The US-Afghan-Indian Exchange Project, led by Bond Street Theatre in collaboration with Exile Theatre of Afghanistan and Purvabhyas Theatre of India, brought performances and theatre-based education to disadvantaged children in rural and urban areas of India, conducted arts-based training for teachers, and facilitated artistic exchange with local theatre artists.
India has thriving theatre traditions and strong community support for the performing arts. The arts are widely used in education and community development, practices that are still very new in Afghanistan and can be looked at as a model. Theatre is an ideal medium for bringing essential information to rural communities or those with predominantly illiterate populations and little access to electronic media. Information about health issues, fuel vouchers, or new agricultural methods can be easily depicted and described through theatre, and theatre opens a forum for community discussion.
"A new thing I learned is the realization that ‘we are something’ and we can put our thoughts in front of others." – Jitendra, India
History & Projects
As US Embassy Arts Envoys in India, BST created a dramatic performance with a total of 16 Bangladeshi and Indian actors, musicians and dancers that illuminated the tragedy of borders, and presented the show in border villages, including Petrapole, a major border checkpoint. Tears streamed down the faces of those in the audience old enough to remember the 1947 partitioning of India and Bangladesh, which tore apart families and friends.
"A border is not just a physical fence; they are places where there are shared communities, shared experiences, shared families, shared food... the border is in our heads." - Participant from Bangladesh
Today, Bangladesh and India share the fifth longest border in the world, dividing towns, farms, and even homes. Through the 5 performances of the play, we reminded audiences that people suffer on both sides and that we are all the same.
"The harshest borders are created in the mind. If they didn't exist in the mind first, they wouldn't manifest on the ground." - Participant from India
Between January and June 2008, Bond Street Theatre worked with communities in New Delhi, Uttar Pradesh (Lucknow), Jammu and Kashmir, and Rajashthan (Jaipur).
In New Delhi, we worked with young girls in the Basti Hazrat Nizamuddin area, a poor Muslim area with congested streets, little sanitation, poor water supply, and lack of health facilities. We conducted theatre-based workshops to build self-esteem, stimulate creative thinking, concentration and problem-solving skills, and provide a safe environment for self-expression.
In the same year, Bond Street Theatre conducted theatre-based skills workshops for college students at Janki Devi Memorial College and Jamia Millia Islamia University. In the politically volatile, conservative Muslim area of Anantnag, Kashmir, we worked with The Froebel School to encourage self-expression and creative thinking for the students. We also performed our production A Kite’s Tale in many of these areas, in collaboration with our local partners.
In total, Bond Street Theatre:
"This workshop had considerable effect on my daily life. My self-confidence increased. Now I will maintain it." – Neeraj, India