Perhaps you’ve seen a group of young people performing expressive theatrics in your city these days. Don’t worry – that’s how they fight discrimination, showing through performance how to overcome intolerance.

These young people come from  organizations Somborski edukativni centar – SEC, Organizacija kreativnog okupljanja “OKO”, Connecting, AS Centar i Pokret gorana Vojvodine, and they gathered through the initiative of BalkanIDEA Novi Sad on the project “Riznica različitosti 2.0”. During their tuition a dozen young people explored human rights and came up with a performance in which certain characters tackle discrimination.

What’s interesting is that the staging was made completely by young people, mostly high schoolers. I think they’ve approached the whole thing quite seriously and that they have a certain image in their heads that they want to develop” says Jelena Mirković, one of the organizers. Before the act they had a course on human rights and a short introduction to stage performance.

The first act opens with statements: I love you. Yet I fear. Oh my! Shame. You’re ludicrous. Go away. We see a lesbian couple that wants to come out in front of one of the girl’s parents, all the way having to put up with bullying.

“When they find out that their daughter is lesbian they lose control, which is understandable”, says one of the performers. “They’re completely shocked and don’t know how to deal with it. They ask themselves whether it’s their fault at parenting and why it had to be them”. In the end they’re forced to face the problem, which doesn’t mean that they’re instantly okay with their daughter’s sexual orientation, rather that they’re aware of the work ahead of them in accepting the difference. “Not all of the discriminating persons accept difference. Some need less time and some need more time in accepting someone different from them”.

 The second scene starts with insults: Messy! Yuck. You’re pitiful. You can’t sit with us. A group of pupils is excluding two girls because of their poverty, using them as sacrificial goats on the social networks.

“You just have to get to know the person” explains one of the performers – high schoolers, “We are not aware of how different people are around us”. The situation gets resolved when the bully finds themself in the role of the victim, sympathizing with the ones he previously discriminated.

When asked what the key to discrimination is, most of the participants agree:

“When you feel the discrimination on your own skin”

“When you become close with someone you see who they really are”

“Once you understand that you have similarities with them, and that you can cooperate instead of hating each other”

 Not all participants agree. “Our characters don’t really overcome discrimination”, says one of the performers, “they just defy it by being ready to be discriminated”. So as not to let opposing attitudes slip by, the actors organize a discussion afterwards (which tends to take even longer than the staging itself), where they get under the surface scratched by the performance.

Discrimination is not something that can be overcome in a day, and definitely not in one performance. It is necessary, however, to open topics which would otherwise remain marginalized, same as their subjects. This group of young activists is doing exactly that – starting a dialogue and pointing fingers at squeamish aspects of society, changing the world, one performance at a time.

This text was written as a part of Divided Past – Joint Future project and it does not represent nor reflects attitudes and viewpoints of the European Union, its institutions and bodies. Responsibility for the information and views expressed in the text lies entirely with the author. 

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