Narrative theatre – Talking with problems: the use of collective externalising conversations

One of the first engagements with narrative therapy practices on the African continent was by the CARE Counsellors of Malawi and Yvonne Sliep who developed a form of narrative theatre to enable talk with the problem of HIV/AIDS.  

Here is a short message from Ncazelo Ncube-Mlilo honouring the CARE Counsellors of Malawi and Yvonne Sliep:

Here is the original paper: Pang’ono pang’ono ndi mtolo – Little by little we make a bundle: The work of the CARE Counsellors & Yvonne Sliep

We  have also included an extract of a video of the work of the CARE Counsellors which proved profoundly influential. You will see members of the CARE Counsellors playing the roles of ‘Chief of the village’, ‘AIDS’ and ‘C.A.R.E. (standing for Community Action Renders Enablement). This form of narrative theatre / collective externalising was then carried out in villages in  Chichewa (the local language). To read more about this influential work please see the article above.  

This idea of inviting communities into dialogue with problems was then taken up by other African practitioners (and Aboriginal Australian practitioners). Sipelile Kaseke developed a community response to sexual abuse in a rural community near Bulawayo, Zimbabwe. Local community workers developed a culturally-appropriate methodology for exploring young people’s responses to sexual assault in ways that did not rely on individual disclosure or public shaming and, instead, contributed to a collective voice which would question, resist, and protest against sexual abuse. This methodology employed the technique of a ‘personified’ externalisation; one of the community volunteers ‘played’ the role of Sexual Abuse, allowing children to ask about its various purposes, histories, and effects – and ways of limiting its effects in the community. 

Sipelile’s paper can be read here: ‘Standing Together on a Riverbank’: Group Conversations about Sexual Abuse in Zimbabwe.

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