Program November 2012 – September 2013
“Refugees on the Move” is based on the incredible idea of using dance as a tool for social and cultural mediation, within dozens of refugee camps in Sub-Saharan Africa.
The program “Refugees on the Move,” initiated in partnership with the UNHCR, has three precise goals: reducing violence within refugee camps, contributing to the rebuilding of self-confidence among refugees, and increasing the dialogue between the refugees and their neighboring populations through dance and physical expression.
In this context, “Refugees on the Move” is planning on the intervention of a team of artists made up of a dozen dancers and musicians, led by a choreographer from the country, over the course of several sessions for about a year. In the Central African Republic, it is the choreographer Boniface Watanga and his company Kêkerêke that intervened in 2013 in the refugee camp Batilimo.
Ever since January 2012, the UNHCR (United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees), located in Bangui, Central African Republic, has been regularly supplying aid to more than 24 000 refugees. Whether Sudanese or Congolese, they all fled their homes because of the conflict or deprivation they faced and hope to one day be able to start their lives again.
In reality, however, several years often pass before refugees are able to return to their home province or country. In some cases, a third generation of refugees will even develop within the camp population. The persistence of this situation tends to swallow up refugees’ optimism and hope for a better future, especially since camp residents often remain relatively closed off from the outside world.
Setting up “Refugees on the move” in the Central African Republic seeks to help improve refugees’ living conditions through three clear objectives: reducing violence within the UNHCR camps; helping to restore hope and self-esteem among refugees, and building links with the outside world, all by way of dance and physical expression.
The replication of the pilot project launched in November 2011 in Chad will take place through a genuine handover between African artists. Indeed, the Central African dancer, actor and storyteller Boniface Watanga recently spent three weeks being trained by the Chadian choreographer Taïgué Ahmed and twelve dancers from his Ndam Se Na company so as to be prepared to lead the next AAD dance workshops in the refugee camp of Batalimo, located east of Bangui.
The first session of workshops took place in February 2013, introducing hundreds of Congolese refugees to the therapeutic effects of dance.
The primary objective of the program is to bring a sense of wellbeing to refugees and to aid in the reduction of intra and inter community violence.
Beyond the physical aspect, these workshops also serve as an occasion to spread preventative health messages (AIDS, hygiene…), to raise awareness among refugees regarding the importance of education, to denounce violence against women, and to encourage them to take care of themselves and take on responsibilities.
In the long term, the goal of these various sessions is to incorporate dance into the camps. During the workshops, the choreographer and his team of dancers scout out natural leaders and talented dancers who will be in charge of organizing and managing dance groups within the camps.
A genuine handover system between African artists has been put into place: the choreographers participating in the program “Refugees on the Move” are trained in the refugee camps by the choreographer and his group. Therefore, Boniface Watanga trained the choreographers Ciza Muhirwa and Aloyce Makonde, in order for them to replicate this program in Burundi and Tanzania.
The workshops ended with the achievement of a few public performances in the camp, thereby heightening the awareness among 7 000 refugees of the benefits of dance and of the themes dealt with during the performances. The choreographer and his company had to deal with difficult security conditions, linked to the unrest in the Central African Republic during this time period, but the program was nonetheless a great success.