Community Theatre Brings Together Migrants and Peers in Nigeria

Benin City – The capital of Edo State is known to many as the hotspot for irregular migration from Nigeria. But this week, local women and men gathered in Benin City’s Vichi Gate Hotel for a different occasion.

From 28 February to 6 March, the International Organization for Migration (IOM) hosted its first community theatre training to share stories with the public about irregular migration and associated risks like human trafficking.

During the eight-day event, participants joined sessions on directing, script development, stage management, set and costume design, and make-up, as well as two full days of rehearsals before giving an open-air performance outside the local government’s water resources building.   

“The training made me realize a lot about what these people have gone through,” said Cynthia, a student of theatre and media arts from Ambrose Alli University. “Yesterday evening, one of the returnees told me his story and I just cried.”

The event, led by trainer Lancelot Imasuen, brought together 80 individuals, 35 female and 45 male, in an effort to promote social cohesion and sensitize communities of origin about the plight of thousands of people who have suffered deception, abuse and exploitation along their migration journey.

Returnees, local youth and staff from the National Orientation Agency (NOA), formed teams to interpret three scripts in Pidgin English: ‘Empty Waka (or Empty Journey)’ ‘Trafficked’ and ‘Dance of the Migrants’, each portraying different stages of migration, from being lured by promises of riches abroad to their fateful return, coming back empty-handed.

“My method of teaching is to first get to the feelings of my students. That’s how I’m able to pass on the knowledge to them,” said Dr. Josephine Abe, choreography trainer. “The students were very participative all week because we trained them to embrace theatre as something that requires multitasking and working overnight.

At the closing ceremony, trainees received their certificates and were commended by Imasuen for their dedication and hard work despite their varying levels of experience in theatre. 

Following the training, the participants will perform again in their communities of origin in markets and other open spaces, with debates and discussions thereafter.

As of 6 March, 7,245 men and 5,184 women (total 12,429) have been assisted to voluntarily return to Nigeria from Libya, Niger, Mali and other countries under the EU-IOM Joint Initiative for Migrant Protection and Reintegration.

The community theatre training is part of IOM’s wider awareness raising efforts to promote safe migration channels in Nigeria. The event was funded by the European Union through the EU-IOM Joint Initiative.

 

For more information, please contact: Jorge Galindo, IOM Nigeria, Tel: +234 815 5263 827, Email: jgalindo@iom.int