TdO: let’s try it….online

Article written by Giolli Cooperativa Sociale

After the 1st Migreat! training in London, January 2019, we could not hold any training face to face, due to travel restrictions and general limitations imposed by the pandemic. Despite that, and willing to proceed with our job, goals and learning process, we ran some online trainings to keep Migreat! alive and on track.

The training “Theatre of the Oppressed – basics” was therefore set up in March 2021 in an online version. As a trainer, I think the term “theatre online” is an oxymoron and my first emotion was a mix of desperation and a sense of powerlessness. Despite that, since September 2020 me and my colleagues started to think about this “wedding”, when, encouraged by another EU funded project, we had to rethink and settle on a new way of acting. We discovered that it is possible to adapt theatre to online activities,  online workshop sessions and also in regards to the more complex Forum-Theatre technique.

According to this, we decided to bring this experience to Migreat!, and we organised a 3 day training in March this year, online.

Performing a training about this topic online, we naturally face some limitations: the worst were the physical distance, the absence of synchronization, and the common Internet connection problems. The essence of theatre, the fact of being present, that which distinguishes theatre from cinema, is obliterated. Bodies are in a virtual space, reduced to a screen, rhythm cannot be synchronised, people disappear if the connection fails  and voices are distorted.

But….

There is a chance to keep the relationship, if already established, and also to create new ones, using suitable intimate exercises that create a warm atmosphere. It is possible to keep the silence, to take your own time to intervene…and also to be emotionally engaged by the plot and characters. Moreover we can get in touch with people from the other side of the world, just with a click!

The language of virtual space is strongly different, therefore the interpretation of actors should be different. But think about the chance to see yourself while acting! What a wonderful setting for an actor! Maybe I’ll go deeper into this new language in another article, let me now describe the theatre workshop in Budapest.

In the 1st basic T.O. training we developed a T.O. cycle from the 1st step to the last one. We created possible plays and scenes about migration and introduced narratives as much as possible.

After that, we trained actors and Jokers to manage these plays, following the idea that combining T.O. and narratives is not just a way to apply T.O. to another subject, but implies a different attention from both actors and jokers. In the “Advanced T.O. training” in Budapest, held the 8-9-10th September 2021, in the spaces of the stimulating partner Nyitott Kör, we followed the same line, but in presence, and more deeply.

So we went through the typical 6 steps of the T.O. cycle:

1) Warming up, group building  and de-mechanization.

This is not merely a way to activate people: according to Boal this is already a work against our oppression, because oppression not only forces us “to be less”, but also mechanizes our person at any level (body, mind, emotions…).

There is no space here to go deeper but you can read it in the Boal’s contributions.(Link to download Boal’s book “Games for actor and non actors”:https://www.deepfun.com/wp-content/uploads/2010/06/Games-for-actors-and-non-actors…Augusto-Boal.pdf)

So great attention should be paid to this phase, in order to also create an atmosphere where isolated persons can feel to be a group of oppressed, and feel safe to express their oppressions. The tools for this work are essentially games and exercises from theatre, but you can include each activity you suppose can contribute in some way.

2) Knots research.

Knots in Boal’s jargon is a specific concrete situation, perceived as oppressive, by an individual. Perception can be wrong of course, but in the T.O. frame it is essential to start form the individual perception of reality, and then problematize it, as Freire did with literacy. Knots can be found with games, metaphorically linked to some lived situation, or talking, or creating images or, again, in any other ways that we reckon it can fit this purpose..

3) Theatrical embryos creation.

This step is crucial because we try to pass from the individual perception to the common feeling of being oppressed. We can select the most common knots, we combine them, we explore connections to reach, as a group or sub-group, some theatrical object (scene, image…) that the group feels is representative of its own oppression. The style does not matter, it can be realistic or surrealistic, metaphoric, expressionist or something else.

This embryo collapses some common perceptions that the individuals have and is an important step to creating solidarity, but in a concrete way. How to reach this goal can be done, again, in different ways: merging images, selecting elements from various scenes, improvising again and again and then discussing, leading the sub-group inturn giving different versions of what is in common, etc.

4) Cleaning the embryo.

Usually the embryo is just a draft, so we need to understand what is important to keep, what to eliminate, what to change. In the training we paid a lot of attention to this phase, using the so-called “Giolli’s 6 analyses”.

– reality;

– structure;

– question;

– characters;

– theatricality;

– micro-macro (in a following article I will analyse this point better.)

5) Exploring solutions.

This means using some tools to find solutions to the model constructed in the previous steps. We want solutions not to blame people, to complain passively or to impose our own  solutions. We want oppressed people to find their own ways! For this purpose the technique “Forum-Theatre” is one  of the most appropriate, but also Legislative-Theatre or Image-Theatre can be useful.

6) Extrapolation to concrete social actions.

What is discovered in theatre can and should then be included in our social behaviour, that implies to exit the workshop/theatre session with ideas and energy to face oppressions in our daily lives. If not, our practice risks becoming a catharsis, a result that Boal hated because it pacifies people.

This is the process with a real group of people that we, in some way, reproduced in Budapest with a group of 25 people from our 4 organisations. In this training we chose to focus on one technique only, Forum-Theatre, the most used in the world, and flexible enough to be adapted to different contexts. Moreover we split the work in two big areas, the training for actors and the one for jokers.

Indeed we stayed on step 1 the first day, then we jumped to step 4 (as we asked each group to bring to Budapest one or more little embryos) and focused on cleaning the embryos in the frame of 6 analyses.

The third day was completely dedicated to training actors and jokers, both providing some theoretical concept and tips and giving the floor to participants to experiment for themselves in these roles.

Why was this training important?

Because Giolli has extensive experience of T.O. and gave the chance to its partners to benefit from this knowledge.

Moreover this training gave us all a common ground for preparing and leading training in our respective countries with locals and migrants in the coming months. It also provided a common theoretical-methodological background on which to base our evaluation and therefore better prepare the tool-kit.

Why was it important for counter/alternative narratives?

I think T.O. can be an effective tool if we adapt it to the narrative dimension.

It means three things:

– we should not replicate what is usual, to stage a play where migrants are oppressed in general, but to include in the play the narratives, in the way we explored during the training (monologue, dialogue, other scenes, symbols, songs…).

– actors, mainly the oppressors, should be able to play at two levels: the face to face interaction with the oppressed and the narrative battle.

– Jokers as well, should push the audience to analyse not only what happens, but the (hidden or explicit) narrative struggle.

Another reason is that if we want to change a narrative, we can answer point by point (counter) or we can talk about other issues (alternative) but, according to me, we do not have to reduce ourselves to using only propaganda or information or persuading or campaigning.

A narrative changes also thanks to action, giving visibility to another image of migrants, not threatening, not begging for money, not powerless.

To close this article I would remark on what is narrative in general.

In my opinion, oppression is a fact of direct mechanisms between oppressors and oppressed (violence, ransom, threat, abuse, insult, humiliation, manipulation…), but it also has a structural dimension (like decisions taken at a high level that affect people’s lives in an invisible manner), and is justified and reinforced by the cultural violence (as non-violent activists point out) like prejudices, patriarchal ideology, liberalism, etc.

Narrative belongs to this 3rd dimension of oppression: I can oppress a Muslim migrant all the more effectively because there exist  narratives which tell me Muslimsare dangerous, potential terrorists, incompatible with myculture, and so on.

So the battle to liberate from oppression should be threefold.

The Migreat Project Guide: concepts, methods, activities and good practices

Written by Mariana Hanssen (ELAN Interculturel)

In February 2020 we started our first discussions on how to plan our written manual. Putting into words our daily experiences at work appeared to us a huge challenge.  However, we knew that fleeting interactions were not enough to affect people in the long term: writing everything down was our answer to record our methods, thoughts, and discoveries and make it possible to  replicate and build on  them in the future. 

It was an intense adventure: research, writing, discussions, cross readings, corrections, more research, even more writing. We had to stop ourselves from getting too creative otherwise we would have written a series of books  about the subject – but I can confirm that we have already written a pretty extensive book, a very complete one with a balance between theory and practice, abstract and real.

What can you find in there?

Our guide is divided in 4 chapters:

  1. Introduction

We start our guide by building common ground. We present the project and our aims, why are we doing it. We explain what we understand by narratives, counter and alternative ones, and why it is important to work on them. Also, from our perspective, it was important to present our contexts. Therefore, we briefly introduce the reality from our four countries (Italy, France, Great Britain and Hungary) with theoretical and real examples of how migration is lived in each corner. This is also an invitation for our readers to reflect and search for their own realities: in order to change our community, we need to understand it.

2. Methods to create alternative narratives

Secondly, we presented our expertise: the three methods that were used in the project to build our counter and alternative narratives (Pedagogy of the Oppressed, Theatre and Community Organising). In this chapter, it is possible to understand the link between the methods and changing narratives and understand the innovative step that Migreat took when applying all of these approaches.

3. Tools and practical activities 

In this third chapter, the reader will find all the activities that we created. Using our methods, we wrote systematically how to lead workshops and shared valuable tips.

4. Collection of good practices

Finally, we connected our work with what is already happening in the world around the transformation of narratives. At this point, it is possible to get to know inspiring initiatives in our four countries, and get ready to support one (or develop your own, why not!).

Why is it powerful?

Narratives are stories that circulate in societies. They emerge from shared social beliefs and also act to reinforce them, while guiding decisions and actions of individuals and groups. They depict reality in a partial way, through a particular point of view. Some of them are more dominant than others, but that can change. In most European countries, dominant narratives about migration and migrants from low-income countries seem to be dehumanising and/or essentialising, especially since the ‘migrant crisis’ in the middle of the 2010s and the growing popularity of far-right discourse and policies that seem to influence the political discourse across the continent. 

Developing narratives allows a certain freedom about which points of view we wish to put forward, allowing different points of view to coexist. It allows for a questioning of ideas and concepts that are somehow ‘normalised’ in a society, for example universalism and egalitarianism. This evokes fruitful debates.

We recommend this reading for educators and activists in the field of social work, migrants rights and others, who have some practical experience. We did our best to present an overview but encourage readers to go deeper: read the references, participate in training, test out our activities and share with partners. Our partnership is also happy to hear your feedback and support you in this process.Enjoy your reading, share it with others, and, most importantly: participate actively in the process of changing migration narratives.

Every action’s in the Reaction

Training Report written by EFA London

Over three days in July the Migreat! team met for the three day training on community organising with half the team working face-to-face in Trento, Italy and the rest, including the trainers, working remotely from different corners of the continent. The result was an intense learning experience, as useful technologically and pedagogically as it was in terms of developing our knowledge of community organising.

On Day 1 we addressed the question “what is community organising?” We co-constructed a definition, pooling our knowledge and experiences. We can say that community organising is an approach to bringing about social change that centres on building the power of ordinary people. It can be compared and contrasted to labour organising that builds power of workers by organising them at work. Instead of focusing on the workplace, community organising organises people in the neighbourhoods – although with digital community organising developing fast this is also changing. The basic premise is that people have more power to effect change when they are in relationship with other people.

We looked at one of the inspirations of community organising, Saul Alinsky. Alinsky is known as a great political strategist as well as one of the architects of community organising and his seminal text, Rules for Radicals (1971) is admired by people from across the political spectrum not least for presenting tactics for grassroots groups to take action and effect change. What are these rules?

  1. “Power is not only what you have but what the enemy thinks you have.”
  2. “Never go outside the expertise of your people.”
  3. “Whenever possible go outside the expertise of the enemy.”
  4. “Make the enemy live up to its own book of rules.”
  5. “Ridicule is man’s most potent weapon. There is no defense. It is almost impossible to counteract ridicule. Also it infuriates the opposition, who then react to your advantage.”
  6. “A good tactic is one your people enjoy.”
  7. “A tactic that drags on too long becomes a drag.”
  8. “Keep the pressure on.”
  9. “The threat is usually more terrifying than the thing itself. “
  10. “The major premise for tactics is the development of operations that will maintain a constant pressure upon the opposition.”
  11. “If you push a negative hard and deep enough it will break through into its counterside; this is based on the principle that every positive has its negative.”
  12. “The price of a successful attack is a constructive alternative.”
  13. “Pick the target, freeze it, personalize it, and polarize it. “

Alinsky developed and spread something called broad-based community organising. These are urban civil society alliances, joining faith organisations with labour unions, schools and community groups to engage with the powerful people in their cities in order to bring about social justice.

In our training we developed understanding around the key concepts of community organising: listening, power, strategy, learning, leadership, action. We shared some tools to put these concepts into practice. Perhaps the building block of community organising is the 1-1 meeting. This is because a community alliance is sustained by its relationships between people in the alliance. These are public relationships, not intimate ones. We’re not building a network of friends but a diverse network of people in our neighbourhoods committed to working together on the collective common good. The 1-1 meeting helps a community organiser identify leadership and it helps non-organisers, the ordinary people learning how to organise, to develop relationships across their groups and their alliances without depending too heavily on their community organisers. At EFA teacher-organisers do these with their students, with their colleagues, with people from partner organisations and with our potential allies. Good 1-1 questions:

  • How are you? How have you been?
  • What brings you to this kind of work?
  • What motivates you to do this work?
  • Why is X important to you
  • Tell me a bit about your background
  • What do you think about X (issue of the day)
  • Let me tell you a bit about myself…….what about you?

On Day 2 we turned our attention to the concept of ‘power’ which is absolutely central to community organising. We used a tool called the ‘power analysis’ to map power in communities and our campaigns. When we want to change something, for example EFA wants more and better quality English classes for migrants in the UK we need to understand who has the power to bring about this change and how we can reach them. A realistic power analysis helps prevent groups bite off more they can chew and get into a long, exhausting and ultimately hopeless campaign. It’s also important to personalise the target of a campaign: “We are asking you, Sadiq Khan, Mayor of London, to provide a website to support new arrivals to find an English class”. We also use a power analysis to be realistic about our own power and how we can build it.

This leads to action – the fuel of community organising. Action must become ‘a habit’ In the training we talked about what we mean by action and shared examples of actions we have taken and their impact. Alimsky teaches that every action is in the reaction – and draws a distinction between aimless protest and strategic action designed to increase tension and force powerful people to react. Organising actions with groups of people not in the habit of action can be hard and it can be good to start with do-able, accessible actions within the experience of the group and build towards more daring, disruptive action. Actions are always evaluated by the group, asking questions like “what reaction did we get?”, “what leadership did we develop?”.

So how does this all relate to counter-narratives? We discussed this question on the final day of the training and felt there was a lot of cross-over. Firstly, one of the issues that emerges most strongly when organising in diverse urban areas is migrant rights and anti-racism. People quickly voice their opposition to the stereotypes and racist dominant narratives around migration that are sadly only too prevalent in the press and mainstream political circles. We need to develop tools to counter these damaging narratives in order to bring about change. So the tools and knowledge we have gained and are still gaining due to our participation in Migreat! are extremely valuable in our organising. Conversely organising teaches us how to get our messages out there and how to attach them to winnable campaigns. Secondly, community organising is about reaching out of our bubbles and silos in order to build power. Learning how to tell our stories in a way that connects with a range of people takes us square into the world of narrative and counter-narrative. Both these ideas are brilliantly explained by Chardine Taylor Stone in this short video:

“Let’s go to speak to people who don’t agree with us because that’s how we’re going to build power”.

“Lost of Whisperers in the Distance”

Interview with Mansour Forouzesh

Mansour Forouzesh is a 33 years old short film and documentary filmmaker from Iran, residing in Budapest, Hungary.  He studied cinema. He has made 6 short story films and produced more than 10 TV documentaries. He is currently writing a feature film script in addition to filmmaking and also teaches several film workshops and master classes in Iran and the United Kingdom. 

Mansour recently made a short feature film with the participation of Hungarian cinema professionals, which is in the process of being distributed and sent to festivals. 

In the next few lines Mansour shares some interesting thoughts about his new project “Lost of Whisperers in the Distance” and he also tells about how he met with the MiGreat! project.

 How did you meet Samira Sinai (project team member in Hungary, whom we wrote about in previous articles), and why do you think the Migreat! project is useful for the social inclusion of migrant people and the support of their education through Art methods?

Samira’s acquaintance happened many years ago because Samira has a significant background among Iranian artists. In addition, her parents are well-known artists. But my personal connection goes back to when I came to Hungary to study and was eager to make the documentary “Lost Whispers in the Distance”. Our friendship started because of this movie and I am very happy that this friendship has continued.

I think almost all of us agree that man is a social being in the general sense, and in fact human life depends on his relationship with the world around him and other human beings. It is this connection that instills in man a sense of worth and credibility and causes him to be accepted in society not only through his physical presence but also through his intellectual and spiritual life in society.

I think art gives all of us human beings the chance to be able to both turn our thoughts into an objective phenomenon and to be able to make connections beyond the usual connections with society through these works of art. So art and artwork, in addition to creating a sense of value, can be effective in creating communication and an exchange of ideas.

In addition, the process of creating a work of art, regardless of the medium, content, material and material value, can have a therapeutic  function for an immigrant. Immigrants of all kinds generally suffer from a variety of emotional complications, and I think the process of producing a work of art can reduce the suffering caused by these emotional complications and put the person on the path to emotional recovery. Of course, this emotional condition is deeper for those who have been expelled from their homeland for any reason and are looking for a better life as asylum seekers.

What was your motivation to create this video, what is your aim with it, and what future perspectives would you appreciate about the topic and connected to the visual tool itself?

The video I shared with you is part of a feature-length documentary that tells the story of people caught in a miserable situation to find a better life. This deplorable situation, of course, is completely different from the perception they had when entering this path.

In fact, in this documentary we decided to look at the subject differently from most of the films that have been made so far. For example, most of the films made about asylum seekers had a direct and precise reference to the problems of these people, that is, in fact, these documentaries sought to improve the conditions of asylum seekers. But in our documentary, the situation is a little different, we sought to show the stark difference between asylum seekers’ perceptions of illegal immigration and the reality they face.

We hope that this film, which openly shares the problems with the audience, will give the necessary information to those who decide to migrate illegally through dangerous routes.

But the part I devoted to your project is about children. Children who actually spend a significant part of their lives on the road, in the mountains, in the forest, and in the camp, and generally suffer serious psychological and, in some cases, physical and sexual injuries. Aside from the fact that education and educational development conditions are almost impossible for them, these children are witnessing events along the way, each of which can cause serious psychological problems. That’s why I decided to share the children’s section with you.

How do you connect to migrant people in Europe, what message would you send them?

I would like to say that in addition to enlightening and raising awareness about what is happening to asylum seekers, it is necessary to produce content that targets those who are planning to enter the illegal immigration route. Of course, there are people who have actually been expelled from their countries for various reasons, but I think that a significant number of asylum seekers decide to immigrate illegally simply because they do not know or misunderstand. This is the point at which we, as producers of artistic and media content, seem to have a duty to pay more attention.

But apart from the issue of asylum seekers, anyone who decides to emigrate from any land, for any reason and with any background, is probably looking to build and find a different or better life and share experiences through art production and the media will play an important role in the development of all immigrants around the world.

Follow Mansour’s work here: https://hu.linkedin.com/in/mansourforouzesh

Creating alternatives narratives on migration in France: our experience in Elan Interculturel

Written by Mariana Hanssen, from Elan Interculturel

“How to start?” is usually the question we ask ourselves. With the support of the guidelines produced in our project (manual out very soon!) and our truly motivation as migrants ourselves, we began to organise our ideas on how to make the visual tools come true. 

The development of these products were a big challenge for our team. Without the prospect  of getting out of COVID crises soon, we decided to do all of our workshops online.  We were frightened of limiting access by proposing only online sessions; however, we managed to form a diverse and motivated group to create alternative narratives about migration in Europe. Between June and December of 2020, Elan’s Team organised three workshop sessions inviting participants to share their experience and thoughts during focus groups. We recruited participants based on only one criterion: the fact that they had a migratory experience. They came from all horizons: Egypt, Brazil, Mexico, Madagascar, Argentina, Romania, Senegal and Haiti. 

Elan used its network to disseminate the workshop: we contacted people that had already shown some interest in the project before, and we also published a Facebook post with a Google form and a flyer, and the people interested filled in the registration form.

Our first workshop took place in June. The first and very important step is to create a safe space. To do so, we did icebreakers and some activities to stimulate teambuilding and allow the participants to know each other. There was a great dynamic: the participants listened and responded to each other, respecting others’ speaking time. They shared many common points, and laughed about the irony of some situations that they had lived.

We were then ready to start deeper discussions about migrant narratives. We prepared some questions to guide the process, starting the reflection on definitions of “migrant” and “migration”, then exploring and comparing with media discourses, and finally exchanging about the narratives we want to hear and promote.

The conversation went great, as it allowed a sharing of experiences and feelings. The participants responded to each other in a very informal way, even though they did not know each other. The speech was well distributed amongst the different participants; everybody seemed to feel confident about talking.

When we asked the participants how we as a society could change the narratives about migration, one of them told us that our workshop was very useful from her point of view, because it allowed her to be in a safer space where she could share her experience and think. She believed that our workshops could play a role in  changing  narratives while being empowering to participants.

The word “migration” encompasses a diversity of realities. Migrants have different socio-economic situations. It is necessary to take into account this diversity while promoting alternative narratives; otherwise, we would ignore some of the migrants’ particular issues. We talked about migrant’s multiple identities, “positive” stereotypes – that cannot help alternatives either. According to the participants,giving  the floor to people from a migratory background is long overdue. They need to be able to speak for themselves, as it promotes their empowerment and allows having a realistic depiction of their life.

In our second encounter, we explored together personal stories using an image pack. You can find here below some examples:

The conversation was rich, once again. The simple fact of sharing stories – happy and bad ones, dramatic and funny ones, short and long ones – made us feel powerful

The fact that people have stereotypes about individuals from a migratory background, impacts on interpersonal relationships, and people can be very intrusive towards individuals from a migratory background, ask them many questions about their personal life, like why they came to the country, how… Frequently, people who did not experience migration have a certain ignorance about the reality of people who did, even if they work with them every day. One of the participants said that he feels like a “second-class citizen”. Another one shared with us a story that happened during a professional event, where a man asked her “what” she was:

This gentleman never asked me my first name. He wanted to know “what I was” and not “who I was”: an object rather than a subject. He was looking for a way to fit me into a category. He didn’t understand how a woman of foreign origin had arrived in France freely and, on top of that, was a coordinator and employee in an association. I was able to get away with it and even have fun because I had enough confidence, assurance and experience, but this is not the case for everyone, especially for people who are in a fragile or precarious situation. Moral of the story: one category can hide another… (free translation) Marcela VILLALOBOS CID, Head of department « Migrations et Vie en Société », CEF.

This sense of exclusion can lead to mental or physical disorders in migrants – it is a violent dehumanising process. We organised all the precious information that we discovered on this journey and we went on to the last workshop together. At this time, we explored the narratives we wanted to counter, in order to find the alternative narrative we would want to show in the visual tools. For this purpose, we used the “iceberg” methodology – we try to explore the “invisible” part of the iceberg behind the “visible” one. The visible part were the narratives we found, and the invisible one the values hidden, causes, historical origins, etc. 

At the end of the process, we agreed on the narrative we wanted to tell: “The migration process is not simple and each journey is unique”.

It was a challenging pathway until the end. Clara, who participated actively in the  workshop, highlights: “The biggest challenge that we faced during the Migreat Project was to co-construct our narrative with our participants. Facing a worldwide pandemic and try at the same time to create spaces for people to meet and reflect together seemed to be an impossible task at the time. Nevertheless, we decided to adapt to this new situation and to see what was possible to organise in a virtual mode. Making this choice was already hard, as we knew that many of those we would like to work with did not have an easy access to internet camera and mostly TIME. At this stage, most of the people were already burned out from the digital gathering and the constant dependence on technology. To our big surprise we managed to engage some other dreamers like us who still wanted to reflect and construct together new narratives about our stories of migration.”

The feeling at the end was of mission accomplished, so as Clara adds: “Even though to pilot this project was challenging it gave us the opportunity to think outside the box and to come up with creative new ideas to move forward with the process. During the past year and a half, we had the chance to meet several participants that had the generosity to share their stories and thoughts with us. Those stories are available today for the world to see!”

We cannot wait to disseminate all of them!

THE PROCESS OF CREATING THE SECOND INTELLECTUAL OUTPUT MIGREAT! project Visual Tool

a story by the Giolli Cooperative

Our process started with four focus groups, which took place from November to December 2020, with mixed groups of Italian and migrants.

Countries of origin: Italy, Gambia, Morocco, Bolivia, Colombia, Burkina Faso, Guinea Conakry, Albania, Bosnia Herzegovina, Togo.

These were foreigners who attend or have attended Italian courses and volunteers within the same areas, with some professional experience in the Reception of Migrants in Trento. Some people knew or had a relationship with the others, while others met for the first time on this occasion.

The engagement of the participants took place through direct acquaintance or through recommendations by Italian teachers; we carried out the meetings in Italian but kepta margin of linguistic inclusion, as far as was possible. We took care to contact  each foreign person individually, introducing ourselves (if they did not already know us), presenting the MIGREAT! project and proposing the activity. We welcomed their questions and reassured them about the open atmosphere they would find. We asked for their preferences and availability in terms of times, days and methods: three of the four focus groups took place online, only one in person, in a city park.

In the four sessions we prompted the discussion with some questions, after a warm-up activity to get to know each other and to approach the theme of the project.

-We are here for our project… Why are you here?

-Round of questions and answers about the dominant narrative and possible alternative narratives.

-Another round of questions on the theme of spaces: where is it possible to propose or develop another narrative? And also: how many moments are there to deepen and share? What are the spaces to do this and what opportunities are there?

-Another round of questions on why Italians have such a different perception from reality on the theme of migration and migrants.

-Another round of questions on the pro/anti polarity: does representing the foreigner necessarily fall into this polarity? Are there other ways? What are the resistances we have or the ideas we have for acting in the space between the “binary”?

-Reflection on the two polarities of Italians’ attitudes towards foreigners.

-Why is there so much hatred?

-What stories emerge? What other representations/actions/communications are possible?

-What would we like to be said and how?

-What do we want to say differently?

-How can we construct a response?

-Proposal to build together concrete messages in response to what we do not like and what hurts us, Italians and foreigners together.

-Invitation to participatory IO2 design.

What emerged?

Many people felt the need to talk about their experiences, they brought their lives, they told the story of their country of origin, sometimes going off topic, but this signalled to us how necessary it was to have a place to say things.

Generative themes:

“The reasons for migrating are different.”

“Migration is talked about in two ways: either poor people let’s help them! or it’s a problem!”

“The presence of migrants can help Italy in various areas: society, work, culture…”

“There is a lot of talk about migration, but migrants have no space, at any level, from the political to the academic, to the street level.”

“There is a repertoire of migrant stories of Italians too.”

And the most heartfelt:

“All people must be free to move for different reasons. Free to feel at home in the place they want to be. One does not accept the happiness of others. To the question: why am I here? we should be able to answer freely, without having to talk about hunger and war…”

“There is a need for a place where we can reflect and share deeply about the experiences of migration, it would be useful for everyone and for the integration process. Informal moments in which common interests and talents are discovered (sport, music…) are important.”

“The quality of those who had many difficulties, had to solve many problems, and learned how to fix many things, should be recognised in migrants in Italy.”

“Italian people also feel a lot of discomfort when faced with racist acts, of course it’s not like for those who live it in their skin…maybe from this common point we can start to do something different. Take a step in the direction of what Italians and foreigners want to say.”

“Negative conditioning also comes from TV and the media.”

Second step

A smaller group, transversal to the four focus groups, was formed to gather people willing to engage in the visual work. We started to design in a participatory way, presenting the most recurrent issues and themes that we gathered from the focus groups. After a moment of getting to know each other and summarising, we asked each person to position themselves around the theme that was strongest and most heartfelt for them and on which they would have something to say to a wider audience (we then defined it together with the participants, as well as the message and medium).

After our long discussion, interspersed with life stories, examples of campaigns that for the group were successful and functional alongside campaigns that we didn’t like at all, in terms of either form or content, the result was to focus on irony and speed, the “displacement effect”.

We want to strike a chord and make anyone, even people like us, smile about the endless opportunities for misunderstanding or, better still, for slipping into prejudice. We have collected life stories, lived by our foreign friends but not only, and we have appreciated the lightness with which, despite everything, every day they bring enthusiasm and exercise their great patience.

We found a recurring element that for a long time we tried to summarize in a phrase-slogan or in a hashtag that could “close” each short episode, but in the end we did not find the right words to translate that feeling … the feeling of those who realize they have done an action or said something based on a preconception or a habit, a feeling that is a mixture of embarrassment, shame, and a collapse of our certainties about what makes good citizens and good people. We have called it OOPS, as an exclamation of those who realise they have made a mistake, even a minor one, but if it impacts someone who is different from us and who struggles daily to assert their identity, their uniqueness and their value, perhaps we all need to think again.

And now…

We are now in the realisation phase, which consists of a rehearsal schedule and the actual filming.

We faced a further challenge in our process, which perhaps we had not thought about: our working group is made up of people with very heterogeneous and sometimes unstable living conditions; if this was a very valuable element during the exchange, it now risked being a pitfall. Someone has found a job, someone is very busy studying for a diploma, someone is no longer in Trento. So we have chosen to try a different approach , making a call out  that has the characteristics of a casting. We are looking for foreign and Italian people who are willing to to be our actors and actresses, embodying the story of someone else (who is willing and happy to share it) so that the process continues and grows. This for us is already the beginning of the dissemination of our visual work.

Nyitott Kör’s Visual Tools, and attempts at  alternative narrative creation with migrant language learners

Written by: Zsófia Jozifek, Nyitott Kör

Following our dear partner, EFA London’s guidelines, we started to explore the topic of migration together with a small group of language learners. In Nyitott Kör’s practice it was a new approach to create a group for learning a language, since the organization is a theatre in education company, and skill building is not the main focus, but the byproduct of the key activities we offer.

In order to create the group successfully, at the beginning of the project we acknowledged that we lacked the competence and network to involve and engage the target group of migrants. Therefore we searched for a contributor, who would bring in ideas and already had a similar intention, but lacked appropriate support for realizing it.

We were lucky enough to meet Samira Sinai, an Iranian-Hungarian theatre practitioner and German language teacher, who has been living in Budapest for the last decade. She worked with migrant and refugee youth before in different contexts, who are now young adults, and some of them were keen to learn German. Many of the participants came to Hungary as refugee children around 2013-2015, some of them as unaccompanied minors. Furthermore Samira brought enthusiasm and incredibly creative energies into the project, which was crystal clear to us from the very beginning. 

Samira gathered a group of young people with migrant backgrounds, and started to work with them in different places all over the city centre of Budapest, in cafés, and cultural places, where they were surrounded by locals, sometimes tourists, students, and others. Building on this method consciously, many small gestures, conversations, and dialogues made these occasions colourful and experiential for the students, entering into interactions with new people, seeing places and local, contemporary cultural products, which are usually outside of their sight and route. The group was named Drama Deutsch, because Drama and Theatre were supporting the language learning process. 

The Austrian Institute of Budapest, where Samira also works, offered support: their rooms could be used, and they offered to issue a certificate for participants completing a certain competence level. At the end of the process they offered a 50% scholarship for one of the learners, who wanted to continue with German language learning. 

As described in a previous article, according to statistical data, Hungary is among the least welcoming countries in Europe, influenced by a strong anti-immigrant campaign that affects the attitude of many people, who had never met  migrants and refugees before the 2015 events. Dehumanizing images and characterizations of migrant people are  dominating the mainstream narrative, therefore new narratives are needed  to visibilize the playing-feeling-working-learning Human.

Unfortunately this process had to stop when Covid-19 entered our lives, and public places became dangerous, thus we were forced to work in isolation. The Drama Deutsch group faced a crisis during the first lockdown, and members were slowly dropping out, becoming disengaged with the group and their learning in the online space. Participants also needed to deal with personal difficulties, as some of their daily activities, or main sources of income were radically changing. 

As a result, in the autumn of 2020, a new group was formed, with the particular aim to create visual tools focusing on alternative narratives around migration, as part of the campaign of the MiGreat Project. Samira and the new group explored the 12 steps described by EFA, through Zoom sessions, involving an Iranian artist, Abouzar Soltani in the group, who as a refugee lived in a camp with his son, being the only residents there. His story and ideas influenced the group, which was discovering all kinds of narratives, opinions and feelings about migration in Hungary and Europe.

According to Samira, “it was not an easy process, because the dominant narratives are not a past story for the Hungarian context, but they are present in the everyday, and I felt that participants needed to distance themselves  from these thoughts. They wanted to live their lives, concentrate on the practical things, work and study, and not think too much about the local society’s negative attitudes, because the whole thing was still kind of a trauma for them. They don’t know the solution, they don’t feel they have the power and strength to work towards it. Having to flee as kids, some of them detached from their family members, it is a bit too much to even face the anti-immigrant narratives, and the force of these. I doubted how far to push it, and I doubted my position. After all, I am not a refugee, I came to Europe in more peaceful circumstances. I am ready to get creative about the topic, but maybe for others this is still a big step. There were really good ideas when we were exploring the potential of alternative narratives. Through Zoom there were disengaging difficulties, like bad internet connection, and the very present distractions of the participants’ surroundings, which made it hard to dedicate enough time for this exploration. We needed to get the best out of the limited time, because I knew that the group could not be held together for a long period and many more occasions.”

The ideas were brainstormed by the group (4-6 participants on weekly occasions for 3 months), and then creatively designed and recorded by Abouzar, mentored by Samira, and edited by Helia Chaichi, a 17 years old member of the group, who has ambitions of becoming a multimedia artist. Nyitott Kör was very happy to support the creative work of the contributors, and provide necessary tools to help them realize their ideas.

The two visual products of this collaboration are ready for you to engage with, and reflect about.

Thanks to Samira’s creative and committed work, more visual tools were created and gathered, which we will share with you soon!

Introduction to Visual Tools

For the second Intellectual output of the MiGREAT project, we set out to create a visual tool to counter negative narratives around migration. As a secondary aim, we sought to better understand the methods – working on a counter-narrative video project with ESOL students (migrants and refugees with English as an additional language). 

Groups of ESOL students came together to discuss the topic with a view to making something visual that pushed back against some of the dominant narratives they wanted to oppose. At a later stage in the project, students said they wanted to influence those who are receptive to more positive stories and narratives about migration and who may be supportive of ESOL campaigning. 

  • Overview of the project 

Four teachers at EFA approached their students to ask if they wanted to be part of the project. It would be 6 sessions exploring the theme of migration and narratives, ending with a clear message and a preferred medium for delivering it, before the next stage; designing the visual tool. All classes agreed to take part. The four teachers met to map out the classes, plan the first session and sketch the next two sessions before we agreed the courses would diverge, depending on what emerged. Teachers followed a 6 session course structure that we often use at EFA (Making Meaning, Going Deeper, Broadening Out), extending in some cases where necessary..

  • The process

To get things started, we introduced the topic of ‘migration’ in class using a ‘picture pack’ (a pack of random photos and pictures that you spread over the floor – or a digital version of this. Teachers laid out pictures on the table and asked students to choose one that reminded them (or that they felt was connected to) the word ‘migration’. They could share a feeling, an anecdote, an opinion etc.  We then went round with each student saying why they’d chosen their photo. 

From there each teacher facilitated a different path, exploring the topic further and bringing in activities such as an acrostic poem (Migration), story-telling and card cluster (writing all our ideas and opinions about migration and then grouping them into themes). All groups did an activity where they categorised migration narratives into four groups: some people think…..most people think……I think……not many people think……. As demonstrated in the image . 

Once the classes were done, our four EFA teachers met to discuss what had come up, and grouped the different narratives using a card cluster tool, adding headings to six main areas.  Over 30 students participated across the four groups.

We then invited students from the classes to meet and discuss what they’d like to go into the visuaL tool and what type of tool they preferred (cartoon, video, animation, poster, meme etc.). A group of 17 met on Zoom, went into breakout rooms and discussed 1) what was the most important message to share and 2) what medium they preferred

The three groups reconvened and fed back their choice. Each group had chosen something different but agreed they wanted to use video. After a whole group discussion, there was a strong vote for ‘migrants work really hard to learn English, the government should help them more to do so’ 

  • Reflections
  1. Did we achieve our aims?

Students shared all sorts of narratives around migration (mostly positive, some negative). We then formed a student working group to go deeper into the positive messages students wanted to express and share and students planned a video together with the support of one teacher/facilitator. We wanted to work with migrants on what messages they wanted to communicate in a positive way rather than what people say about migrants that you want to oppose. We are glad we took this approach. It produces counter-narratives and doesn’t risk recycling and inadvertently reinforcing the negative narratives.

  1. Our biggest challenge

The biggest challenge was deciding the content and format for the video, given that everyone had slightly different ideas and so much to say. We hired a videomaker to help facilitate some scripting sessions and then a videographer to film. 

  1. What we enjoyed?

The whole has process has been really enjoyable. Students were engaged and enjoyed exploring the topic throughout the classes, and we had a great meeting with a smaller group of 17 to decide what the main message should be. A core group of four students then wrote the script with the support of one of our teachers and a film maker, and all four are featured in the video, expressing how they feel about learning English in the UK and what they feel needs to change. 

  1. What we  learnt during this process? 

Zoom has been a very useful tool for connecting our disparate students. The students have really enjoyed working together and it’s great to be able to facilitate this in a convenient and safe way. We have also learned that communications and counter-narrative works veery well as part of the language and literacy learning process. Messaging relates very well to critical literacy and the kind of choices we make when we write and speak in order to have the right impact on our audience. 

  1. What makes our visual tool influential?

It is influential in it’s authenticity. It is created by ESOL students to talk about language learning, which is one of the major issues facing migrants and refugees in the UK (and across Europe). 

  1. What would we  have done differently next time?

We would have moved a little more quickly from the initial 6 week stage to the video design stage so that the initial learning was fresh in the minds. Having said that the delay was largely due to the difficulties caused by the pandemic was was tricky to work around.

Interview with Roberto Mazzini, Theatre of the Oppressed practitioner (Giolli Cooperative)

On the 20th-21st of March the MiGreat! partnership participated in an online training, offered by our Italian partner, Giolli. The aim was to support  the construction of a Forum Theatre script on the theme: “Dominant Narrative of Migrants and Migration and possible counter-narratives and alternative narratives”, which will be an outcome of the project.

In the following paragraphs you can read an interview with Roberto Mazzini from Giolli.

Maria Grazia: We have with us an expert facilitator who, over the years, worked with many groups on various topics of social interest: Roberto Mazzini.

First of all, we ask him what it meant to work online with a group that never had the opportunity to meet before?

Roberto: It was not the first time for me, fortunately. For example, I worked online with a group from Morocco that I never met live and the same happened in other experiences I had with groups of teachers.

The experience of theatre for me, and not only for me, is the encounter between human beings face to face, that you can see and touch, not mediated by any system. Otherwise, it is another kind of experience, cinema for example. The fact of being mediated by the screen and other online systems, also bring technical issues such as delays, connection problems, static posture, and framing within a fixed frame, somewhat distorts the very essence of theatre.

However, it can have interesting peculiarities, you can also make interesting discoveries.

M.G.: What were the differences with respect to the usual situation in which you have always worked, what were the tricks and, possibly, the surprises, the positive or negative discoveries with respect to the medium?

R.: Even Giolli Cooperative was faced with an initial dilemma that almost led us to decide to give up everything and postpone it until when it would be possible to do it live. Eventually, on 3 October 2020, we presented our first online Forum Theatre and convinced ourselves that something was possible. It must be said that it was done with a group of experienced actors with whom we often work, and this certainly made it possible to do the rehearsals, also online and at a distance, in an effective and fertile way. So I would say that there is definitely a difference between a group that is known, trusted and trained in acting and theatrical performance, and a new and unknown group whose level of experience is not clear.

A fundamental element that changes the way actors act is that with the camera you see yourself immediately, something that does not happen in live performances, the actor perceives himself according to the reactions of the audience, he is mirrored in them. This is an element of immediate and continuous feedback with which we can play and which we can take into account to adjust and self-correct. I found the most critical points in the quality of the voice and the tones, the live voice and the electronic voice… they are incomparable!

M.G.: How was the training set up in the time available, i.e. three days of 6 hours each? The group of participants had to go through the whole process of creating a scene suitable for a Forum Theatre. Did the phases and the links between one phase and another really lead to the creation of a meaningful product with respect to expectations?

R.: Every TO process is introduced by a phase dedicated to the formation of a group atmosphere, in which playing, touching and seeing each other is central. In short, the feeling of that the other is there and responds. In this case, these dimensions were not present, so the creation of the group was a bit penalized and perhaps the subsequent path risked being less inclusive. The degree of involvement can be different and this depends on various factors: the type of device, the environment in which each one is, the quality of the connection… all this has an effect with respect to the feeling of being more or less part of something…

Generally speaking, online it is difficult to really put into practice the concept of “gamexcercises” coined by Boal, in which the two dimensions are united: the individual dimension typical of exercise and the collective dimension typical of the game. Online, for example, the whole dimension of physical contact is lost. There are exercises that have been even more successful than live, because the screen can protect you from embarrassment, you remain at home, we are all less directly involved.

As far as the setting of the training is concerned, we included between the initial phase of the group creation/de-mechanisation and the subsequent search for the nodes (problems), two phases that seemed to us very important for the MiGREAT project-specific focus, that is the search for dominant narratives, counter-narratives and alternative narratives. The exploration of the dominant narrative was really interesting and inspiring, in the sense that for example also working on other oppressions, let’s take bullying or gender violence, we could start by asking ourselves “what is said about…? And what is not said or what could be said?” This phase is very useful for the following ones and allows us to focus on the micro-macro and social dimensions of these problems and not reduce them to psychological issues or interpersonal misunderstandings. Nonviolence distinguishes between direct, structural and cultural violence, the dominant narrative represents precisely cultural violence and is the one that justifies the other two.

Then we moved on to identifying nodes and critical situations that have to do with immigration, trying to derive them from the previous phases.

The subsequent process was more or less the classic one, the one we normally use for the construction of a Forum Theatre on a given theme: the aggregation of the nodes into thematic nuclei that give life to theatrical embryos, the cleaning of the theatrical embryo and the staging of the Forum Theatre. We have also experimented with some rehearsal techniques to improve the theatricality of the scene, as well as the actual Jokering (facilitation) so that the experience possibly leads to some transformative solutions.

M.G.: As far as we know of the project, the training proposed by Giolli had a double purpose: to prepare the participants to carry out autonomously a similar course in their own territories (Italy, France, Hungary, England), but also to ask the participants to get involved in the first person in the experimentation of the activities… to do “as if…“, an essential practice so dear to the theatre people. Also in relation to the many other experiences Giolli has in this field, how did it go?

R.: I am afraid that this aspect did not work very well. In the planning of the days we had foreseen time slots that we called META, devoted to group reflection. Ask yourself, for example: do I understand? Have I not understood? Is what is proposed suitable for the path I am planning to follow? How can I make adjustments? What consequences could I have?

But in reality these opportunities have been used very little. One factor may be fatigue, because in the evaluation phase the participants told us clearly that to be online six hours a day is heavy and tiring. It could also be that each person had a creative idea in mind and concentrated on that, postponing adaptation with their working group until later. The assimilation of information may have taken place at an experiential level and then, depending on the role the participants will have to play in their local production work, things learned will come out.  Or, again, it could be that not all participants had the objective of proposing the workshop to someone else, and therefore were not interested in doing a META reflection.

M.G.: For those who will really have to replicate the experience of the workshop and also facilitate the moment of public performance of the Forum Theatre, it is fundamental to focus also on the figure of the Joker. The Joker is an essential figure for the Forum Theatre session at the moment of public performance. She or he facilitates, observes, accompanies with maieutics the emergence and clarification of important and transformative themes, and encourages people to try and find solutions coherent with the scene and with the characters. Given the many Forums he has conducted, we asked Roberto Mazzini, what tools has he gradually filled his Joker toolbox with?

R.: I am increasingly convinced that the most important aspect is the maieutic attitude. It is a posture to hold that is worth more than any other specific skill or competence. Don’t judge, ask questions, be curious, investigate and give space to opinions that are different and contrary to your own. This is not very easy to teach, it is a matter of changing one’s attitude from judging to suspending judgement, if one is not able to do this there could be problems in conducting and in the relationship with the audience. If you can do this, the rest can be learned by doing, experimenting and making mistakes. There are general indications to facilitate the process of activating the audience towards possible interventions, for example, at the end of the first vision of the model, ask the audience the classic questions: is it real? What is the problem? Can something be done?

Just as at the end, after the audience has intervened, ask: What happened? Did something change? Did you get what you wanted?

In this specific Forum Theatre, on this specific issue, a good advice could be to conduct it in two people, the first one more in close contact with the audience and always live on the interaction, while the second one more dedicated to researching what is of interest for the focus of our MIGREAT project: that is to identify the three types of narratives (Dominant, Counter, Alternative) as they are expressed and developed in the scene. In general, however, having someone on staff to keep track (writing them down so that they are visible to everyone, like a route map) of the interventions is very important, to really evolve consciousness and build a collective research path.

M.G.: In the past year, with almost 100% of the activities being transferred online, what particular tool or support has had to be added to the toolbox?

R.: For online theatrical performance, technology has given us a few possibilities, some of which we at Giolli have experimented with and some others we have seen from colleagues working with TO around the world.

– Cameras on for the actors on stage only.

– If possible, use the option SHOW ONLY PARTICIPANTS WITH VIDEO ON.

– Turn off the microphone of the actors on stage with the camera on and have sounds and music coming from a staff member with camera off and audio on.

– Construct the scene together with the audience, showing for example first each actor in a static and mute image, then in relation to each other, then with the addition of a movement or a sentence … gradually asking the audience to imagine together what the scene is, in what context it is and who the protagonists are.

A critical issue, which is more difficult to resolve, concerns the Joker and his ability to see the audience. By not seeing them, he misses all the information from the immediate feedback that normally guide his steps. Faced with a screen that gives no signals, with an environment that is generally colder because the initial activation and warm-up games were only played virtually, even the Joker’s gaze is a glimpse into the void, and he will necessarily have to load and reinforce other aspects (safety, frequent questions and interruptions, a few stories to tell…).

M.G.: Speaking of stories to tell, do you have any anecdotes to share that might say something about Forum Theatre from a narrative rather than directly didactic point of view?

R.: The one that immediately comes to mind is very indicative of the power of Forum Theatre as a detector of mind-body unity. 

We were in Turin, about twenty years ago. The theme was AIDS and the scene was very simple: disco, an HIV-positive SHE is approached by a HIM, first they talk, then they drink together, dance… in short, he asks her to leave the club and invites her to follow him home to finish the evening together. The scene is interrupted as she is about to go with him. 

The audience was unanimously against this situation in which there was no mention of protection for sex, in which she had not warned about her health situation, a great debate was created. One girl in particular from the audience intervened with great decision, saying: it’s simple, just tell him! I’m HIV positive, then he will decide what to do…clearly there is a risk of losing him, but there are things that are too important not to be told. So she was called upon to replace the protagonist by bringing this solution which was very clear to her. The scene started again and repeated itself in all its parts: the two of them are having fun, they get to know each other, they dance and drink together, they leave the club… and when he, looking her in the eyes, invites her to his house, she says: yes, all right! and goes with him. 

The audience burst out wondering why, if the solution was to expose herself and say everything, she had omitted to say that very important thing. The girl who had done the substitution answered sincerely saying that, from sitting and watching the scene to being inside the scene itself, the world had changed completely. Involved body and soul in what was happening in the disco with the boy who was courting her, she could only say: yes, that’s fine! 

This is a good example of how Forum Theatre has the quality of highlighting our ability to achieve what we think or want, of how the emergence of forces of which we are not always aware can prevent us from achieving what we think is right.

Another significant story about the effectiveness of Forum Theatre in overcoming useless divisions and conflicts between oppressed groups is more recent and concerns a work carried out in Modena.

In an apartment building with 280 families, Giolli intervened because of the difficulties related to drugs, prostitution, police arriving at all hours of the day and night, searches… in short, a difficult and infamous condominium with very strong conflicts at all levels, multicultural and popular. After studying the context with interviews and questionnaires, the performance was built on all the relevant information from the inhabitants and on the strongest themes and was staged in the apartment building. All the inhabitants were invited and about 50 people came to see the performance, more or less half of them Italian women of medium-high age and the other half younger foreigners, all male. The audience was also physically split in two, with Italian women on one side and foreigners on the other. After viewing the model, the two sides confirmed that it was indeed a snapshot of reality and they did not hesitate to blame each other for the various problems: of course, it’s just like that because THEY… while WE… The debate was intense and, perhaps for the first time, was mediated by our presence, so it was possible to go a little beyond accusation and offence. In fact, we overcame the barriers and from that collective moment, various collaborative proposals were born: for example, using someone’s skills to maintain the building in exchange for an economic reward, i.e. a saving for all; resulting in a reduction in rent for those who would do the work and in the building being in better conditions. Or the involvement of foreign women together with Italian women to exchange knowledge in the kitchen, to lower mistrust, bring cultures closer together and… learn new recipes. The problems of that condominium have not been solved, it is still a difficult area, but the objective of that day, that is to put two oppressed groups on the same level and to open the vision to common points as strengths, has been achieved. A change of dynamics, new alliances and the possibility to see things differently than before.

M.G.:Regarding the specific theme on which the work of the three days focused, was there any particularly problematic or difficult element to focus on? 

R.: I come back again to the difference between COUNTER-NARRATIVES and ALTERNATIVE NARRATIVES, I think this point is not easy to assimilate because the difference is not clear and the definitions are not clear. During the three days of training we managed to offer some activities to clarify this difference, but it is a point of attention that I would like to keep emphasizing. I don’t want to say that alternative narratives are better, but perhaps they have more lasting effects in the medium to long term than point-to-point rebuttal. Not least because counter narratives are often based on rational arguments, which have to do with truth, and are defensive, whereas the alternative narrative, which almost forgets the dominant narrative, seems to me to have more to do with creativity, imagination, possibility… With nourishment and fertility. With this, however, we should not forget the question of power, which probably gives a different weight and resonance to the narrative sphere in which it is placed.

Another difficulty encountered, despite the fact that the working group had both theatrical experience and knowledge of the theme, is that of clarifying WHAT IS THE QUESTION, WHAT IS THE PROBLEM. We could reflect a lot on the difficulty we have in clarifying the core of the question, it could have something to do with our time, with the culture to which we belong, or even with the concern for the aesthetic and artistic performance which risks distancing from the central message we want to communicate.

M.G.: The individual partners of MIGREAT project have the task of working with a mixed group of migrants and activists, thus a community strongly involved in the issue of DOMINANT NARRATIVE ON MIGRANTS AND MIGRATION, as well as strongly motivated to promote, propose and (who knows) produce a COUNTER-NARRATIVE or an ALTERNATIVE NARRATIVE on the topic. For the participants, the training has been a sort of “laboratory simulation”? Or perhaps they too had a similar composition to that which they will find in the near future in their groups in their own countries?

R.: In fact, the community that worked together for the three-day training is a mixed community, made up of migrants and natives. We don’t want to identify the migrant person with a single image that represents them. It was a good opportunity to broaden everybody’s points of view.

M.G.: Giolli Cooperative has also been involved in training for years, so it has often found itself in this “double” dimension, are there experiences born during the training that have turned into real public actions? Campaigns? Activations of communities and territories on a specific theme or in reaction to a specific event in “our history”?


R.: The experience mentioned above of the condominium in the city of Modena was a training for students of the University of Modena and Reggio. A small association of condominium women approached the University which then approached Giolli, we chose to build the intervention with the involvement of the students. We hope that something significant will come out of the experiences of the MIGREAT project!

Once upon a time (Migration stories)

Once upon a time there was a magical kingdom called The Land of the Bears. A beautiful young girl lived there, in the most hidden village of the kingdom, her name was Irén. Irén was always a dreamer, an adventurous soul. While the other girls only wanted to reach the end of the garden, she longed for the distant mountains and forests. 

Her fate was decided long ago by the village matchmakers. Once she felt ready, she would marry the butcher’s son and give birth to dozens of children.  The parents had already found the perfect house for them, near the end of the garden, where they could peacefully live as a family. But Irén always had a strong attraction towards the unknown, she read about faraway lands and distant places. The people of the village always felt that there was something somewhat odd about her, they did not understand her desire for adventures.

“My dear Irén, how can you just leave everything behind? How can you even think about such nonsense? And why would you do? You have everything you need: marriage, a house and soon  children! Your life will be perfect, what else do you want you foolish little girl! Are you craving to see the City of Happiness? But why? You must remain here, where your mother gave birth to you!” – said the old lady. 

Poor little Irén just listened to the never ending words of the old women, but her dreams and passions were much bigger than that. She had a fire burning inside her and nobody  was able to dim it. One particular morning, after waking up, she decided to visit the City of Happiness. Her mother gave her a pouch full of bread and meat, and her grandmothers’ book of prayers. The walk lasted for three days and three nights  during which a magical bird led the way to the City of Happiness.

The ease and calmness of her home town was about to fade away  with this new  noisy and mighty city. As she followed her dreams, she met an old woman and her husband, who was a tailor. This  woman became her dearest friend, and her husband the tailor taught her how to sew. In no time she used the needle like a fairy, her work became desired everywhere. One morning, a mysterious man knocked at the door: a young soldier from the City of the Meadows. His name was Adam, he was a handsome, brave young fellow.

Good morning, I am searching for the famous old tailor. Is he here?” asked the young man. 

Of course my dear, come closer! My husband is working inside, go find him.” said the old woman with a kind smile.

“Thank you! And who is this  young lady next to you, dear old woman?” stammered Adam.

My name is Irén.” replied the girl in a shy manner, “I am happy to show you around the shop if you like!”

It was love at first sight for them. They  would meet in secret, because Adam was a soldier and their love was forbidden. In the meantime, Irén worked  extremely hard  and everyone admired her;even in the City of the Iron Tower they wanted her to sew them beautiful dresses and invited her to visit them. The young couple  were walking on air, they thought they were living the dream.  Irén’s hope was to  make money for their wedding, whilst Adam waited for her in the City of Happiness. However, something changed and Irén started to feel like something was not just right.

My dear Adam, is everything alright? You are so strange lately.” she asked.

You know that I love you, but a secret amour is always impossible. We cannot be together anymore . They threatened me, our secret was revealed. So please, go to the City of the Iron Tower and in time I will find you there!” replied Adam.

Irén became  very sad, she didn’t know what to do. Yet, the magical bird appeared again. The courageous girl left everything behind once again to discover that her real  journey was just about to start. Her new passion was dancing.

Come my dear, you should meet this boy. He is a dancer!’ said the old woman.

You are so kind, thank you, but I am not searching for love, never again!”

“Oh my dear Irén, don’t be a fool. Fani is a man but he is not interested in women like the others.” explained the old woman.

Irén and Fani started to dance together. They practiced all day and all night, until their  shoes wore out. One day they decided to show their passion for dancing  to the entire world! They wanted to dance in every city and every kingdom! Irén and Fani started to pack their belongings and made their dreams come true   for the next few years. They had to say goodbye to the City of Happiness, and their eldest friends.

To be continued..