By Caroline Wilson, BTC Student
On April 29, I attended an evening discussion with Susie Erenrich, the Executive Director for the Cultural Center for Social Change. The presentation was part of the Beyond the Classroom People Power Faculty and Film Series this semester. She gave a presentation on her thesis about Albert Camus’ call for artists to “create dangerously” and what she thought this meant. She defined “create dangerously” by asking the following questions about artists:
- Threaten the social, economic, and political status quo?
- Mobilize for systematic change?
- Introduce new practices and tactics into a community?
- Openly express the hidden transcripts of opposing views?
- Keep the stories of repressive power alive?
The three artists she covered in her presentation were Augusto Boal, Ngugi wa Thiong’o, and the Mississippi Caravan of Music. She argued that all these artists “created dangerously” through their work.
Augusto Boal was from Brazil and was an actor/writer that based his theater practices in a pedagogy about oppression. He would submit his scripts and they would come back highly censored so he started what he called a “newspaper theater.” The actors would go into an alley, rehearse their play, perform and then leave. The government eventually caught up with him and he was imprisoned and then exiled from his country.
Ngugi wa Thiong’o was the chair of the literature department at the University of Nairobi in Kenya. He was also part of the Kamirithu Community Education and Cultural Center. This group of artists believed in horizontal leadership: the idea that everyone is a leader. They learned to read by writing their own scripts and they built their own theater when they were not allowed to perform in others because of the controversial nature of their plays. Ngugi was also exiled from his country.
In 1964 Mississippi was the most dangerous state for African Americans. People were getting shot for trying to register to vote. Caucasian college students from the North volunteered to go down to Mississippi for the summer in an effort to try to get people to vote. The Ku Klux Klan murdered three boys during that summer. The Mississippi Caravan of Music was a group of performers that came down to Mississippi to sing about what was happening and to rally the civil rights workers.
Edited by Dr. Caitlin Haugen, Adjunct Instructor, Beyond the Classroom