The Amani People’s Theatre (APT) works with communities and children’s institutions in the Nairobi, Kilifi, Kwale, Kisumu and Marsabit countries.
Founded by university and college students in 1994, it was created to allow young people the opportunity to discuss the legacy of the events of 1992, in which there violent political and ethnic clashes. At the same time, it allowed refugees from the Great Lakes region in Kenyan camps the opportunity to come to terms with their experiences.
A unique methodology
APT uses participatory theatre to bring people together. Young volunteer artists integrate education, entertainment and research, exploring conflict, its legacy and how communities can respond to it. Working with small and medium sized communities, APT has conducted workshops and performances throughout Kenya as well as in the greater East African region, Europe and the US. Its work is inspired by African indigenous theatre as well as the theories of the Brazilian educators Paulo Freire and Augusto Boal. It weaves together performance art, peace education, reconciliation dialogues and traditional African rituals in order to fashion stories of peace for all.
APT also provides specific training in conflict transformation and peacebuilding, inter-faith dialogue, trauma healing, child rehabilitation and crime prevention, drama therapy, and psychodrama using multi-arts approaches.
APT's general priority areas include working to deal with conflict based on identity, ownership and access to land, political violence and identity, poverty-related issues, and historical injustices.
Some of the particular peacebuilding initiatives it has undertaken over the years include:
- Supporting the response of community based organisations to conflict in Kenya's Coast, Nyanza and formerly Rift Valley province, by training community facilitators.
- Establishing an inter-religious dialogue forum in the Lamukani community in the Kwale county.
- Rehabilitating and reintegrating young offenders at Nairobi Children's Remand Home
- Training members of the community in North Pokot in involving women in governance issues.
- HIV/AIDS awareness and coping strategy training in the Nyanza and Coast regions
- Human rights and governance training and advocacy in the Coast, Western and Northern, regions.
The APT uses participatory theatre in all its interventions with members of the community. Theatre gives spectators the opportunity to stand outside a conflict, watch adversaries outline their conflict, and empathise with their positions. Audiences have the chance to witness other people encounter the same challenges they face, but from a different perspective.
Participatory theatre is even more effective, encouraging spectators to identify with characters in conflict, as well as asking them to step onto the stage and literally fill a character’s shoes.
Throughout the participatory event, the public participate by responding to, adapting and challenging situations. This form of theatre aims to join entertainment with an exploration of attitudes and the sharing of knowledge. Plays become a mirror of problems and conflict situations experienced, and allow community members to explore alternative ways to resolve disputes. Being able to to see how conflicts can be transformed allows the audience to see an alternative future.
Storytelling success: working with young people in Marsabit County
Marsabit County is located in the northern frontier of Kenya, bordering Ethiopia. It is remote, desolate and underdeveloped. An arid area, it is inhabited by several ethnic pastoralist groups who have fought for several generations over access to water and pasture, as well as to secure identity-based claims to land. There is significant clan politics and cattle rustling, and there is also the threat of incursion from other groups across the border in Ethiopia. The proliferation of small arms in the country makes violence an easy solution to problems.
Amani Peoples Theatre has been working with youth both in and outside of schools in the region since 2009. Using theatre forums, young people have had the opportunity to reflect on the conflicts which continue to divide rather than unite different ethnic communities. They later decided themselves to conduct their own forums in their respective communities to help further the work.
The initiative has been strengthened through sport. Young people from several communities, including the Borana, Rendille, Gabra and Samburu people in the Badasa and Leyayi localities, agreed to seek sponsorship and set up a football tournament. With young players bought together in peaceful, entertaining competition, they have continued to work on new ways to reflect on how best to deal with shared problems.