How to make a home
American theatre makers Sierra and Olivia founded Art Lingual and believe in support for immigrants by immigrants. Based in London, their most recent project is called How to make a home.
“This workshop is for anyone, refugees and UK citizens alike,” says Olivia. “It is a story line, in which participants decide about the direction of the play. When people come in, we divide them into two groups, representing two different islands. They then to go on to make their individual homes, with the different fabrics and objects that we provide.”
This first bit of the workshop is mostly fun and easy-going. “We reflect on what people need to feel at home, both individually and as a community. But the two groups also start competing. We ask them what is different about the homes on the other island. And there is a game in which participants need to spread rumours about those of the other community.”
A need for relocation
At one point in the workshop, a natural disaster happens. “We work with an open end. It is up to the participants to decide what to do. We only ever use the word ‘relocation’ as a possibility, but it is up to the group to shape the process,” says Olivia. What happens next, is really interesting, says Sierra. “We had one participant voicing his concerns. ‘I don’t know if I can trust these others,’ he said. ‘They have such a different way of life.”
Participants have to come up with solutions themselves. This is the advantage of theatre, says Olivia. “People create their own character. They can say whatever they like and try out different options.” Sierra continues: “One participant suggested to house the asylum seekers on a separate part of the island. But the people who had to flee their island, were against this. “When we lose our land, we need access to your resources. We want to contribute and be fully welcomed and integrated.”
During the workshop, participants get the chance to discuss their fears and values. “It is so easy to get wrapped up in your own experiences and to live in communities where you see your own opinions reflected,” says Sierra. “Through performative theatre, people can explore different scenarios,” adds Olivia. “This opens up new dialogues.” As such, Art Lingual uses theatre as a tool to talk.