I have always enjoyed arts and activism. In African countries, especially during the fight for independence, art was and is still used as a tool to fight against injustices, corruption, abuse of human rights etc. Dance and performance, telling stories, that’s how you educate and energise the youth. It’s a form of self-expression and expressing political beliefs and solidarity. Artistic expression goes hand in hand with political activism, it cannot be separated. A lot of our culture is expressed in the arts and our culture is our reality.
I stumbled across Belarus Free Theatre (BFT) when I came back from the UK after a stint in South Africa and it resonated with me. Its focus on human rights and social justice through theatre and the way they encourage people to find their voices and stand up for what’s right caught my attention, so it felt natural for me to join the family and contribute to a type of activism that educates, builds ties and strengthens communities.
It is not a solitary experience working with BFT, it’s given me a chance to contribute to a team in a different context than the mundane working environment I am used to. The work that I do contributes to the bigger picture, it’s bigger than me, it’s about people’s freedoms, human rights, life and death. That’s how important BFT is and I feel at home contributing to such a cause. Being directly involved in political theatre is different from just being in the audience. Seeing how much work goes into shows and the level of detail in ensuring that every story is told in a certain way to convey a certain meaning has changed my perspective on political theatre – I appreciate it even more, I have a new found respect for the work that everyone puts in and the risks that they take to ensure that the general public is educated as well as entertained.
When the world speaks of inequalities and social justice, it’s easy to think of developing countries as a starting point and I have been guilty of this as well. Continents like North America and Europe are hailed as shining examples of what it means to be a democracy so that you begin to generalise and not pay attention to countries like Belarus. BFT made me take a step back and question my level of political awareness, it has educated me on the history of Belarus, the revolution, the injustices and the way forward.