In Malawi, Theatre for Development (TfD) has been used for a range of social issues such as HIV and AIDS, and gender and community development (see, for example, Chisiza 2019). In 2018 I was commissioned by UN Women Malawi, with support from the Department for International Development (DFID), to implement an educational theatrebased and peer-led learning albinism awareness campaign in eleven public schools. This project marked one of the first attempts at using educational theatre for albinism in school settings in Malawi.
My application of theatre was inspired by the methods of Theatre in Education (TIE). Anthony Jackson refers to TIE as ‘the use of theatre designed specifically and explicitly for presentation in schools and other educational settings, in which the subject matter relates to & the social needs of specific age groups’ (2011: 235). I believed that using TIE methods could help in enabling children to analyse concepts and to create new realities, since the form seeks to act as ‘an unrivalled stimulus for further investigation of the chosen subject in and out of school’ ( Jackson and Vine 2013: 5). Talking about the ways theatre can aid young peoples’ learning, Jackson (2011: 237) asserts: ‘young people learn best through doing’. My methodology sought to embody this thinking by creating theatre that would capacitate critical dialogue among children and youth on misunderstandings about albinism. In order to do this I adopted a format of participation which John O’Toole (1976: 88) terms ‘extrinsic participation’. In this process, the audience participates outside the dramatic event by taking part in the workshop component of the programme, in which they explore further issues raised in the preceding play (Jackson 2011).
Some facts about albinism in Malawi
In many African countries such as Burundi, Cameroon, Kenya, Tanzania and Mozambique, and including Malawi, people with albinism face extreme forms of stigma and discrimination such as ritual killings, abductions and the exhumation of their remains (Amnesty International 2018; Brocco 2016; Nkrumah 2019). Albinism is defined as a ‘genetic, inherited condition, caused by a recessive gene that occurs in all populations; humans as well as animals’ (Braathen and Ingstad 2006: 600).