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Pedagogy of the Oppressed

Inspiring Change through Theatre and Education

Have you ever heard of Paulo Freire? This Brazilian educator's groundbreaking work focuses on creating a more democratic and equitable society through education. He believed that traditional education systems often perpetuate social inequality and that it's crucial to empower students to become active participants in their own education. One of Freire's most influential works is 'Pedagogy of the Oppressed,' a book that challenges the 'banking' concept of education and advocates for a dialogical approach where both teachers and students are co-creators of knowledge.


One of the educators who was deeply influenced by Freire was Augusto Boal, the founder of Theatre of the Oppressed. Boal developed a form of theatre that was intended to be a form of social and political activism, using theatre as a means of engaging audiences in discussions and actions related to social justice and liberation.



Connecting Pedagogy and Theatre

Boal's work drew heavily on Freire's ideas about participatory education and conscientisation, and he developed a number of exercises and techniques that were designed to help participants become more aware of social, economic, and political structures that shape their lives, and to empower them to take action to challenge these structures.

One of Boal's most famous forms is 'Forum Theatre.' In this participatory approach, a scene depicting a situation of oppression or injustice is presented to the audience. The scene is then replayed, and audience members are invited to intervene in the scene, taking the place of one of the characters and attempting to change the outcome of the situation. Through this process, participants engage in dialogue, explore different possibilities for action, and develop their critical thinking and problem-solving skills.



As Freire himself put it, 'Education either functions as an instrument that is used to facilitate the integration of the younger generation into the logic of the present system and bring about conformity to it, or it becomes the practice of freedom, the means by which men and women deal critically and creatively with reality and discover how to participate in the transformation of their world.' Theatre, as both Freire and Boal recognised, can be a powerful means of creating this practice of freedom, of engaging with reality critically and creatively, and of transforming the world.


Inspired by the transformative ideas of Paulo Freire and Augusto Boal, the Baltic Applied Theatre School has developed an educational model rooted in their principles. We believe in the power of Applied Theatre to challenge oppressive systems, ignite critical thinking, and foster collective liberation. In our foundation course, we introduce the concepts of Freire's Pedagogy of the Oppressed and Boal's Theatre of the Oppressed, providing participants with practical tools to engage in dialogue, critical reflection, and social transformation. Join us as we explore these powerful methodologies and embark on a journey of personal and collective growth.


Are you passionate about social justice and seeking innovative ways to engage your group or community? We invite you to explore an exercise that you can adapt to the needs of your group, allowing you to foster dialogue, reflection, and collective action.


Exercise: Image Theatre - Exploring Social Issues through Embodied Expression

Would you like to try out an engaging exercise that encourages deep reflection on social issues? Image Theatre is a dynamic form of expression that uses the human body to create powerful frozen images representing moments or concepts related to specific themes. Through this exercise, participants can embody and explore the complexities of social problems, fostering empathy, deepening understanding, and generating collective insights for potential solutions.


Instructions:

  • Form small groups with participants.

  • Choose a social issue or theme that you want to explore (e.g., inequality, discrimination, environmental sustainability).

  • Each group selects a facilitator and a presenter.

  • The presenter creates a frozen image using their body to represent a moment or concept related to the chosen social issue.

  • The rest of the group then adds to the image by gradually joining in, using their bodies to create additional elements or characters.

  • As the image develops, participants can choose to change or alter their positions to express different perspectives or narratives related to the social issue.

  • Once the image is complete, the facilitator encourages the group to discuss and reflect on the image, its meaning, and its connections to the social issue.

  • Repeat the process with different groups and social issues, allowing participants to explore a range of themes and perspectives.

Whether you're an educator, community organiser, or facilitator, Image Theatre offers a creative and engaging way to encourage critical dialogue, reflection, and collective action.

Remember to adapt and modify the exercise based on the specific needs and dynamics of your group.


Note: For more exercises and in-depth exploration of Applied Theatre, we recommend referring to Augusto Boal's book "Games for Actors and Non-Actors" (Routledge, 2002).


References:

Freire, Paulo. Pedagogy of the Oppressed. Bloomsbury Publishing USA, 2018.

Boal, Augusto. Theatre of the Oppressed. Pluto Press, 2008.



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