American artists to jet into Malawi for documentary film on HIV/AIDS

Young Malawians actors have a chance of learning new skills from young American artists who are expected arrive in the country mid-July on a mission to produce documentary film using theatre as a means of fighting stigma on people living with HIV/AIDS.

A  statement from the United States made available to Nyasa Times says the Washington DC  based theatre artist and Catholic University graduate student, Annalisa Dias will be traveling to Malawi to direct a weeklong theatre workshop in the outskirts of the central district of Salima.

According to the statement Dias will be joined by acclaimed Malawian storyteller Masankho Banda as well as theatre practitioner and representative of Nanzikambe Arts Development Organization, Verepi Madise.

She will also work with United States Peace Corps Volunteer, Genna Helfrich, and Malawian health specialist, Mphatso Diyele.Shootinf firl

“The project focuses on promoting health education through the use of storytelling and theater. Additionally, Kelly Bumford, a Los Angeles based film producer will be traveling to Malawi to document the project,” reads the statement.

In an effort to tackle the issue of HIV stigma and discrimination, the statement says, Annalisa and her team will lead young Malawian actors in a series of collaborative workshops with a group of people living with HIV/AIDS, and will work together to develop plays that promote solidarity among the community, encourage the prevention of HIV and support for people living with HIV/AIDS.

“The Salima Project is rooted firmly in the philosophy and teaching of Augusto Boal’s Theatre of the Oppressed. The Salima Project team and participants will use a series of games and exploratory exercises to reflect on the societal and cultural forces at work within each of them and within the community in Salima,” says the statement.

The statement says the team hopes that this type of work at the intersection of cultural development and health advocacy can be a model for future projects that empower local communities to tell their own stories and share them with the world.

Theatre for development is a tool that uses theatre as an agent to engage with social problems and to initiate discussion about community-based solutions. It gives local actors the opportunity to create and tell their own stories and to advocate for change.

Such techniques are being used across the globe in developing nations because they help build relational bridges among and within marginalized communities.

International aid organizations like UNICEF, the United Nations Development Program, and the International Organization for Migration have created programs using theatre for development to spur social change.

Statement concludes that screenings of the documentary about this process are scheduled for the end of 2013 in Washington DC, New York, and Los Angeles while additional screenings may be organized in Malawi’s capital Lilongwe and Salima district.

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