Orphanage and Dance Company Unite for AIDS awareness

Participation and Self-expression

This article describes a strategy for drawing on children’s participation in the performing arts to communicate AIDS messages. Author Alexia Lewnes illustrates what she characterises as “the transforming power of art” by describing a collaboration between an orphanage and “one of Africa’s most celebrated dance companies”. As detailed here, in mid-October 2005, members of the National Song and Dance Company of Mozambique, with United Nations Children’s Fund (UNICEF) support, began working with 35 children aged 8 to 16 from Arco Iris orphanage.

The dancers had 45 days to choreograph and produce a 45-minute musical called “Window of Hope” to commemorate World AIDS Day (December 1) at Maputo’s national theatre. David Abilio Mondlane, director of the dance troupe, explains the thinking behind this collaboration as follows: “We try to use art as a tool to pass along messages. We realised that maybe we can have a greater impact if we give a voice to the community itself.” He explains that, initially, he envisioned – quite simply – just bringing in the children and teaching them to dance, but found that many had suffered traumas and so were very shy or were undisciplined.

To address this challenge, Mondlane told the participating children his own story of losing both of his own parents as a child, highlighting the steps he took to get to the place he is now. When someone tells their story, it’s a type of liberation. One by one, the children began sharing information about their own lives, some describing their losses and pain. In response, he says, “The kids just opened up. They needed someone who would listen to what they’ve been through. They needed to be heard.”

Read the full article

Source: The Communication Initiative, November 05 2007

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