Cultural Diversity in Action!

In this blog entry, we will be exploring how we saw cultural diversity as a resource and tool play out in our workshop during the Postgraduate Induction 2018 in Oct 2018 in The Royal Central School of Speech and Drama.

Needless to say, when Central invited us back to conduct the workshops, we were thrilled beyond words. It was the birthplace of RootPrints Theatre! We ran two workshops on 4 October 2018, focused on giving a brief insight into our company’s practice. As you would have read in our first blog entry, cultural diversity is the driving force of RootPrints Theatre. We believe that looking at the world through the lens of cultural diversity opens up spaces for discussion, for exploration and hopefully leads to the integration and connection between various groups of communities. However, RootPrints Theatre did not just want to have the lens on a fancy pair of spectacles on; we did not want it to be something we only paid lip service to. We wanted to imbue it into our practice – as a tool, a resource. Sounds esoteric indeed. What does that look like in practice though you ask?

Case in point. In the Central workshops, we facilitated three varied activities – the first was a twist on one of the usual name games that most play when they get to an Applied Theatre based workshop where we added the element of discovery of a new person’s background through the simple sharing of a closely held memory; the second was an activity involving moving around the space while responding to questions related to the memories participants held about the places they’ve come from, travelled to etc; the third and the activity we would like to highlight for this piece, involves participants sharing words and creating movement pieces for those words which, if time permitted, could have been translated into a more devised and performative piece of art.

In the third activity, participants were asked to write on pieces of paper, a word that comes to mind for them, that means something – something funny or dear or meaningful and it could be written in any language. What we received was a beautiful myriad collection of words (see photo below). From there each group was given a word and they had to first write the words out with their bodies (movement) without needing to understand the meaning of the word if they had no prior knowledge of it. It was then presented to the rest. The person whose word was picked was invited to then see if they could add to the movement to bring it closer to the meaning of the word. In the interest of time we could not dwell too long on the development of the movement.

More importantly, the discussions that were raised later were of particular interest to us. Participants started to ask questions about the word, the origins, the meanings and how they interpreted it if they did not know the meaning before. We saw how the space opened up for people of different backgrounds to connect and understand something new about someone else. People started asking questions. We know and believe that asking questions, being curious about the person next to you, is the start of greater understanding and the path towards integration. This was cultural diversity being used as a tool in a practice being played out for us. We could see that if we took the discussions further, more words could have been added into the created pieces where eventually a lengthier piece of work, with text and movement could be devised.

As the sessions came to a close, we were left with the satisfactory knowledge that our chosen practice is meaningful and worthy. As a young company, this was paramount for us. It gives us the impetus and inspiration to keep creating and envisioning our practice, to take it further and to see it develop. More importantly, to see it make a difference. So thank you to those who joined us at Central. We look forward to creating more work that utilises cultural diversity as a tool and to concretise it into our practice. It is more than just a political phrase to be used to attract attention. There is unity in diversity and RootPrints Theatre is committed to showing that real, tangible actions can be taken to achieve that.

That’s it from us for now. Till our next blog, adios, vanakkam.