High School Girls in Mali Tackle Social Issues Through Theater

A cultural rebirth is taking place in the center of Mali’s capital, in the Bamako Koura district, as the theater festival ‘Les Praticables’ leaves its mark. This festival offers the community new creative and civic perspectives in addition to enjoyment.

The drama ‘ET ON SE RACONTE!’ is set in a family courtyard and opens with a happy marriage that unexpectedly becomes tragic due to a forced union. The fact that this performance is the result of the collaborative efforts of seven Mopti-based high school ladies, ages 15 to 17, is what really sets it apart. The circumstances they encounter on a daily basis served as inspiration for their script.

Mariam Sidibé, one of the young playwrights, shares the motivation behind their work: “We try to convince people not to do things that can have consequences, like choosing forced marriages. If you force your daughter to marry, she may have bad ideas in her head. We can say she will commit suicide, she will run away.” Their play serves as a powerful medium to raise awareness and challenge societal norms.

But these girls’ struggles go beyond the individual to include the larger regional background. The menace of Islamist threats has been a problem for the people of Mopti since 2011. Their stories vividly capture the intricate relationship between violence and family.

Coumba Traoré, another high school student involved in the project, highlights the insidious nature of terrorism, stating, “We see that the terrorists, especially in Mopti, are people who are very close, but because of money or small things, they will take up arms. Some even lost their mothers. Some lost their sons, and the person who killed them could be the neighbor.” Through their art, these young voices shed light on the intricacies of conflict within their community.

Jeanne Diama, the facilitator of the writing workshops in Mopti, played a crucial role in allowing the girls to shape their ideas and craft their own performance. She emphasizes, “If I logically looked at things, it’s their story, not mine. So, to avoid appropriating their story, I decided to push the writing workshops even further so that the story we will hear is theirs – the one they wrote with my help, of course. But it’s their story, written by them, to show that they have all these problems, and it’s these problems that hold them back.”

The impact of ET ON SE RACONTE!’ extends beyond the immediate community of Mopti. Plans are underway for a national tour, where these high school students will share their experiences and insights with their peers from other regions of Mali.

Written by PH

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