Theatre Workshops: "Language Flow" (Sub-Saharan Africa)

To network partner schools ("Schools: Partners of the Future" project) in the region of Sub-Saharan Africa – both with one another and with German schools and pupils – five theatre workshops are being conducted in the region which involve pupils and their teachers and deal with African and German fairytale motifs and multilingualism.

In Africa more than 1500 different languages are spoken, many of them mutually incomprehensible – nearly one third of all human languages. Multilingualism is thus an integral part of the cultural identity of most young Africans. Unfortunately this linguistic diversity is mostly restricted in day-to-day school routine to a lingua franca. Furthermore speaking indigenous languages is often considered "uncool" by many young people.

The theatre workshops in the SPRACH-FLUSS project have two objectives:
On the one hand every African or European language used in the workshop will be shown to be an enrichment in common aesthetic practice – for example by means of serial play assignments or by character work, where the particular aesthetic qualities of the individual spoken languages are exploited.
On the other hand the boundaries between the languages will be broken down in mutual communication. Theatrical practice as a school of "seeing and hearing" provides an ideal "training environment" for the acquisition of communication strategies across linguistic boundaries. Under the protection of a character or the theatre chorus, in the "as-if situations" and in clearly motivated dramatic improvisations which mostly rely quite consciously on limited spoken elements and on aspects of non-verbal expression, it will be possible to communicate with steadily increasing proficiency in a foreign language.

This pleasurable experimentation communication processes using dramatic means of expression across linguistic and national boundaries stimulates creativity and also prompts an exchange between the young people on their respective living circumstances, feelings and preferences. Finally young people from the workshops in Africa and Germany will meet up in Hildesheim. Since all participants will then be able to speak some German and will also have a common fund of theatrical exercises and techniques, it will be possible to get the young people to act together.

The teachers will experience this theatre work in its various phases as multipliers and they will have the opportunity to exchange views with their German colleagues on theatre as a teaching principle and on multilingual classroom situations. The work in the workshops will be accompanied by a video camera. The documentation thus arising will then be played back to the schools in the region and presented here.

We can look forward with excitement to the results of this intercontinental and multilingual aesthetic practice!

Project partners:

copyright: Universität Hildesheim

Serial play assignments:
Different performers or groups of performers repeat the same plot in succession – in different languages or with different postures. For example, in a performance of Sleeping Beauty five different royal couples first bemoan their lack of issue in different languages. Then six reporters joyfully announce in their various languages the birth of the child.
The effect is similar, for example, to that of the serial screenprints of Warhol: the recipient is familiar with the content of the picture (or imagines he/she is) and scans, compares with sharpened senses the surfaces, looking for differences, details which distinguish one version from the others.
In this – or a similar – way it is intended that through the serial plays the encounter with other, foreign languages will take place. The performers do not get stuck on comprehension or non-comprehension of the subject matter since this has long been known, thanks to the non-verbal play and the versions in the known languages. Rather they can concern themselves in an open fashion with the many other, sensuous qualities of language – with what is imparted to us, what is communicated.
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