Applied Theatre in Action

A 10 year applied theatre project working with: COBURWAS – CIYOTA

TVO has been working in Africa since 2007. Our project with COBURWAS a youth organisation aimed at creating positive change for refugees in the Kyangwali refugee camp, came out of the blue. It began a voyage of discovery in both TVO’s teams and the COBURWAS community about the change that applied theatre techniques can bring.

It all started in 2008 when Jennifer was guest lecturer at the African Leadership Academy in Johannesburg, South Africa at the invitation of Gavin Peters, a TVO Trustee and teacher in the College. The workshops and techniques connected with one of the students Joseph Munyambanza. He could see the value working this way could bring to his project COBURWAS.

COBURWAS was formed by a group of teenage refugees in the Kyangwali Refugee settlement in Western Uganda. Each letter of the word COBURWAS stands for the home countries of the refugees in the camp; Congo (DRC), Burundi, Uganda, Rwanda and Sudan (CO-BU-RWA-S).

The boys, all fleeing from war in their own countries, had an idea to transform Africa by providing ‘innovative education that empowers conflict-affected children & Youth with skills and experience to address complex challenges facing their communities’. Applied theatre, skills that could be passed from person to person, group to group could work well in a camp with scarce resources.

Joseph asked Jennifer to promise to come to the Camp with her team and run workshops on skills that would help build community, leadership and self-belief and in 2009 TVO made their first trip out to Uganda, beginning a ten year applied theatre project with COBURWAS International Youth Organisation to Transform Africa (CIYOTA)

“I spent 5 years without a smile but I was able to have a happy moment and laughter in TVO training. Today my best and happy moment in the year is August, the usual time we play games that teaches us about unity, trust, protection, communication, leadership and relationships’. Benson Wereje, TVO Project Manager

In 2011 the New Hope Theatre group was established: a group using applied theatre methods run by and for refugees. Theatre versus Oppression continued to train the group annually in new methods which they could apply and develop to best suit their needs.

Their work has been so popular and effective as a way of creating debate and exploring ingrained conflicts that it has reached other camps in the area and across the border to the Democratic Republic of Congo (DRC). They now have a youth theatre group and applied theatre techniques are taught in schools.

‘We have been able to play and build the trust with those we called our enemies before. The community is rebuilding itself through ‘NEW HOPE’ which is now a branch of TVO in Africa (Uganda).

New Hope and CIYOTA have created enterprises to help the poor and to sustain the program through farming and soap making’.

Benson Wereje, TVO Project Manager

‘This has been so much more than an arts project, it’s really shown the value of putting music & drama at the centre of community’