“Humans are amazing, especially in times of struggle, but to make social change, we need to be moved.”
Two theatre-troublemakers are breaking all the rules with their radically inclusive female-led theatre collective. Rhiannon White and Evie Manning have created Common Wealth Theatre to breathe life into stories by taking theatre out of the theatre – smashing right through the middle class mould and onto factory floors, boxing gyms and even the Cardiff council estate where Rhiannon was brought up.
As hope sprouts in the margins, we asked the visionary dramatists to tell us about five grassroots projects that explore creativity as a force for good: “People are hungry to connect and be connected. People give a shit about the places they live and they want to see change.”
Their five examples highlight how artistic endeavours can challenge perceptions, even as things move online amid the pandemic. Take a trip from extreme environments in Yemen and Gaza to Brazil’s streets to Wales in lockdown. The stage is set… but not as you know it.
► 5 places where art becomes activism
⚡ 1. YEMEN: Filmmakers help Yemen reclaim its voice
With Comra Films, two indie filmmakers are changing the narrative on Yemen. Film is an extremely powerful form of expression for youth living in a time of war.
Rhiannon & Evie: The women behind Comra are incredible filmmakers and activists, creating groundbreaking, artistic content in an extreme environment. We recently worked with them on our last show, ‘I Have Met the Enemy (and the enemy is us)’ to find and film a Yemeni artist called Shatha Altowai, who appeared in the show via video.
Read more ► Film is a powerful outlet in war
⚡ 2. WALES: How to use white privilege for good
As Wales entered its first lockdown, Mymuna Soleman set up Privilege Café as a virtual space for difficult conversations. She just never expected it to take off.
Rhiannon & Evie: Privilege Café as an online space where people openly talk about race and where difficult conversations can take place. The space is attended by hundreds of people every week and Mymuna has single-handedly created a space to listen and learn without judgement, tackling some real complex themes. It’s been mindblowing watching it grow and develop, one of those inspiring ones.
Read more ► Are you ready to discuss ‘difficult’ topics?
⚡ 3. GAZA: Make breakz, not bombs
Backflipping for freedom in Gaza, Camps Breakerz aren’t letting rubble-strewn pavements stop them dancing in the street. Meet the B-boys and B-girls in headspinning their way to hope, peace and positivity.
Rhiannon & Evie: I met Camps Breakerz in Gaza in 2010 and was blown away by their energy, passion and mission of dancing over occupation. They were working as nurses in their day jobs and learning and teaching breakdancing in the evenings. They dance as resistance: to the occupation, to the siege, to the struggle. They learned to breakdance from Youtube, from each other. They use their bodies as resistance to celebrate every movement they make, the way their bodies work – they create dance from all they have. I remember watching them dance in the dark – electricity going out – and they still continued. That’s why we want the world to know them, because even in the most extreme occupation they embody hope.
Read more ► Got moves? Join the crew!
⚡ 4. BRAZIL: Tinder for Brazil’s street recyclers
Art is a powerful tool of social transformation. In São Paulo, people are using Cataki to swipe right to improve the lives of the city’s poorest residents. And it all started with a graffiti artist.
Rhiannon & Evie: Just like the Tinder dating app, Cataki is all about matching people – in this case, matching local waste collectors with people who have recyclable waste. It’s innovative and led by social activists to create meaningful change that is active and long lasting. We admire how practical this solution is and how direct action can be used to benefit both humans and the environment. Art can be a powerful tool of social transformation.
Read more ► Download the app cleaning streets
⚡ 5. PALESTINE: Instruments of peace
Music gives children a new language when everything else seems to fall apart. In Bethlehem’s refugee camps, it can be hard to escape the noise of raids, bombs and snipers. But Sounds of Palestine is an orchestra with a difference.
Rhiannon & Evie: Sounds of Palestine is a beautiful organisation that teaches young children how to play orchestral instruments. We love this organisation because it gives not only a safe space for children to be, but also encourages them to develop creative skills, giving them a focus outside of the occupation. A whole generation of Palestinian kids are growing up playing instruments – a cultural revolution.
Read more ► Bringing the magic of music to children
Read more ► How to take theatre out of the theatre