In Malaysia, refugees discover that ‘theatre can be their voice’ | Refugees News


Kuala Lumpur, Malaysia – Because the lights exit and darkness envelops the corridor, three younger ladies stroll onto the stage below three shiny lights to speak to the viewers and inform the tales of three refugee ladies from nations far aside, but related.

This scene is part of a play by the refugee-led theatre group Parastoo, which has been performing in Malaysia’s capital Kuala Lumpur for 5 years. The roof that collapsed is the most recent of many performs written and directed by Parastoo’s founder, Afghan author and director Saleh Sepas, who can also be a refugee.

For 2 of the three ladies, the play marks the primary time they’ve carried out on stage, however discovering venues for the novice group to rehearse was a problem.

“I used to drive them to public parks to do our rehearsals. We simply needed to attain one thing with this present regardless of the difficulties, and we did,” Sepas advised Al Jazeera.

Sepas based the refugee theatre group again in 2017, partly as a result of he needed to assist himself as a author, but additionally to assist the refugees themselves.

Afghan writer and director Saleh Sepas speaks to the audience about Parastoo's latest production
Afghan author and director Saleh Sepas based Parastoo in 2017, impressed by the artwork types and concepts of the Theatre of the Oppressed [Wael Qarssifi/ Al Jazeera]

Parastoo is predicated on the concepts of the Theatre of the Oppressed – a theatrical type first elaborated within the Nineteen Seventies by Brazilian theatre practitioner Augusto Boal – that makes use of theatre as a method to advertise social and political change and engages the viewers within the play by inviting them to analyse and talk about what they see.

“Theatre as an artwork has that energy to deliver change, to empower and convey refugees out of isolation,” he advised Al Jazeera.

“I realised that refugees in Malaysia don’t have a voice and theatre might be their voice, I needed us to assist our communities.”

Difficult stereotypes

Parastoo’s newest play tells the story of three younger ladies from Afghanistan, Myanmar, and Yemen, as they inform the viewers how they grew to become refugees in Malaysia. The ladies share tales of struggle, dying, loss, and trauma, with highly effective phrases about childhoods misplaced to struggle.

The play is part of Parastoo’s present Converging Paths, which additionally consists of the screening of a movie on refugees by Parastoo’s producer and communications adviser, Iranian filmmaker Amin Kamrani.

Sepas advised Al Jazeera that he needs these watching the efficiency to know and perceive the explanations that deliver refugees to Malaysia, as many Malaysians don’t perceive the dearth of alternative they’ve when fleeing struggle.

“Some folks assume we come right here for cash and alternative, and I needed to problem that misinformation about refugees,” he stated.

Kamrani’s movie The particular person throughout the frames additionally options the tales of three refugees in Malaysia – a boxer from Afghanistan, a painter from Iran, and a queer poet and author from Syria – and provides the viewers a glance into their particular person lives and struggles.

The audience watches Parastoo's latest performance in Kuala Lumpur
Parastoo’s newest present additionally included a screening of a movie about refugees in Malaysia by Iranian filmmaker Amin Kamrani. The thought is to alter perceptions about refugees amongst Malaysians [Supplied/Al Jazeera]

Kamrani says that he needed to interrupt stereotypes along with his movie. He explains that the dialogue about refugees in Malaysia is commonly dehumanising to refugees as they’re portrayed as a mass of people with related concepts, or diminished to figures and numbers.

“I needed to inform human tales as a result of as people we hook up with artwork, and we nonetheless see part of ourselves in different people no matter variations,” he advised Al Jazeera.

“Artwork can remind us of our values and shared experiences as people in occasions of uncertainty, and I imagine that being human in occasions of atrocity is an act of activism.”

Sepas is one in all 3,000 Afghan refugees and asylum seekers at present in Malaysia. Afghans are one of many smallest communities of refugees within the nation, which had practically 183,000 refugees and asylum seekers as of Might 2022, based on the UN refugee company.

Refugees in Malaysia battle with an absence of labor and training alternatives as a result of native legal guidelines don’t recognise their existence and Malaysia just isn’t a signatory to the UN conference. Because of this, refugees are thought-about undocumented migrants and are disadvantaged of the appropriate to work or to access formal training.

Along with their struggles, refugees in Malaysia should undergo years of ready for potential resettlement in a 3rd nation. Such resettlement just isn’t assured and plenty of find yourself in limbo with no imaginative and prescient for his or her future and uncertainty about their subsequent vacation spot.

Sepas describes the state of affairs as “torturous” – noting some folks have been ready for greater than 12 years – however he believes within the energy of artwork to assist refugees cope with the extended uncertainty of their lives.

“Think about a ship floating in the midst of the ocean and it instantly breaks. Individuals within the water will battle and swim in hopes of survival, and what we are attempting to do is that,” he advised Al Jazeera.

“With artwork, we are attempting to remain alive on this sea of uncertainty.”

A stage for hope

Many refugees live with quite a lot of psychological well being points on account of not solely the horrors that pressured them to flee their dwelling nations, but additionally the truth of life in host nations like Malaysia.

A 2021 examine revealed within the medical journal The Lancet about psychological well being companies for refugees in Malaysia throughout the COVID-19 pandemic discovered that the prevalence of psychological problems was extraordinarily excessive.

“As much as 43 p.c [of refugees] assembly standards for at the least one of many widespread psychological problems together with melancholy, generalised anxiousness, post-traumatic stress dysfunction, and sophisticated grief,” it stated.

However within the face of all these challenges, Parastoo continues to make extra reveals that inform the tales of refugees and offers a platform for refugee actors to current themselves to numerous audiences in Malaysia.

Kamrani’s film features the stories of refugees from Afghanistan, Iran and Syria and their lives in Malaysia
Amin Kamrani’s movie options the tales of refugees, together with an artist who’s from Iran, and their lives in Malaysia [Wael Qarssifi/ Al Jazeera]

With many reveals over time, and extra to come back, Sepas believes the theatre may give hope to refugees from all communities as they see their tales being advised to the world on the stage.

Furthermore, Parastoo is near reaching a long-awaited dream of getting its personal house in Kuala Lumpur, with the launch of its new artwork centre later this 12 months.

Sepas says the centre will enable Parastoo to provide extra, higher high quality reveals, and can present a much-needed house for refugee youth to collect.

He plans to make use of the centre to have artwork, music, and writing lessons and a e book membership for refugees.

“We wish refugees to learn once more and reconnect to the training they’re disadvantaged of due to authorized points,” he advised Al Jazeera.

“Younger refugees want an area, and so they can produce nice issues. All they want is somebody who sees the good potential in them.”

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