The Dadaab Theater Project, in partnership with the US Department of State, Filmaid, Save the Children, the UNHCR, and the University of Cincinnati, is a theater engagement collaboration connecting voices across cultures, particularly refugee youth from Dadaab and American youth.
The Dadaab Theater Project was founded on a desire to learn and recognize our own humanity in the face of others, especially ones outside the American narrative. We believe deeply in the ritual of theater, that with generosity and curiosity, we can engage in a basic fundamental need to connect with the notion of what it means to be human.
Starting in February 2011, Michael Littig and Julianna Bloodgood will create a small theater company amongst the youth in the Dadaab Refugee Camp, the world’s largest refugee camp. On the border of Somalia, Dadaab has housed refugees for almost 20 years, beginning with the flight of refugees from Somalia in 1991. Following the overthrow of the dictator, Siad Barre, Somalia was thrown into a violent civil war that still continues today. Most of the people living in the camps — 97 percent — are Somali, though there are also refugees from Sudan, Ethiopia, Uganda, the Congo and other countries in conflict, whose countries have faced similar violence and war.
Many have lived in Dadaab for over a decade, unable to return to homes still embroiled in chaos. Originally built to sustain 90,000 refugees, the number is currently at 268,000 and rising on a daily basis. For the youth who finish secondary education, most are faced with idleness and lack a sense of purpose in their community. From this viewpoint, the Dadaab Theater Project will set out to inspire youth in creating their own opportunities and platforms for positive personal and community change.
In addition, each year, beginning June 2011, a Theater Festival will take place in Nairobi. There, ten Dadaab youth and five American college students from the University of Cincinnati will perform together for UNHCR’s World Refugee Day. Together they will participate in leadership courses and share artistic ideas. This festival, annually, will be the center of our sustainable mission as all partners have agreed to commit funding each year for the event.
The Dadaab Theater Project will directly affect the youth involved with the partnership of the FILMAID program, along with Save the Children community staff workers, in addition to over hundreds of refugee children directly involved with the Save the Children child-friendly spaces. From there, their work with their own communities, the UNHCR community, the city of Nairobi, the American students from the University of Cincinnati, resettled refugees from the University of Utah, and their own communities, will allow the Dadaab Theater Project the potential to directly affect thousands of individuals.