Geediga Nabada company who are so lively and full of fun, their music and dance sessions although often chaotic in the most marvellous way, were great to be involved in, I miss them.

The standout experience for me was going to see them perform in Gabiley the first time we were trying out the interactive theatre elements and hoping the crowd would respond. About 600 people turned up to a dusty square to watch, tentatively at first and then the moment they were asked to contribute ,the whole audience rushed forward and began to participate and the actors responded brilliantly. The moment was so charged with energy, hope and joy that it left a lasting impression on me about the power of theatre to communicate.

IREX Europe: Tell us a funny story about Hargeisa.

Steve: I won’t mention the pizzas in the Mansoor which has to be a highlight! – ask Brenda!

The other was playing some of the drama games with my translator and the general hilarity and screeches from the performers as I attempted to speak Somali.

I used to love as the day got hot in the hotel that we rehearsed in, open to the street, people would start to join us as an audience, firstly from the staff and then from people passing. They would come and smile and laugh at the performers as they rehearsed and entertained this ever growing crowd.

IREX Europe: How do you see the future of the Somali people? And do you think culture will contribute to their development?

Steve: Wow, that’s a big question. I truly hope and believe that through dialogue and understanding they can resolve the disputes that have often torn their communities apart. The majority of the people I met had a great desire to change the country and unite. If there are more wanting that change, the Somali people are the ideal people to spread the word, they are great communicators they love to talk and so I have great hope that communities will be able to join in peace.

I think that if the culture, dance, music, theatre, art and film within Somalia can be given opportunities to share, grow and nurture expressiveness and creativity then this is a really strong positive way of finding unity within the communities and regions as well as being a powerful celebration of the Somali people and their country.

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