BARKA’S SOCIAL ARTS PROGRAM:Using Theatre To Teach a Wide Range of Topics to Villages And Schools
Why Use Theatre?
Since BARKA began working in Burkina Faso, it has incorporated culture and the cultural arts into its development work. This is because music, dance and culture are integrally incorporated into daily life in Africa.
In the rural villages of Burkina, where the vast majority of people are illiterate (UNICEF cites adult literacy rate at 28.7%), theatre provides a valuable opportunity to convey important social messages.
8 Stars Are Born
In 2015, through the financial support of One Drop Foundation, the water-focused NGO based in Montreal, Canada founded by Guy Laliberte (founder of Cirque du Soleil), and with the help of Espace Culturel Gambidi, an internationally renowned theatre center based in Ouagadougou, BARKA Foundation formed a new theatre troupe with some of the most talented artists in the Eastern Region. We held auditions and began a series of trainings with 16 artists. After two weeks, 8 finalists were chosen to ultimately became the actors of the troupe.
A New Cultural Force in the Eastern Region
As a funder of this endeavor, One Drop wanted to develop BARKA’s capacity to do further “theatre sensitization” after this project was completed. Therefore, they helped us to purchase professional sound and light equipment, and provided funds to build our own stage, which we bring deep into the bush and can assemble/de-construct quickly. It was created entirely by a local metal artisan who comes from a long line of metal workers. This technical material enabled BARKA to put on a theatre production (“spectacle” in French) the likes of which the local area had never before seen.
After the play ends, BARKA’s two Master of Ceremonies or “Game Leaders” engage the audience in questions, dialogue and debate. This is a key part of the event as the interaction directly involves the audience. Anyone can ask questions, make comments, and speak about their own experience- whether it’s about something they saw in the play, or experienced in their own village. Adults, children and elders are all welcome to speak their minds. This process also provides a clear way to gauge the level of comprehension of the key concepts we aim to get across. Given the compelling nature of the performance, comprehension is always high, and often people are motivated to make commitments to make changes in their communities or personal lives. Debates last 30-60 minutes, and sometimes people don’t want to stop talking.
Monitoring and Evaluation
During the debate, BARKA’s Monitoring & Evaluation Officer notates key comments by the audience, including the themes most often discussed and issues raised. Each audience’s level of comprehension of the key concepts is assessed as is their engagement during the show and debate. We make note of local authorities who are present, and count the number of men, women, children and elders in the audience. Any proposed solutions or expressed commitments/intentions toward change at the local level are recorded. Game leaders also try to find out what obstacles if any are present which would prevent any expressed potential behavior change.