Monday, October 15, 2012

The Power of Art

Yermedea Raw finished its successful and powerful residency at 95 Empire yesterday after 5 extraordinary performances, which were in part followed by a talk back focusing on different issues. After Saturday's matinee, director Kym Moore was joined by Dorothy Abram (JWU), Omar Bah (a refugee from The Gambia), and Cristina Cabrera (English for Action) for a bilingual talk back session in English and Spanish (with Cristina translating) on refugee experience and the potential of art.
First, Dorothy and Kym tracked the different entry points for connecting with the production, whether it is through mythology or other stories, memories or experience. An audience member commented that the music used in the production was blending mythologies and realities for her and thus worked like a bridge into this world, no matter where you were coming from.
Another audience member then asked whether it was not immoral "to create art on the ashes of the victims, prettifying it to profit from it"? Omar stated that money is always made, whether it is in the theater or during the atrocities of genocide. For him, theater and art are first and foremost part of the healing process for the victims. Since the experiences of war and genocide will stay with you no matter what, the true profit lies in sharing these stories. Dorothy emphasized that each situation needs to be evaluated individually but that is of utmost importance to tell these stories as stories of survival. Kym added that we do not know what genocide is in the first place and the coming to terms with that fact is part of an educational process for everyone involved. To communicate this struggle within a community in a public space like the theater is "just the beginning of consciousness", especially considering that North American audiences are very well educated regarding historical events like the Holocaust but are largely unaware of the ongoing and current genocides carried out throughout the world.
At this point, the conversation centered around the function of art in the so-called First World and in other parts of the world. Kym stated that art in the US is understood as means either for profit or for leisure, whereas elsewhere art is understood to be a conscious way of living within a community, to understand what it means to be a human being. Kym emphasized that we need to change our perspective on what art can and must do, as art is able to change our image of the world and to transform absolutely anything. Since everybody is able to engage in art, art is the most powerful medium to create new images and tell stories, that will survive and help us to track humanity. Omar added that art helps us to find and understand intrinsic truths about our lives that we have yet no idea about. He continued to tell about his traumatic experiences in Africa, being persecuted, imprisoned, and tortured - but that art enabled him to connect again with his life and with others.
Closing the inspiring conversation this afternoon, an audience member stated that she appreciated the opportunity to witness and experience the emotional fallout of these extreme situations through participating in someone else's point of view, even if it's just for the limited time of this performance, which pulled her in as a witness and participant.

Although we are now taking a short break from the tour, check back in often as the blog will continue to keep you up to date on ongoing dramaturgical efforts and of course on the progress of the tour. Tickets for our performances in Boston and New York City are now on sale: we hope to see you there soon!

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