Having arrived in Brazil 1 month ago, I was excited to see Deanna after nearly 2 years. We knew each other from the UK and worked together before she went back to Australia. We are both committed to Applied Theatre and talked many times about setting up projects together internationally. Finally this had materialised!
I was picked up from the airport at 6am by Deanna and lovely Acer staff. We arrived to Acer and began to walk upstairs to the volunteer house. I shouted: “I am so excited about the stairs.” To which Deanna said: “Nikki they are just stairs.” Hmmm think I was a bit tired, and having just jumped off a plane with not much sleep, I was trying to express in my silly docile and childish state what the stairs represented. The people I would meet and the projects I would deliver, in such a vibrant country!!
I instantly felt that Acer was a very special place. The organisation runs many activities for children and young people, who live in the surrounding favela’s or substandard housing. The NGO works with (not exclusively) many children from backgrounds of extreme poverty, violence and social exclusion. It is clearly like a second home for many children and young people who have developed, over time, very strong bonds with the Acer staff. The place is brimming with the sound of children playing and learning. I can hear throughout the day the sounds of Capoeira, percussion, football, Hippy hoppy (Hip Hop) and more… Acer is an integral part of the local community.
Deanna and I have been running the Cmap theatre club which has naturally evolved into a mixture of games, theatre and visual art. Speaking to people there is little or no provision for ‘the arts’ in school. At the end of one workshop we asked the group to draw their favourite part of the theatre session. One participant picked up the coloured pens, smiled and hugged the box, saying how much he’d missed them. This was a symbolic moment for us that conveyed what happens if the chance to be creative is limited. ‘Art’ is a necessity not a privilege and we are driven by this in our work. Deanna and I will incorporate a variety of art forms into our workshops using lots of materials, enabling the children to freely express themselves. Most importantly we will be responding to the needs of the group. At the moment we are exploring the theme ‘Our world’ through recycled art and theatre.
We have facilitated some training for a group of teenagers who lead storytelling and reading in local schools. We spent some time with the adolescents as they read and performed for the children and got a sense of the work they were doing. Teacher’s are not obligated to read to children as part of their education. The local schools have only recently introduced libraries in schools. Children are only able to take home a book once week because of the lack of resources. We led a confidence building and storytelling workshop using a story from Mozambique called ‘The Monkey and the Rabbit’. Two weeks later we ran a training for the adolescents who run the (Dia de Brincar) where Acer dedicates a whole day to play in some of the poorest favelas. We worked with the teenagers helping with ideas for games and facilitation skills. We will be continuing to work with these groups in the coming months.
We have other interesting projects being set up and some are in the early stages. We will update the blog in the coming months.
Feeling fortunate to have been involved in so many projects, in such a short time. Very grateful to all of Deanna’s hard work before I arrived, thank you. She showed me around and knew all the staff, who greeted me with so much warmth. The more time I spend here, the more motivated I become about the coming months; learning Portuguese, Samba, Capoeira, and gaining inspiration from the children and young people. As I write this blog, protests spread all over Brasil and many people have said that the country is waking up. It feels like an important time to be here. Who knows it might be a starting point for a performance.
Até mais… (until more)